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part-time boss?

My boss secretly spends about 40% of his time working on outside contract jobs. He uses company computers, phones, and time. His boss has no idea.

I normally wouldn't really care too much, because he does get his "real" work done satisfactorily and on time. However, his outside work is affecting me. I'm still pretty junior and have plenty of reasonable questions, but he's always on the phone and never has time to help or mentor me. He doesn't really care. Our company is just a "j-o-b" for him.

I wish I could somehow alert his boss to the problem, but that seems petty. And I'm the only person in the office who knows, so my boss would be sure to know I was responsible.

Does any one have any suggestions or similar work experiences?

homiez1
Thursday, July 17, 2003

That's not petty.  If he is using company resources to fund his own outside contracts, that's theft.  And that is serious enough to warrant speaking up about it.

Jeremy
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Uh.  Speaking up about it to his boss's boss is a bad idea and really bad advice.  This guy's doing his job, so his boss won't give a crap if he's on his cell phone during "down time." 

You're not going to get on his good side, or help yourself by doing that.  You're in a tough spot.  Talking to him may piss him off, make him paranoid or he may change his ways.  Then again, he's obviously all about the benjamins.  IOW - find another job...

GiorgioG
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Hm. I do exactly the same thing as your boss. But I work on part time jobs 60% of the time. Unless you have significant ownership in the company, your job is "just a job" and you should focus on maximizing your income and minimizing your effort. Maybe you could ask your boss if he has any extra contract work he could pass on to you.

...
Thursday, July 17, 2003

If your boss is salaried and finishes everything assigned, then I really wouldn't consider it "theft" - and anyone who's salaried doesn't want to go down that road, because it ends up in "no personal phone calls" land.

However, if part of his job is handle your inquiries and he's not doing that, then he's not handling all assigned tasking. I wouldn't go to his boss unless you have an offer letter from another employer. One approach - go into his office when you have a question. If he's doing "other business" then say "I'll just wait until you have a spare moment, okay?"

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Philo I thin you're missing the point. Moonlighting is *nearly* always a breach of employment contract, most stipulate working for only one company.

Yanwoo
Thursday, July 17, 2003

That would be a contractual issue between the boss and the company. ;)  Sorry - I get twitchy when people throw around the word "steal"...

My point being - theft is something that really should be reported by anyone who is aware of it. Contractual violations, on the other hand, are up to the company to police. [IMHO]

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 17, 2003

>Moonlighting is *nearly* always a breach of employment contract, most stipulate working for only one company.

Since when?  What you do on your own time is your business so long as it doesn't directly relate/compete what you do at work.  Talk to a lawyer as always, but I'm pretty sure they can't stop you from working elsewhere as long as you aren't competing and that it doesn't interfere with your normal duties at work. 

I work for a small consulting firm and I do custom app dev (at work and on the side), though usually the side work is not local (which is why they don't care)...

GiorgioG
Thursday, July 17, 2003


I think the problem here is moonlighting during your primary employment.

And that is theft... or at least fraud.

Joe AA
Thursday, July 17, 2003

You say your boss doesn't really care about you and doesn't have time to answer your questions.  Most bosses are like that.  Even if he had time, would he care to answer your questions?  Most junior developers are in this situation, which is why they go asking questions on this forum ;-)

I think you are seeing what the world is like, and if you can't beat it you should join it.

constructive comment
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Focus your efforts on improving your relationship with your boss.  Don't try to get him busted.  Make a list of your questions and schedule appointments with him if that is what it takes. 

This is the sort of personal conflict you must learn to solve without help from above.  Most times you will not have the authority to directly order someone to give you what you need; you must be effective anyway.  That is what being effective in an organization is all about.

Good luck.

Ran Whittle
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"If your boss is salaried and finishes everything assigned, then I really wouldn't consider it 'theft'..."

I think it's obvious, though, that the boss is NOT delivering on part of his job requirements: mentoring junior employees. I agree, though, that this doesn't rise to theft, but may be a breech of contract.

You should take it up w/ your boss in a non-confrontational way. Don't talk about his moonlighting, just tell him that you feel like you'd appreciate more time w/ him to get your issues resolved.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"He uses company computers, phones, and time."

I'll agree that spending time on outside projects isn't theft if the employee is salaried so long as he's getting his job done.  There may be breach of contract issues involved but not necessarily, depending on the nature of his projects and his contract.

But use of company-owned _assets_ (computers, telephones) for side projects is straight up theft of service.

Jeremy
Thursday, July 17, 2003

If your boss's responsibilities include mentoring you, then he *isn't* doing his job.  And it's that--and not his moonlighting--that's the problem.  Bring up the lack-of-mentoring issue with your boss first, and if you don't get satisfaction, bring it up with his boss.  Do *not* mention the moonlighting; that's not your problem, nor is it your responsibilty to play Barney Fife.

And resist the temptation to use your boss's crappy behavior as a rationale for crappy behavior on your part.  There's plenty of time for that kind of soul-rotting cynicism later in your career.

 

Hardware Guy
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Spending time on consulting work while you are at work being paid a salary is theft. If your job doesn't take up all your time while at work, take some initiative and figure out ways to help the company.

Doing consulting projects on your own time at home can't be seen as unethical. Your employer doesn't own you, and if they do want to control your free time they would have to pay an awful lot.

The Real PC
Thursday, July 17, 2003

One interesting point that comes out of this is: is it really a standard part of a boss's job to be mentoring their workers?

I think that most people here would say yes, but in my experience it's rarely explicitly spelled out in management job descriptions. And you'll probably find some people who would say no; particularly amoung those who view management's task as project management rather than people management.

Maybe a different approach to this problem would be for the original poster to approach their boss and ask if some other, senior employee could be officially assigned as a mentor.

Bill Tomlinson
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Don't beat your boss up. Try to join in on the action. Maybe you can get a little extra money as well. What is the worse thing that could happen? You get fired, and a bad reference. Big deal. Get another job.

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"I think that most people here would say yes, but in my experience it's rarely explicitly spelled out in management job descriptions. And you'll probably find some people who would say no; particularly amoung those who view management's task as project management rather than people management."

Wow. That's the first time I've ever heard that point of view. You're kidding, right?

As for "using company assets on outside work is theft" - again let me point out that this is a dangerous road. How many of these posts were made during working hours? IMHO there are only two "safe" approaches to company equipment:
1) Anything that isn't "doing your job" is theft. This includes outside consulting work, but also personal calls, "professional development", etc, etc. That's why I say "be careful what you wish for"

2) Anything is okay so long as a) it doesn't cost the company a significant* amount of money, and b) it doesn't detract from your ability to do your job. For quality of life reasons, I strongly advocate supporting this approach.

Philo

*"Significant" is to get past the silly "but paper costs money" stuff.

Philo
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Philo -

On the other hand, I don't think anyone posting here expects to get paid for services rendered, unlike the chap mentioned in this thread's title.
My company allows some personal use of company resources, but I can't use them to do work for someone else.

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Why does it matter one whit to the company whether or not you're paid for the nonwork things you do?

So - you make a fifteen-minute personal call=okay
but *I* make a fifteen-minute support call that I'm compensated for = firing offense?

The issue, and the ONLY issue should be - "are they doing their job?" If the answer is 'yes' then a wise manager leaves them the heck alone.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I've been an engineering manager for 15 years for a Fortune 500 high tech company.

WRT mentoring... I don't technically mentor engineers. Not because I don't want to, but because I wouldn't be the most effective mentor. I have electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and firmware engineers working for me. Even when I first stepped out of full time engineering, I wouldn't have been an effective technical mentor for all of those disciplines. However, I make sure that new employees have a technical mentor.

WRT getting mentoring... You might want to make sure that the amount of mentoring you're requesting isn't perceived by your boss as being excessive before complaining to his boss that you're not getting mentored enough. "How much mentoring is enough" is an extremely subjective question, and your boss probably has a much better relationship with *his* boss than you do. Especially if your boss perceives that you are threatening his job, he may claim that you are just a slow learner that requires an inordinate amount of time from a mentor. Disproving that would be very difficult on your part. You might also want to check how your boss wants to interact with you. Some mentors don't mind a colleague dropping by frequently. Others would prefer e-mail. I've seen instant messaging used effectively between mentor/mentee since the mentee gets the answer relatively quickly while the mentor can wait until a "break" occurs (e.g. compile/link) before answering.

WRT misuse of company resources... In a perfect world, everyone would follow company policy and play by the rules. "Whistleblowers" would not be punished. However, my company isn't perfect and I suspect yours isn't either. If your main issue is that you're not getting the mentoring you need, I'd focus on that issue rather than mixing it in with your belief that your boss is misusing company resources.

Elaine
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I believe, as many have stated, that the focus should not be on the moonlighting, but on the mentoring issue (if, as Elaine suggests, one actually exists).

As for the issue of using company resources, I believe it to be more of a ethical/policy issue than a legal one.  Where I work it's a written policy and, if it were to be strictly enforced, I could be terminated for this non-work related use of the internet.  However, in practice, it's reserved for gross misconduct (e.g., porn).

bpd
Thursday, July 17, 2003

"I think the problem here is moonlighting during your primary employment. And that is theft... or at least fraud."

What if someone is working at the Swiss patent office and has a bit of extra time so they work on their weird paper outlining their 'theory of relativity'. Is that person a thief and a cheat then?

Or what if someone is working at the custom's office and has a bit of extra time so they work on some long novel about a puritan woman accused of adultery after she becomes pregnant by the local clergyman... would that 'author' then be a thief and a cheat?

X. J. Scott
Thursday, July 17, 2003

Just to be clear...

I'm not trying to suggest that homiez1 is unreasonable in his expectations for a mentor. I'm suggesting that if he isn't careful, it could be *perceived* that way by his boss and boss-squared and that won't do homiez1 any good at all.

Elaine
Thursday, July 17, 2003

homiez1, you have a very smart boss. Learn from him.

.
Friday, July 18, 2003

X. J. Scott:  Be careful not to allow the prestige of the individual or the individual's work to cloud your view of the issue(s).  For all we know, the boss is working on a contract that will result in the cure for cancer.  Are there not still issues that should/need to be addressed?  Would such an achievement later vindicate his behavior now?

The end does not justify the means.

bpd
Friday, July 18, 2003

Philo,

I guess the issue about whether the boss should always be the mentor of the employee depends on what you mean by mentor.

In my earlier post was I suggesting that managers should basically ignore their workers? Of course not. But should the manager take every employee under their wing and teach them all there is to know about software development, corporate life, the universe and everything (the full blown definition of mentor)? No, I don't think that that is in the standard definition of being a manager; mentor is a separate job role than manager (and mentoring and managing are two different skill sets). The usual situation lies somewhere inbetween these two extremes.

Where that usual situation falls varies from company to company. And perhaps the original poster was falling on the wrong side of the line for the company they were at.

Bill Tomlinson
Friday, July 18, 2003

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