Boss Freelancing During Office Hours

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss: we can clearly see him doing freelance/non-company-related work in his computer.

My department has been very busy this past few weeks and we asked our supervisor for help in some tasks. He told us angrily that he couldn’t help because he was too busy with his own work. While we were talking to him, we can clearly see him doing freelance/non-company-related work in his computer.

We are a graphics department so we know that those aren’t involved in any company materials, plus he confirmed that he’s doing it for his freelance business, the next day. We want to report it to HR but unfortunately he is friends with the whole department and even has some of the people there involved with the freelancing project. Meanwhile, he gives us responsibilities that we shouldn’t even be doing, like things with legal implications that he should be doing. What should we do? I hope you can answer and thanks.

Signed, Angry With Our Boss

Dear Angry With Our Boss:

You and your coworkers feel overloaded and you resent that your boss responded angrily to a request for help. That’s one problem. Your second problem is that you think your boss is cheating the company. Therefore, also you are faced with an ethical and practical-political question: should you report your boss and if you do will it boomerang; because you think that HR is in on his free-lancing. I’m not sure advice from afar will help you with either of these two related matters, but here are some thoughts you might consider.

Consider these two matters separately. Don’t mix the fact that you feel overloaded and need help with the assertion that your boss is free-lancing. Need help and your boss responded negatively. You and your coworkers have some choices before you.

· Bitch about your too heavy workload among yourselves and to see your boss as the enemy.

· Plod ahead doing the jobs assigned at the same pace you’ve been working until they pile up and your boss, who is responsible for getting them done, reacts. Bite your tongues and work scare to confront your supervisor.

· Push your selves to work harder and faster and even work off the clock to get the extra job assignments completed.

· Huddle as a coworker team to plot out what you’re assigned and find ways to do your work more efficiently yet effectively.

· Write up your assessment of assignments and the need for help of your boss. Lay it out before him with a clear statement that you and your coworkers can only do so much. And clearly state, if he needs the assignments done, he’ll have to get more help or simply not get them done on time.

· By-pass your boss with this request for help to his superior or to HR. Do this anonymously or inform him that you are doing so.

I list these options and you might think of more because it is obvious that you are not in sync with your boss. He is not coaching. He is not engaged in planning and supporting. That is your problem. The fact or imagined that he is disinterested because he is free-lancing does not absolve him of the responsibility to do everything possible to make your group of graphics department successful. You and your coworkers can allow him to “blow you off” with his, “I’m “too busy” with my own work” or you can confront him again, saying, “We can’t do all that assigned. We need your help.”

From here, we can’t know what kind of relationship you have with your supervisor, but apparently it could be better. There appears not to be close working consultation with your supervisor. Moreover you question if some of your assignments are beyond your expertise, if they pertain to legal matters. Only you in the department can know what you need to be a “winning” collection of happy individuals who work solo or a work group or graphic employees given assignments or a team that is well coached that collaboratively is maximally productive. Once you and your coworkers determine what you want to be, you then must decide which of the above options or other approaches you will have the greatest prospect of success.

Now regarding the second matter of your supervisor freelancing. The fact is that doing something on the side is not uncommon. I separated the matter of your boss reacting angrily when you came to him about “help with some tasks” from your observing him freelancing and asserting that someone in HR is in with him on that. To be sure these two matters might impact each other, but accusing your supervisor and HR of doing outside work on company time is a serious matter that those high in the chain of command should investigate and handle.

Also on this matter, you and your coworkers have options and I’ll mention several:

· Don’t become obsessed and say no more about this matter.

· Quietly get the facts. Investigate and document what you see. Trace for whom he is freelancing. Get hard evidence.

· Confront your supervisor saying that you “know” he is freelancing and you will report him unless he quits and takes responsibility for your department. Say you don’t want him to get in trouble but that you don’t think it isn’t fair to you and your department and to the company.

· Report to upper management what you learn and ask for an investigation.

· If you choose to request an investigation of freelancing, you might also request a different supervisor, for fear that if he learns of your request he would not treat you fairly. Does this analysis from afar make sense? Is what I’ve provided the kind of response you wanted when you wrote, “I hope you can answer and thanks.” Keep in mind, the big picture. Your department’s job is to deliver to internal and/or external customers high quality products. It is your responsibility to all your reasonably can to make that happen. That is the meaning of my signature sentence that undoubtedly have seen in other answers I’ve given to Ask The Workplace Doctors: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden