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I am a Bad Employee and yet Better than my Peers

That last thread got me thinking...

I work for a major Tech Company listed on NASDAQ which has been around since the DOS days.  I tell you this so you know this is not a rinky-dink operation.  This is a major tech player that knows what they are doing (and has employees that know what they are doing).  And, always ships.  I have been here for over a year.

I come into work do all kinds of personal business, browse, read news, check fantasy sports, even sometimes do work for an external contracting gig a couple hours a day (basically getting paid twice for the same time!).  The last 2 hours of each day I do the work on the project I am assigned to and then shoot off a status email to my boss documenting (in manager hyperbole of course) all the great things I accomplished for him that day.  I leave after 8 hours.

Why don't we have a competancy based system.  I finish the work assigned to me (in accordance with what my peers do) and then I get to go home?

As far as I know my co-workers are working hard for 10-12 hours a day.  I don't feel bad for them.  They choose to do that - for what reason, I don't know.  They are accomplishing the same amount of work I am in that same time.  The do things in stupid ways - they are the type that use the edit menu and the mouse to copy and paste.  They jump into program something and then have to redo and debug it for hours.  I find just thinking about what I will do the last 2 hours of everyday while browsing the web allows me to make good designs on what I do when I finally get around to doing it.  We always ship on time (3 large projects completed this year).  I not saying my co-workers are stupid or not skilled.  All I want to say is they never doing things the smartest, fastest, most cost-effective way.

I don't know how exactly I would rate myself to my peers since I could be putting in a lot more effort but I am at least accomplishing the same amount of work they are in 8 less hours a day.  Unless, they are also even better at appearing to work than I am, they can't be very smart.  My reviews from my boss are fine also.  Which also leads me to have little respect for my boss because he has no idea how easy the stuff we could be doing is.

I have worked hard and people and managers have noticed.  They appreciate it and are revered but in the end I am never given a raise because of it.  So why work hard?  Also, If I were to work hard all day or try to streamline things or show other employees how to do things it would fall on deaf ears.  I have tried.  Corporations seems to suck the blood out of everyone in them. People don't want to get better.  People don't want to improve (Yes, I am trying to improve - in my free time all day I use it to read about programming and try different platforms and languages and things - my knowledge and resume grows larger every day).

This is also how my last job went, too.  I am starting to get a big head thinking I am better than most programmers (I know I am not an ideal employee because I don't work hard - but I also know I am more skilled than most because if I have to I can do what needs to be done a lot, lot quicker).

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I could find a company/project I was motivated by.  The team I was on could be a superteam (2 jobs ago I did work at a dot com with lots of talent and it was great - the program we built was bought by a large player in the industry and is still around today - unfortunately the company was also bought and I decided to find new opportunities).  I also know I need to become independent because working for corporations just kills your spirit (I do plenty of cool stuff at home on my own , and for my other contracting work at night).

For managers reading this - realize that not all employees are the same and, yes, some people really can do things 10 times quicker than others.

I know this post is all over the place, sorry.  Comments?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

You are describing a typical work environment in a large corporation. The thing you don't realize but you almost do is that those other employees are not working 10 hrs a day. They are goofing off just as much as you are and worknig 2 real hours also. The reason they stay 10 is because they believe this makes them look like real go-getters with upper management written all over them.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Dennis has hit nail right on the spot!  ;)


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

You're one brilliant stud. 

Or your coworkers are doing the exact same thing.  I'll leave it to you to figure out which. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Yep. Dennis Atkins is right. Corporate America is all about appearance & performance reviews & sucking up to the boss.

I'm working 3-4 hours a day now, and I get just as much done as I ever did. I'm just lucky I'm in a place that doesn't care how many hours I work. I whittled it down from 6 hours a day in the beginning, but there's simply less to do now, and I refuse to be bored at work, and while I like my co-workers in general, I refuse to spend all my time there socializing with them. I'm not very popular around the office because of it, but I'm not working so I can be popular in the office, I'm working to make money.

I wrote about my experiences after 2 weeks on the job here:

You would think this kind of behaviour would get me fired, but I'm on week 6 and going strong.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Who would have guessed that you're not very popular around the office??

Billy Joel on Software
Tuesday, July 13, 2004


From that link:
"In fact, staying after the work is done becomes a deterrent to doing work. After all, once the work is done, what do you have to look foward to?"

So true.

That's exactly why I do what I want to do for the first 6 hours everyday and finally get around to doing the company's work for the last 2.

