my coworker plans to work a second job during our work hours, without telling our boss

A reader writes:

I work at a mid-sized SaaS company as a data analyst. One of my coworkers, also a data analyst, is wildly overqualified for our position — he just completed a master’s program in business data analytics, and we are doing glorified data entry. He has admitted to me that he’s bored with the position, and I expressed surprise that he was wanting to stay at our company because of the nature of the work.

In response, he told me that he plans to start looking for other jobs. But here’s the catch — he wants to continue working at our company while also working somewhere else. Double-dipping, if you will. He says he plans to remote in from our company’s equipment to do the other job while he’s at our office. We are allowed to work from home two days a week, so I presume that he would dedicate that time to the other company.

I told him that employment law principles make this a big “no-no,” but he argued that it’s only an issue if the business in which he’s engaged constitutes a conflict of interest. I’m certain that’s not the case, as I’ve been fired before for doing almost exactly what he’s describing (I, too, thought I could game the system). I told him this, but my coworker intends to proceed with the plan to work two jobs simultaneously, even after our discussion.

Am I obligated to tell my employer that my coworker is considering using our company equipment to work for another firm? Some context: This employee is probably the most threatening competitor I have when it comes to a promotion (we have similar levels of education and experience), and I would personally benefit if this information came to light. He hasn’t done anything unethical yet, but I imagine it’s just a matter of time.

Wow, yeah, he shouldn’t do that.

It’s highly unethical. He’ll be fired if he’s caught (and if he’s remoting into the second company’s system to do work for them from the first company’s office, it’s something that I.T. at the first company could easily spot).

He’s also likely to encounter logistical challenges if either of the companies expect him to be available without much notice for meetings or phone calls.

I can imagine someone arguing that if he’s getting all his work done for his first company, then it shouldn’t matter if he’s also working a second job during his hours for them. And in a totally different universe without our particular norms and expectations around work, maybe that would be true. I’m sure you could construct a logical case for it. But we’re in this universe, with this set of norms and expectations at work, and in this universe working two full-time jobs in the same set of hours without the two employers consenting to that is going to be seen as wrong and will get you fired.

That’s because the expectation when you’re working a full-time job is that the employer is paying you for your attention and focus for the bulk of that time and that you won’t be giving equal attention and focus to another company during your work hours for them.

But if your coworker is convinced there’s nothing wrong with it, then he should run the plan by each employer and see if they’ll agree. If they won’t, there’s his answer.

As for whether you have an obligation to let your employer know what your coworker told you … I don’t think you’re obligated to do that, especially since he hasn’t actually started doing this yet. But if he does start doing it, you wouldn’t be violating any “code” by tipping off your manager, given how seriously most employers would take this.

{ 337 comments… read them below }

  1. Works in IT*

    IT here. I can DEFINITELY confirm that if someone was using any of our software licenses (including his computer login) or any of our equipment, to do work for someone else (INCLUDING REMOTE ACCESSING DEVICES NOT ON OUR NETWORK) I would be getting deluged with alerts and alarms. And I would get to help my manager escort him off the campus.

    1. Works in IT*

      Correction, that should be my employer would be MAD if he was using any of our software that we paid for for the other job, and if he tried to remote access another company’s devices I would know.

      1. Cassandra*

        Yes. A number of law firms, for example, have gotten judgeslapped for hiring law-school students largely to piggyback on their access to Lexis/Nexis and/or Westlaw through their law school.

          1. Mpls*

            Also known as bench-slapped. The Bench being where the judge sits. I mean, it’s really a chair, but that’s the judge area of the courtroom.

              1. Sally*

                I though Metonymy was only the name of a restaurant in Arlington (MA)! I learned something today, thank you.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          So instead of paying for their own subscriptions, they’re hiring law-school students and using theirs? Yikes!

        2. pony tailed wonder*

          I work in an academic library and we give access to the public for those databases for free. I am not sure however if there is any particular edition/level that a lawyer would need versus what we have though.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Yep, my city provides that access through the public library system. Maybe it’s a skinny version of it?

            1. AcademicLibrarian#238*

              My academic library provides this access to the public but only if they come on campus. We do not pay the additional, hefty premium to get access for our students remotely. For that, legal studies students get a username and password from the legal studies department, and it is only good for a limited time.

              1. pony tailed wonder*

                Our use policy is that the public has to be logged on to one of the library desk top computers to use it.

                1. selena81*

                  we have 4 or 5 computers on the entire campus that are open to the general public (technically only to students but nobody checks id’s), all the rest can only be used with a university account

          2. Same.*

            Yeah, the job I had after grad school required me to use my school credentials to access their databases for work. I knew it was wrong but I was too scared to bring it up.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            There is, and obtaining that access (as a lawyer) is subject to pretty intense terms and conditions, as well as steep costs. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to conduct legal research at a library and to be able to access the datasets you need, all while maintaining client confidentiality.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Our IT would throw an absolute fit if someone was using our network to remote log in to another company’s network. What even. I mean we all got a Very Stern Warning Email from the head of IT when one of the helpdesk guys, trying to be helpful to someone whose VPN access from her laptop at home wasn’t working, used Teamviewer to give her remote access to her own desktop at work. And that was between two of our own devices, a company laptop and a company desktop! I can’t even imagine if one of those had belonged to another company.

      1. Beatrice*

        In my last job, I had to get a VP involved to get IT to give me remote access to a desktop computer that my manager bought for me to run data-heavy reports. Later, my laptop was replaced, and I had to jump the gauntlet again to get remote access enabled again.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I was allowed remote access to my laptop when working abroad but only that device, from another authorized work device I had to take with me, and only on the VPN. Anything else would have been heavily frowned on and/or not allowed.

    3. MommyMD*

      If he goes through with it, he deserves to be fired. I would let Fraud Guy know in no uncertain terms I’m not going to be an accessory in keeping this knowledge from Company, and I’m not risking my job so he can double dip.

      Your own job could be in jeopardy if he got away with this for a while and Company found out you knew. A hard no to keeping this secret if he does it.

      1. Mr Shark*

        Yes, I think I would be upfront and tell him that you think it’s unethical, and that you would have to report it to your boss if he did it. Then it would be up to him to make that decision. I understand that if he was already doing it you might feel like a snitch, but by forewarning him, it makes it less of an issue to feel guilty for turning him in.

        1. selena81*

          also tell hem about your own lack of succes trying to game the system: the more you warn him the less it makes you ‘a snitch’ for ratting out the competition

          that you would potentially profit from his downfall does make the whole thing quit a bit more complicated: you do not want it to appear as though you are nudging out a boyscout by painting him in the colors of your own problematic history

          but you are under no obligation whatsoever to keep his secret once it gets to the point that your own standing with the company would be damaged for turning a blind eye to fraud

    4. A throwaway for obvious reasons*

      That’s assuming a company is large enough to have an IT department (or is an industry where OpSec is a concern). I’ve worked in tech startups (<100 employees) for the last 10 years (woof, I’m getting old) and internal IT practices vary pretty wildly. For a bunch of the places I’ve worked, I’ve been given a brand new in box laptop and I’m the only one who sets it up. One place set up another local admin account before they gave me the computer.
      I’ve been able to do work for some freelance clients I have both during and after work hours and I’ve never had anybody mention anything to me.

      1. A throwaway for obvious reasons*

        Forgot too add. Note giving advice that someone should do this, but that not every company has someone to monitor stuff like that.

        1. TardyTardis*

          My ExCompany fired, as in escorted out with a box in tow, some young genius who thought she could run a side business on ExCompany’s computer and internet access. Nooo…..

      2. KH Seattle*

        Doing side work after hours? Go for it, so long as you are still putting in 40 actual hours a week and are meeting or exceeding expectations. Side work during regular hours is iffy. While most would fire you if they found out, I can see some jobs where you could get away with it. (a job with a lot of time like front desk person or night guard).

  2. Ferris*

    I actually know two people in the IT field who do this (work at 2 full-time jobs simultaneously).
    One actually has permission from both companies (he has niche skills/knowledge and basically one of the companies just wants to have him on call, but pays him like he’s working full time).
    The other does not have permission and both companies don’t know about each other. He works from home, so it’s easier to hide, however he has told me that every once in a while, he’s required to attend two meetings simultaneously and has to play a tight game of listening on two headsets and muting/unmuting each call (the right call) when he needs to talk.

      1. Works in IT*

        It’s hard enough to mute/unmute ONE call without people asking me “are you still there?” when they can’t hear the sound of me breathing for a few seconds…
        (I am well steeped in gamer etiquette, my coworkers who don’t have a split second time delay while they unmute the call do not understand this)

      2. General Ginger*

        I’m stressed just reading about it, I can’t imagine actually doing this, and long-term, to boot!

    1. Stephanie*

      The image of someone trying to do two WebExes is a hilarious one. I sense that will end poorly at some point.

      1. catsaway*

        Hopefully he never has to do a screen share while on two calls at once… (assuming he’s not using 2 computers)

          1. Qosanchia*

            I’ve actually done this, but only because I didn’t have a softphone installed.
            For context, I worked IT helpdesk, which meant I had a phone with a headset, and had to answer calls all day. Some days, I would just leave said headset on.
            I also had a regular huddle that I had to attend via Skype, and because I hate doing calls by speaker, I had a second headset for my computer. I looked like I was trying to build an Ant-Man costume or something.
            The softphone would have been an application to use our phone system from the computer, so I would only need the one headset.

      2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        All I can see in my head is Mike Brady having two dates at the same time.

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            Oh my God, you’re right. Well the good news is maybe I am finally starting to forget all the useless info that’s been clogging up my brain since the 70s.

      3. Quackeen*

        It’s like the new millennium version of the old sitcom plotline where one of the characters has 2 dates that are happening simultaneously and runs back and forth trying to manage them both. Of course, on the sitcom, they get found out and slapped down and hilarity ensues.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Oh, there’s actually an 18th-century Italian play that basically has this letter as the plot. The main character is a manservant who decides he’s going to get double pay by having two full-time jobs at once as manservant to two different people. Most of these jobs consist of running various errands, so he manages to juggle it for a while, but hilarity definitely does ensue. It’s “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni, if I recall correctly, and I think it wasn’t translated into English until pretty recently.

          Protip: if your bright work idea is the plot of an 18th-century farce, it is probably a bad idea.

    2. Eplawyer*

      Thats going to catch up with him sooner rather than later.

      Alison hit the nail on the head. If this is really okay you dont need to keep it secret. If ypu have to keep it secret its probably not okay.*

      Does not apply to job searches.

      1. Combinatorialist*

        But even with job searches you can’t really do it during your full time job’s hours using their equipment. Sure you can have an “appointment” but it’s not like you are going to pretend to be working for them during that appointment

    3. Apple1*

      That second one with the simultaneous meetings sounds like a scene from a sitcom. In a 30 minute comedy, it sounds like it would be hilarious to watch… until you remember they’re in serious danger of losing BOTH jobs if they get caught.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Right? My first thought was that if this guy can successfully pull that off, then he definitely deserves to keep both jobs. My second thought was that he most likely will not be able to successfully pull it off.

        1. Jadelyn*

          No one is perfect. No one’s luck can last forever. Eventually, he’s going to mess up and unmute the wrong call and interrupt someone to start talking about a totally unrelated subject, and is going to have to figure out an explanation for what happened that doesn’t involve “I was simultaneously in another meeting.”

          1. angrywithnumbers*

            We have people do this, start talking about a totally unrelated topic when asked a question in a meeting, when they are live in person. I don’t think messing it up once or twice on the phone would be that big a deal.

    4. k_pedia*

      OP here, that just sounds exhausting. I can imagine my coworker doing this. He’s not intending to disclose the employment situation to either employer, and one of them is in Chicago (we work in Western Colorado). I can’t imagine it working out well!

      1. Stephanie*

        Oh man, and he’s trying to do this in different time zones? I know it’s only an hour difference, but I’ve made that screw up scheduling things in CST (I’m in EST).

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Oh man, I mess that up all the time. My boss started our company while living in the Central time zone, so the system time is set to Central time. However, the company has since relocated to California (Pacific time), and I live in the Mountain time zone. My scheduling software is in Pacific, the main system is in Central, and then I am in between.

      2. Soveryanon*

        I can barely keep track of different time zones for the meetings I have for one job, let alone two (I’m on the East Coast, but most of the people I deal with are in California). That is no bueno.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      That sounds like the kind of thing that would happen in a sitcom that you would laugh at and wisely say would never happen in real life. How has he not epically and comically messed that up yet?

    6. MJL*

      Wow, the mute/unmute is nuts! I am surprised he doesn’t just beg off sick, on the occasion when that happens? Assuming at least one of those jobs has some sort of sick leave, that seems like it would be much, much easier…

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m imagining that classic scene where Bruce Wayne on one phone and Batman on the other were talking to each other via two phones held next to each other in Commissioner Gordon’s office….

        1. That_guy*

          Did anyone else notice the phones in the commissioner’s office are held incorrectly? One of them should be inverted.

          1. Narcoleptic Juliette*

            It’s easy to miss, but he did turn the black phone upside down before holding it to the red one.

    8. LaDeeDa*

      Holy cow! I can’t imagine how hard that is to juggle. I was on back to back calls today from 9 AM to 5:00 PM, I had to unplug my laptop, mute, and run to the bathroom- taking my laptop to the bathroom with me! During every call that I wasn’t leading, I was still answering emails and IMs, and that was hard enough. I can’t imagine being on two calls at once!

      1. A. Schuyler*

        That’s some real dedication. My previous GM was often back-to-back but she’d just send someone a discrete Skype message like “I’m stepping away for two minutes, if they ask X the answer is Y”.

    9. Jello*

      To be honest, second guy deserves his double pay for being able to pull that off. Impressive. We all have to eat and he’s not hurting anybody.

    10. TardyTardis*

      This reminds me of the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams has to attend two different dinners as two different people. No.

  3. Classic Rando*

    If there’s an employee handbook or similar document, this behavior may be specially prohibited by it. I’ve definitely seen official stances against moonlighting like this in past jobs.

    Though if there’s no such documentation and/or your coworker goes through with it anyway, please make sure to give us an update when it predictably backfires on him.

    1. DCompliance*

      Our Code of Conduct and Ethics requires a Conflict of Interest form to be complete for all second jobs. We also have an anonymous hotline to report these issues. (It’s rarely reported).

        1. NW Mossy*

          Yup – my company’s recent business conduct training specified exactly that. The reasoning is that it’s not up to the individual to decide if there’s a conflict of interest – that’s a decision for the company to make.

          In many cases, you’d get the green light for a weekend bartending gig, but there are also scenarios where you might not – an obvious one would be if there’s an existing business relationship between the bar and the other company.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Yup, two examples from my company in the finance sector regarding the employer making the decision:

            I sometimes do freelance translation, on topics which have nothing to do with finance, and where my name doesn’t show up anywhere in the finished text. This got a green light.

            My colleague used to be a dealer at a casino in his spare time. This was not deemed OK, as it would look really weird to have the same person working in a small, conservative, serious financial company by day, but then encouraging and even facilitating gambling in the evenings. So although it’s just about perceptions, my colleague quit his side job (it was just a hobby anyway, we’re all adequately compensated), and everyone understood why.

            1. DeadMansHand*

              Yes in one job he was fleecing rubes out of their hard earned cash. The other involved card games.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          My agency requires this as well. I had an employee who was self employed as a piano teacher in her spare time, and she had to complete the required paperwork for the approval of secondary employment.

        3. Works in IT*

          Yeah, the reporting for every second job seems odd at first, but conflicts of interest can appear in the weirdest places. Similarly, when applying to work at some places, you have to reveal any family members working at the company or in the industry. Not because it’s a problem most of the time, but because if something bad happens, and your first cousin once removed works in the affected department, and you have access that could be used to assist the person who did something in their crimes, that… will be looked at, and the company needs the information to say “we knew about this” before it happens rather than after.

          My father works here. If I wanted to I could disable all his accounts, but… I’m not going to. It’s still something the powers at be should be aware of, just in case I snap and decide to get revenge on dad for whatever he did to me that warrants that.

        4. Other Duties as Assigned*

          This has been my experience as well. I worked for a university extension division in a non-instructional role and had to get special permission to teach a night class at the same university. The parlance for this was an “overload.” The logic was that in paying me in my full-time role, the university assumed they had my services 100% of the time. To do more required special permission, even for the $2K I got for the teaching gig.

          Also, the university came around with a form every year on which we had to disclose any outside activity “related to our duties” that generated more than $5,000.

        5. Darren*

          I have approval for novel writing, games development and side projects not related to my current work and yes I had to register for all of them even though I’ve written about 200 words of the novel, spent 20 hours tinkering with Unity and haven’t done a side project (but wanted the option).