No manager here would ever be allowed to let me leave as soon as my work for the day was done.  1) They would think they can just give me more to do (even though they are currently subconciously happy with the amount of work I do each day).  2) We have a HR lady policing us with smart cards which open the doors and log our time in and out.

For those of you familiar with these large, slow-moving corporations.  Does do nothing for 10-12 hours a day but being in the office really earn you promotions and raises?  If you actually do the math (time, hours, pay, future pay, odds of moving up, time spent away from friends, family and personal interests), is it really worth it?  I don't think it is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Just imagine how much _more_ work marktaw could do if he spent less time marvelling at his own brilliance.

marktaw for president
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

No, it just prevents you from being fired faster. You're not management material, you're a grunt. If they need a manager, they'll hire on from outside or transfer one in from another area of the corporation.

You were hired for 1 job, and unless you're unusually dynamic, motivated, well dressed, and show that you're interested in management by taking courses & demonstrate this to upper management (and in the end, likely jumping ship to a place that doesn't know what your old job was exactly), you'll probably stay where you are. It's easier & better to hire a trained manager who fails than promote someone from the inside who fails. One is seen as an unnecessary gamble, the other a calculated risk.

Come in at 8:30, leave at 5:30, save money, and have a backup plan. ;-) After all, if the ax has to fall, the guy who leaves "early" (at a reasonable hour) is a good target. Besides, half the books & websites you read on job hunting say you should be networking - not necessarily looking, but keeping in touch with people - while you're at your current job.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I believe Alan Kay spoke about his team back at PARC, when at first he was tempted to think he was just being incredibly brilliant, but after he left, he realized it was the particular group of people he was with, and the stuff they worked on, which made him "smarter."

The old MIT AI lab was similar, detailed in Steven Levy's book, Hackers.

Paul Graham in his new book explains how the transition from Viaweb to Yahoo! was like suddenly trying to run in waist-deep water. There were sharp people there, but it was still a large company.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Anyone who feels he's 10 times more productive than his co-workers should be 100% busy creating a business for herself!

If you can't find anybody to pay you twice as much for your time, you're fooling yourself. And cheating your employer.

Avi Nahir
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I just stare at my desk.  But it looks like I'm working.  I do that for, uh.. probably another hour after lunch too.  I'd say, in a given week, I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual.. work.

Mr Fancypants
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I have only been what I would deem fully productive a few times, and just as an example, I created an app in JAVA that mimicked a C++ app in about 3 weeks by myself, where I didn't know about SVG so I made up something that did the same thing, and I couldn't figure out how to load fonts so I chopped up big GIF's to make the letters.  That's some productivity!  If only I could have a job where the environment and projects were that cool all the time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I once spent some time working from home. I would get up about nine, about ten I'd finish my coffee and go for a half hour walk. On getting back I'd switch the computer on and think about doing some work. At twelve I'd knock off for lunch and go down the off-license for a few beers that I'd then sit in the garden and drink while reading a book until about three, at which point I'd do about another hours work before my housemate got back and I'd knock off for the day.

The strange thing was, despite this, the office thought I was great and I consistently trounced the schedules I was given and out-performed the guys in the office.

Clearly the only explanation is that I am absurdly talented.

Not admitting to this one
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"I once spent some time working from home ... the office thought I was great ... I consistently trounced the schedules I was given ... Clearly the only explanation is that I am absurdly talented "

Either that or we were desperate to keep you out of the office, Bob Noxious.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I'm in a similar situation.  I basically do a couple hours of work per day and spend the rest of the day surfing the web.  I know for a fact that most of my coworkers do spend most of the day working and are about as productive as I am.  I know this because I am often asked to help them.  I also know my work is appreciated because I get larger raises and bigger bonuses than the other developers.  In my opinion the main problem is that my coworkers are incompetent.  I would not hire any of them for their current positions if I was in charge.  There are maybe two of them (there are maybe 10 developers) that I would consider to be junior programmers.  The rest should change careers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

> I know this because I am often asked to help them.

ROTFL! They sure have got you fooled!

> I also know my work is appreciated

I know it is.

> In my opinion the main problem is that my coworkers are incompetent. 

The only problem is you are unaware of the extent to which you are being played like a viola.

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

What I meant was that I often help them and I'm able to see their lack of competence.  How am I being played when I make more than most of them and I do less work?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

By "do less work" I mean number of hours worked, not projects completed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"Either that or we were desperate to keep you out of the office, Bob Noxious."

Perhaps. But  seeing as I started on Contract, and they begged me to come work for them when I finished the time I find this unlikely.

Not admitting to this one
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"I just stare at my desk.  But it looks like I'm working..."

I've found it's much better to keep typing nonsense for-statements, since it doesn't need thought, and the typing sounds like the rhythm of normal coding and not like you're typing documents all day (or "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy").

That coffee-mug guy in Dilbert
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I'm getting about two hours of "real" work done per day.  The rest is farting around.  My boss is happy with my performance.

Just another data point.

Should be working
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I don't know your situation but as you have described it, it sounds to me like they have got you doing their work for them. So they are playing you.

The whole idea that the other workers are working more hours I just don't buy. everybody who says that says, "Look at me I am so clever to work only 2 hrs a day and goof off the rest and no one realizes it! Everyone thinks I am working all day lang! Ha ha!" But the thing is, all those coworkers are saying exactly the same thing to their friends!

Dennis Atkins
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

While I have done their work for them on occassion (one of my coworkers spent half a day trying to figure out how to use a Perl module and I wrote example code for her to do 90% of what she needed in 15 minutes), this isn't common.  The most common request I get is for help with basic Perl syntax.  The second most common request I get is for debugging help (which often lasts 30 seconds before I point out a basic Perl syntax problem).  They really aren't taking advantage of me, they are just that incompetent.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I had the same problem at my current job. When I first came here I worked hard and completed all my assigned projects way ahead of schedule. Whenever I had free time I would ask for something else to do. My manager would give me one garbage assignment after another such as creating vision statements or design specifications/UML diagrams/Class diagrams/Project Plans/Functional Specs/Data Dictionary/etc (over 20+ docs per project) for all the completed projects. Finally he told me that he simply had nothing more for me to do. The thing is, I have to account for every hour I work and submit a weekly "Status Report" in a standard format (My coworker was once chewed out for calling it the "TPS" report).

When I work hard and complete everything early I have nothing to put down on my status report and I get chewed out. So I tried to stretch things out until I had two or three things on my plate before I finished something and I get chewed out for taking too long. I find myself constantly at odds with my manager. He "audits" my status report to find discrepancies between when he knows I completed something and how much time I put down in the status report. He has even checked dates on documents and had me explain why I put down two hours for a document which took me only 1 1/2 hours to complete.  Anyway, my coworkers all take far too long to complete their projects but since they are always busy they stay out of trouble.

Now I simply fill up my spare time completing useless documents and diagrams or writing applications such as a web statistics tracker or custom webpage error trackers which never get implemented. Right now for example I'm "updating the project plan" Mwahahaha!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

If you _aint_ doing everything listed here ... you aint got nothing:

PS: I am from China ... pardon my slang.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

From the #1 Amazon review for the previously linked book:

(1) learn the value of measurements
(2) measure everything you can

Well in that case, have I got a product for you:
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I think that there is certainly some truth to the idea that everybody goofs off, to some degree, at work, but nobody admits it (until this thread, that is).

I mean, I'll walk by a co-worker's desk and they'll be reading a website about some pop-singer, or even playing solitaire. If I stop and talk to them, they'll quickly swap over to the IDE or something. I want to say to them, "hey, it's cool, we're all doing it", but I don't, because we have to maintain the illusion of busy-ness.

Does anyone want to stand up in this thread and claim the opposite position? That they're actually, actively,  completely doing their job 7+ hours a day, 5 days a week? I'm sure that there must be a few, but probably not the majority.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I agree that everyone goofs off at work. It stinks that the appearance of business is more important than getting things done, but it's a fact of life in corporate america. Dressing & speaking clearly and with authority also helps.

Here's my suggestion:

Find a server that you can "hide" and lock down. Install forum software on it that, like this, allows you to post completely anonymously. Adopt a no-logs policy & allow people to view the source code. It helps if this is outside the firewall, but I'd have serious moral problems hosting something of such a sensitive nature outside the company. Assume mangement will read it some day & adopt a mock defiant attitude towards them.

Quietly spread the word about the forum. Make sure nobody reveals anything personally identifiable in the forum will well-placed disclaimers and with a complete lack of place to put in a nickname.

Once people start to feel comfortable & it acts as a time sink, people *may* start to post work related questions to it *if* they're not afraid that it'll identify them to someone who could rat them out as someone who posts here.

It'll probably improve productivity by at least double.

And if you're a manager, so much the better, you can secretly monitor your employees conversations now while improving productivity around the office. Just don't let anyone know that it's you that started it.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

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