        6. Kaffeekocherin*

          I have to do this as well, but it’s to comply with our employment laws as well as to check for conflict of interest. German employment law states that employees have to have a resting period of 11 hours between end and start of their job(s), so my main employer has to ensure that I get the mandated 11 hours of rest between the end of one work day and the start of the next work day. Additionally, they want to make sure that I am fit enough to do my main job properly. So in my case, I work 40 hours a week (Mo – Fr., 9 am – 6 pm) and my employer could veto a bartending gig after my main job during the week (since it can be assumed that I’m not getting 11 hours of rest before the start of the next work day). It’s similar on the weekends – my employer could veto a job that has a start time at 4 am on Saturday morning.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        DCompliance, would your office require it if the ‘second job’ was being a member of the military reserve? I’m in the Army Reserve, and I’d be very concerned about this……

        1. Works in IT*

          They would require it, but unless you were in a position in the military to approve contracts with the company in question, it would likely be approved. And if the company starts moving into military contracts in the future, they would want to know so that you wouldn’t be put on anything that would be a conflict of interest.

          1. Beatrice*

            Same as above for my company. You’d have to disclose it just like any second job, but it wouldn’t be rejected. Worst case, if there’s a conflict of interest (unlikely), you’d be moved to an equivalent job that didn’t have a conflict, or the conflicted duties would be reassigned to another person.

        2. Sarah N*

          Doesn’t your full-time job need to know you’re in the Reserves anyway? Not because they would prevent you from doing it, but because you’re going to be away for some weekends (if your job has weekend work) plus two weeks of service?

    2. ala*

      I just double checked our Code of Conduct. An “outside job or affiliation that may interfere with your responsibilities at Company” is the very first example listed of potential conflict of interest situations. This would be true if second job was in the same industry or completely unrelated. Using company equipment for personal business is also expressly prohibited. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a fireable offense with cause. As to if coworker actually goes through with it whether or not OP should tell their manager–our Code also talks about how it’s everyone’s duty to report misconduct. Failure to report could be seen as a violation of the Code as well and a fireable offense for OP.

      OP, does your company have an anonymous ethics line you can use? If you don’t feel comfortable talking directly to your boss, you could utilize the ethics line instead.

      1. k_pedia*

        OP here – We do have a ticket system for our HR department that would allow for anonymous ethics reporting. If I find that he’s decided to proceed with his plan, I intend to use that reporting mechanism.

        1. TheLibrary*

          I think you should tell him clearly you want no part, disagree with his plan, and would feel obligated to notify the company if you were to know he went ahead with this. You don’t have to be aggressive about it, you can take a tone of ‘I’m worried for our jobs’. That way he won’t bring it up with you again and you won’t know anything that you’ll need to share. Where you’re at now, there’s nothing to act on because you don’t have evidence he’s actually doing this. It’s just a thing he’s considering, a rumor, something he seemed to tell you in a one-off conversation.

          After you warn him off? Mind you own business. Don’t go looking to see if he’s doing the double job. Because an anonymous report isn’t anonymous if you’re the only one that knew. Your only responsibility is making sure you can’t be pulled into anything. If you go beyond that, then consider you’re doing it mostly because of the possible personal gain. Not the ethics.

          If he’s working a second job and super overqualified and looking for new jobs, he doesn’t sound long for your company anyway. I really think you should let this run it’s course.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      A few years ago, I was upset with a dear friend for marching determinedly into what I viewed as a big life mistake, and was venting to my mom.

      Mom said, “Sometimes you can’t stop someone from making the mistake. Not only are they determined to make the mistake, but they have to make the mistake to learn.”

      So, OP, to paraphrase my mom, sometimes you can’t stop someone from getting fired. Sometimes they are just determined to get fired.

      And note, I’m all about having a side hustle, or even a side-and-a-half hustle. I haven’t had just one job since 1998. But don’t ever jeopardize your main hustle.

    4. Skavoovie*

      Every company I have worked for has had related items in their employee handbook, usually addressing this from multiple angles. We’re expressly disallowed from using company resources to further another job (such as your laptop, the company internet, etc.), we cannot perform another job during our normal working hours, and any side job that may be a conflict of interests must be reported to your management. I think the conflict of interests piece could be pretty broad. As a software company, I would expect that any other software company would probably be off limits, but the bartending example others have brought up is probably fine.

      The only example of this that I have seen was someone took a couple weeks vacation from Job 1, and started full time work at Job 2 at the start of that vacation. I can’t remember if he already had an end date sometime later for Job 1, or if he planned to keep that going as long as he could, but as soon as his manager heard about the double dipping he was terminated from Job 1. I don’t think Job 2 ever knew.

  4. Ralph Kramden*

    No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Also, NO.

    My employer (a public transit agency) allows dual employment but wants to approve it in advance. Plus, if your main job is safety-sensitive, then your other job cannot be safety sensitive (e.g. a bus driver can’t work an Uber gig).

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m picturing that little light-up Lyft display…thing…whatever it is, glowing in the front windscreen of the bus…

    1. Hold My Cosmo*

      It’s infuriating to hear a company say “We will pay you X, and also tell you if you’re allowed to earn more anywhere else”. You’re holding a household’s finances hostage. That isn’t okay.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        That’s really not what’s being said, though. It’s a question of double dipping the same time & resources towards both companies, not having a side gig. That’s not holding any finances hostage, that’s expecting the individual to put forth the expected & required time towards the job and not misusing company resources in unrelated work.

      2. Drax*

        It’s not holding us hostage though, it’s conflict of interest or safety concerns. Someone who drives for 8 hours for work with multiple people in the transport (bus) shouldn’t be driving for another 8 hours after work, it’s a legitimate safety concern. Just like I can’t work at Car dealership A and Car dealership B at the same time if they are not owned by the same people as it’s a conflict of interest.

        Everywhere I’ve worked has demanded you clear it with them prior to accepting a second job but I’ve never had any push back or even follow up questions. Currently I work in Oil & Gas by day and Car Dealership by night. When I asked my day job if moonlighting was okay I was given a specific list of places/industries which would be considered a conflict of interest and asked to ensure it wouldn’t effect my day job by not working past midnight (we do heavy duty manufacturing and work at 6 AM and I’m in and out of the shop, so fair request)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          When it comes to driving gigs as well, it’s a DOT issue as well, they make the real gritty rules about that sort of thing!

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Except that no agency regulates Uber and Lyft. If a commercial driver were moonlighting as a rideshare driver, there is no way their employer or DOT would know.

      3. DCompliance*

        Our rule of thumb at my employer is to find every possible work around and bend over backwards to find a way for the person to work the second job.

      4. Jadelyn*

        That’s not at all what’s happening, though. You’re more than welcome to earn more somewhere else – as long as it doesn’t interfere with your main job, whether through conflict of interest, conflicting schedules, etc. It’s not “how dare you want to have a second job!” it’s “we need you to be here doing the tasks we’re paying you for, when we’re paying you to do them, and not embroil the company in a conflict of interest.” Far different from “holding a household’s finances hostage.”

      5. Indie*

        You can’t really argue that it’s in a company’s best interest to care about their employees work life balance and workload as being in the company’s own interest, and then also expect them to say “Well it’s up to them! Whatever!”
        I wouldn’t even hire a contractor who had too much work going on. If it’s two low maintenance jobs that don’t conflict? Fine. Otherwise, no.

      6. Burned Out Supervisor*

        It’s also not OK for an employee to use their employer’s resources to enrich themselves with a competitor.

    2. Soveryanon*

      My company also doesn’t allow outside employment that would be a conflict of interest with what we do (we’re in biotech). So if I wanted to, for example, pick up a seasonal job at Pier 1 as a cashier, that would be okay as long as it didn’t interfere with my regular job. But if I wanted to work in sales for a competitor, that would be a major no-go.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        It’s not that it’s inherently unethical to work for Uber – it’s that as a commercial driver, you have time limits of how long you can drive in a stretch. Working as a bus driver *and* as an Uber driver may put their employer in a really risky area if the individual would have driven past the enforced hourly limit.

    3. feministbookworm*

      Uh…In my city it is apparently extremely common for bus drivers to moonlight as Uber/Lyft drivers. I actually really like it when I get a bus driver as a Lyft driver– they know their way around, are much calmer, and are way better drivers than your average uber/lyft driver.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        And with two driving jobs, they are now driving far in excess of legally mandated hours, thus putting themselves, you, and everyone else at risk.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Like when air traffic controllers had to work for Uber or Lyft during the shutdown, when they were working without getting paid and had to do something to feed their families–yes, serious safety concerns.

  5. ThinMint*

    Sometimes I think the issue with people who want to do these types of things is that norms and expectations don’t mean much to them.

    (to be clear: this is not me, i LOVE norms)

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      Right, and then when they’re found out and fired for violating the norms and expectations, they’re outraged.

      Everyone I’ve met who shares that mindset seems to be operating under the assumption that their perspective is objective and they are 110% reasonable and rational. And if that’s true, any rule they don’t like is unreasonable and irrational, and they’re justified in flouting it.

      1. Works in IT*

        Even jobs that pay you to be there “in case of emergency” and acknowledge that you will be sitting there reading a book most of the time are not happy if you work on something else WHILE WORKING FOR THEM. Because the assumption is that if you are doing something else, then you aren’t sitting there reading a book waiting for the emergency alarm to buzz, and might be distracted enough to miss the emergency alarm. Or if work picks up, suddenly you won’t have enough hours in the day to get both sets of duties done.

    2. selena81*

      i think it’s also a bit of a cultural thing: to much of that ‘morality is subjective’ stuff in school is pushing boundary-challenged kids into thinking that it is GOOD to break laws

  6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I’m not a fan of “tattling” on co-workers, but I would be concerned that if (or should I say WHEN) the company caught him, and then found out you knew what he was doing, you could be in trouble as well. If that’s not a risk, then I would let co-worker know that you won’t alert anyone to what he’s doing, but you also won’t lie about it if asked.

    While he may not consider what he’s doing a conflict of interest, he’ll be using your company’s equipment and service to access the other job so it’s definitely not okay, no matter how he tries to justify it.

    1. k_pedia*

      OP here, yes, I have considered telling my coworker that I’m not going to protect him if he decides to take this course of action. I like your phrasing here!

      1. Works in IT*

        You can also tell him that if he does end up doing it he will make my equivalents at your company’s YEAR, as the paperwork this would lead to would probably justify creating another position in their overworked department just to handle it, that could then help out with other tasks.

      2. MommyMD*

        If your company found out you knew and said nothing, would you be fired? I would not cover for someone doing this.

      3. Mr Shark*

        I get the tattling issue, that’s why I think it’s better to just warn him that you think it’s unethical, and therefore you would report it. It’s not really tattling if you warn him before hand and he still does it.
        In many companies, if you know about unethical behavior and don’t report it, then you are also guilty of unethical behavior (think about something failing a quality check, or missing funds).

    2. Roscoe*

      Whenever there is a question like this, someone always brings up “what if the boss finds out you knew?”. I feel like 99% of the time, there is no way they would find out. And unless it was literally something like stealing funds (which I admit, I don’t feel that this equates to) I don’t see how any rational manager would really care that you didn’t run to them with information.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Lots of ways! The coworker says “well, Roscoe knew; it’s not like I was hiding it.” Or so forth.

        If I found out the coworker knew and had said anything, they wouldn’t be “in trouble” exactly, but it would really impact my perception of them, and their professional maturity/judgment. It would matter if, for example, I’d been thinking of them for a role with more responsibility.

        1. Roscoe*

          I suppose. I guess I just can’t see some random employee saying “my colleague knew about this, so it must not have been wrong” to just be such an odd explanation.

          1. hbc*

            I think you underestimate the lengths that a defensive person will go to spread the pain.

            Plus, a lot of people have a zero-sum theory of fault–if OP was a little bit wrong to hide the information, and the manager should have caught how bored and unchallenged Coworker was, and IT should’ve been more secure to not allow a remote connection like that, well, Coworker is practically blameless!

          2. Yorick*

            This happened to my sister – a student was working a job under the table and then spewed everything she could think of when someone at the university saw her – including “well, Ophelia knew about it!”

          3. TardyTardis*

            You would be amazed. When someone was caught selling copyrighted material on the internet (without permission), the FBI became interested and she sang about everyone she knew in the same biz. When the FBI agent showed up at my son’s door, he just said, ‘where do you want me to fax my licenses?’

        2. Sara without an H*

          This is tricky. I reread the letter and so far, all that OP knows is that her Co-Worker is “planning” to do this. What if, after thinking it over, he decides the risk isn’t worth it? If the manager then checks and finds that Co-Worker (can we please call him “Fergus”?) isn’t actually doing anything unethical and denies that he’d even considered such a thing, where does that leave OP?

          I admit, I’m torn. As a manager, I would want OP to tell me about it, but I think I could understand it if she wasn’t sure that “Fergus” had actually followed through on the idea.

          1. A Reader*

            This is where I land with it. It sounds like he’s in the planning stage – and if he decides to go through with it, he might be really, really good at keeping everyone in the dark. If he’s always responsive to email when working remotely, he always gets his stuff in on time, he always participates in meetings (and gives answers that make sense!), then how will OP know he decided to take the second job?

            If the OP decided to tell the manager without any concrete proof, and it turns out he’s not taking the second job, then I don’t think that will help OP’s case at all.

        3. NW Mossy*

          I’d red-flag it too, but for a slightly different reason. A big part of the job my team does is gatekeeping/enforcement of business decisions, and I expect them to call out situations where someone’s pressuring them to “make an exception just this once.” Knowing that someone’s turning a blind eye to a violation of company policy would be super-troubling, because I’d wonder what else they’re not raising.

      2. DCompliance*

        Some companies require you to report a violation of the code if you know about it. It is not uncommon for people who get in trouble to take down others with them, unfortunately.

        1. MommyMD*

          Very true. Some companies will not distinguish between the liar and one that covered for the liar, even passively. She could lose her own job.

    3. Psyche*

      I’m not sure if I would keep quiet if I knew for a fact that he was actually working a second job while at the first one. I have seen people get in trouble for keeping quiet about someone else doing something wrong. If I didn’t want to get involved, I would tell him that I’m not comfortable keeping it a secret if he is working a second job, so don’t tell me if he actually follows though on the plan. I would want that deniability when he gets caught.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I wouldn’t WANT to keep quiet. But unless it affected me directly (can’t get my work done because I’m waiting on him to finish his, I would get in trouble for knowing and not saying anything, etc.) or he was doing something illegal, I’d keep my mouth shut and let him know I wouldn’t cover for him.

        I used to work for the mortgage company of a bank, and my cube neighbor and co-worker had started his own mortgage business. He was using his access to borrower information to solicit clients. I had no clue, but if I suspected or he told me he was doing it, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell someone.

  7. Asenath*

    I’ve heard of a few people doing something like this. You get caught, you get fired, because your employer has the right to have you available for the time they’re paying for. This isn’t like having a 9-5 weekday job and maybe a side job on Saturdays.

    The cases I heard of involved people who had a reason (or could invent one) to be off-site quite frequently during their work hours, and could also take a lot of un-noticed “personal” calls when at job 1. To do it in IT?? I’m no IT expert, but I’d be willing to bet the first employer’s IT people will notice the usage of their equipment, and it will leave records which prove what the employee is doing.

  8. Never*

    I actually wouldn’t worry about it too much because he’s not going to get away with it.

    I also work in data analytics and we have a “conflict of time” policy in addition to a “conflict of interest” one. Also, our COI one basically applies to all other jobs in the same field. OP, might either of these apply in your case?

    1. k_pedia*

      OP here, I’m not sure. We do very specific energy-related analysis that doesn’t really reach too many other businesses nationwide. I think the conflict of time concept resonates more with me here. If he was working at a coffee shop in his off-hours, no one would care — but he’s talking about applying his data analytics skills at a financial firm, I believe. Does that answer your question?

      1. Pilcrow*

        Oh, he’s bound to burn his job with the financial firm as well. He’d probably be violating ethics and code of conduct on the financial firm’s side. Anything in the finance sector is highly security conscience and wouldn’t want data traffic from another company (even if it’s not a competitor).

        1. Bulbasaur*

          Especially if he’s doing analytics, which typically involves ferreting around in the company’s most sensitive data. Security is absolutely paramount. Assuming they have decent security policies and he signs up to them with the intention of breaching them, he could be subject to legal action if he is discovered.

      2. Elspeth*

        Oh boy. A financial firm? Depending on the type of financial firm he could also run into serious compliance issues. At my company we have to disclose EVERYTHING related to income once a quarter due to federal finance regulations. This applies to everyone who works at the firm, including marketing, operations and IT. That is really not a game he wants to be playing.

        1. k_pedia*

          OP here again — wow, that’s really helpful. I’ve never worked in finance, so I don’t have a good reference point for compliance in that industry. Great stuff here.

          I am also almost certain that this coworker is on a work visa in the U.S. — he’s originally from Africa, and I’m pretty sure he’s not a citizen — and I just see so many problems that could ultimately lead him to even being deported here.

          1. TeapotNinja*

            If he’s on a work visa, he’s also going to be violating FEDERAL immigration laws and if caught is going to be deported AND barred from entering the United States in the future.

            He’s an idiot.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Jaw drop at first, but… this is a slippery slope of speculation. He could be here on a green card, he could be a citizen, and it’s best that you don’t go there.

            What he’s proposing is not illegal in the US. It will get him fired from both positions. Let him figure out what implications that has for the rest of his life.

            The path I would take is to say, “If you do that in a US company, the company will find out (because IT knows what your computer is doing), and you will probably be fired (cite company handbook if possible). I wouldn’t risk my career on a short term gain like that. If I needed more money, I would look into what our current company allows for second jobs, and do a second job outside of my working hours here.”

            If he goes ahead, yes, report – there is a strong chance he would say something about talking it over with you during an investigation, if nothing else. But to handle it ethically, I would give him a strong warning, and an alternative he could try.

          3. That Redshirt.*

            Holy Explative Batman. Your coworker has a terrible idea that will destroy his life if he tries to follow through with it.

          4. Jasnah*

            I wonder if in his home country, things like this aren’t enforced as regularly. It’s pretty cultural how much leeway you get (from FOLLOW ALL RULES to we’ll let it slide this once to how is anyone even going to check??) so he might not realize that things are much stricter here and he could risk getting deported.

            I think you would be doing him a kindness to explain how severe this would be in America, and that you would have to report him if you found out that he went through with it.

        2. Lance*

          Not to mention, I don’t think they’d be happy to find out that their servers would be accessed by another company’s work device. That sounds like a whole slew of issues waiting to happen.

      3. TooTiredToThink*

        So I just laughed. I have a coworker that did this. They found out after he’d been fired for another issue. When I read this “We do very specific energy-related analysis that doesn’t really reach too many other businesses nationwide” I really almost wanted to ask if his initials were {didn’t include on purpose}.

    2. Celeste*

      Agree. It’s considered part of fraud, waste, and abuse in government jobs. With the rarest exceptions, people don’t want to pay you wait in line for your time.

      1. Gyratory Circus*

        Yep, this is covered in the annual Waste, Fraud, and Abuse training we have to do every year for Compliance. (Not a government job, but health insurance.)

        I had a co-worker several years ago who got busted having a second job as a real estate agent while also working at our health insurance company. On her Work at Home days, she was actually out showing houses. She finally got busted because we enter our work into databases for tracking purposes, and management noticed that even though she was submitting work with Friday’s date, for example, she hadn’t actually logged into the system at all on Friday and had in fact done it all Sunday night. The reason they gave was timecard fraud, and misuse/abuse of company resources.

  9. Important Moi*

    Everyone else is speaking on the ethical nature of this, so I’ll say something else to the LW.

    LW, you should be discerning as to what you tell this person going forward. Discretion and discernment don’t appear to be on display .

    1. k_pedia*

      LW here, great advice. I appreciate it — that’s a shrewd insight into the person’s character. I honestly didn’t trust him much before, but I definitely exercise more caution now.

  10. Roscoe*

    I agree, its not a good thing for him to do. I also believe that unless it personally affects YOUR work that you should mind your own business. It would be petty to do it, especially since you have something to gain by it.

    That said, I kind of agree that if he can get everything done, and has time to spare, then what does it really matter if you are reading a book, doing crosswords, or getting paid from another job. I’m sure many will disagree with me on that. But if he really either doesn’t have enough work, or is just skilled enough to get through it, why not do something productive.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is why I think it’s such an interesting question! Because like I said in the post, in an alternate universe without our set of norms on this stuff, you could make a totally logical case for it being okay. But in the context he’s actually in — our universe, with our norms — it’s a terrible idea.

      1. Roscoe*

        True. Its weird that its making money that is a problem. Like, I feel that if this same guy was doing grad school (even for something totally related), and using the time to do coursework, people wouldn’t be as up in arms about it.

        1. NW Mossy*

          For me, you framing it that way highlights why it’s more of a flag when it’s making money. We use money/pay as a way to incentivize people to perform, and reward them with more when they do well. If someone else is paying you, it basically takes away a lot of the tools the company has to reward you and keep you engaged.

        2. Kes*

          Eh, I don’t think it’s so weird. They are paying him to work for them during that time so it’s seen as a conflict for him to be ‘double-dipping’ in a sense by entering into another arrangement with someone else for them to also pay him to work for them during that same time.

        3. Roscoe*

          But I guess, and I’m saying this as someone who has done this, it is functionally no different. Either way, I’m at work getting paid by company A to do other work. Just because that other work is paid, as opposed to graded, makes no real difference.

        4. Electric Sheep*

          I think people would still be up in arms, but with school, you don’t have a boss who will suddenly give you an urgent task right at the same time as your other boss also gives you an urgent task.

        5. JamieS*

          I think it’s less about the employee being paid l, although that may be part of it, and more about a company not wanting to use their own resources helping a competitor. It’d be like if you started a business and your competitor next door found out your WiFi password and piggybacked instead of having their own. That wouldn’t fly for obvious reasons.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I used to work in a satellite office, almost entirely alone, in a newly created role. It was the most boring job I have ever had because they had no idea what to do with me, and any suggestions I made were shot down so they could “think about it” for interminable lengths of time. I worked there for 14 months and when I got my new job, my partner joked that I should just keep both jobs and not give notice. Honestly, no one at the first job would have noticed unless I had to travel to the home office, which happened once in my entire tenure. I actually considered it for a few minutes longer than I should have. Then I realized that it could blow up hugely, especially if I wanted references, and it was just a baaaad idea. But looking back, I do wish I had had some kind of side gig or freelance stuff to work on during all of that downtime. I made my dog a sweater, that was about as productive as I got.

      3. neverjaunty*

        I’m a little baffled by this idea that working two paid jobs for companies that think you’re only working for them is some kind of arbitrary norm, like driving on a particular side of the road or using a signature in e-mail. It reminds me of those dudes who argue that it’s no big deal if they’re dating behind their wife’s back because monogamy is just a silly and unrealistic “norm”, and it’s not their fault if they have to keep it secret because she’s too much of a square to free her mind about it.

        If it’s OK for dude to use his (alleged) downtime like this, why not clear it with the company? “Norms” aside he needs to find a way to balance work conflicts – like simultaneous meetings.

        1. Beth*

          I think what you’re coming up on is the fact that norms like these are socially constructed. There’s no fundamental functional reason that a person couldn’t work for two companies at once, especially as many jobs move largely online and over the phone, and it’s less important to be physically present during business hours. But the overwhelming norm in our society is that when you work full-time for one company, you don’t work for another company during business hours–even if it’s not a competitor, even if you have downtime, even if you finished all your responsibilities for the day. And once that norm exists, you can’t pretend it doesn’t; it’s already real, within the context of your society. You can break it, but if you do so without all parties signing off on it, you have to expect that someone or another might feel betrayed by your choice. Same goes for the cheating thing–there are all sorts of ways of having multiple partners that can work just fine, but our society also has a cultural expectation of monogamy in romantic relationships, and those jerks can’t just wish that away. They have to either actively negotiate breaking the norm, or risk their partner getting really upset by their betrayal.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Doesn’t it matter if you’re doing the same type of work for competing companies? I mean, if I’m fixing cars at home on weekends, that has no impact on my regular job as a cashier in a supermarket. But if I’m doing market research for Acme Llamas as well as strategic planning for Llamas R Us, there’s no way either company could or should trust my work. That’s what conflict of interest means.

        2. Jasnah*

          I mean, monogamy is a social construct too, and some people choose not to practice it. But there’s a difference between one partner of a relationship secretly deciding to break the agreed-upon rules, and two people setting different rules for their relationship. Same thing here. If both companies were informed and agreed to it, there wouldn’t be a problem. But most companies would not be ok with it.

        3. Nic*

          I think that’s a good analogy. In both cases, the problem isn’t the existence of the cultural norm, and it’s not someone choosing to do their life differently than the cultural norm. The problem is the lack of openness.

          When you have a romantic partner, the healthy and ethical option is make sure that you and they have the same understanding of what your relationship is, and what expectations you have of each other. Is it an open relationship? Fine. Is it a monogamous relationship? Fine. Does one side think it’s monogamous while the other side is sneaking around betraying their trust? Not fine.

          And so the same is true of the job. The job might be open to you finding a secondary partnerjob, but unless you talk to them about it, it’s cheating, because they currently think you’re in a monogamous job relationship (at least as far as the hours they’re paying you for are concerned).

          In this case, does the job know that OP’s coworker is feeling unfulfilled and bored? Do they know that he has free time on his hands because there’s not enough actual job to fill the hours he’s signed up for? Have they been given a chance to “spice up their relationship” and give him more to do – or to reassess the job parameters and agree that actually it’s a part-time job and give him the chance to openly work a side-job?

    2. k_pedia*

      LW here. I see the big problem in morale. If others on the team (i.e., ME!) know that he’s clearly not invested in our work, then it’s hard for me to support his efforts at our company.

      1. Eplawyer*

        Also your job is not just your assigned stuff. If you finish the work what else could you be doing? That long term project that gets put off? The policy manual no one had time to write?

        1. OhNo*

          Or helping out coworkers with their overflow. How much would it suck to think, “I’m drowning in work, and Fergus can’t help because he’s using his time to work another job”?

      2. Roscoe*

        Fair enough. I guess I’ve just had enough jobs that were just “jobs” and people were really that invested outside of doing their work and getting a check, that it doesn’t really bother me. I’ve had co-workers who screwed around all the time and I knew they were looking for a new job. Didn’t really affect me

    3. catsaway*

      But if coworker plans to use company resources (like the computers) to do this other job that is a problem, for security, logistics and ethical reasons. And, as has been mentioned by others, both companies are likely to have issues with the coworker using company computers to remote login to other jobs computers

      1. sacados*

        If the double-dipping coworker were entirely remote/work from home, then honestly I could see this not being such a big deal. As long as the person’s performance is up to scratch in both jobs…. go for it.
        It’s the fact that the coworker would be using COMPANY resources (office space, internet, computer, etc) to do this that raises the big red flag for me.

    4. Cass*

      You can certainly take that stance, but you have to be willing to risk your own job, or at the very least damage to your reputation if it comes to light that you knew and said nothing. This isn’t a gray area; it’s unethical no matter how you spin it.

      I like my coworkers, but if they choose to disclose something unethical to me and it has the potential to negatively impact me, I don’t owe them anything unless I preemptively agreed to keep whatever secret they were about to tell me. You don’t get to tell me you’re doing something wrong and then expect me to keep that to myself; if you don’t want anyone else to know then keep your mouth shut in the first place.

    5. CAA*

      I don’t even know what “get everything done” looks like for someone in a professional position such as the one described in this letter. For every job I’ve ever had, there’s always been something else I could be doing in order to benefit the employer who’s paying me for a full week of work. The idea that you can complete all the possible work items that you might be able to assist with and then have time to do another job as well is so utterly foreign to me that I can’t even envision it.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        There have been multiple letters from people who have just that problem. LW says this is essentially glorified data entry, if there’s not data that needs entering or manipulating then there might not be any work they are allowed to do.

        1. k_pedia*

          OP here — we have a backlog of about 120 items that need to be done at any one time. There’s no shortage of work.
          Part of the problem is that our office employees are afraid of “losing their job to automation,” which blows my mind as a data analyst (isn’t that our job? To find efficiencies in processes using computers?). We therefore have many people that are intentionally slowing their work because they worry that the company will see really how worthless data entry tasks can be.
          This puts us all in jeopardy, in my estimation, because we’re doing bad work on purpose. I have largely run out of tasks to do from my upstream providers … but I’m building a custom database to help improve process efficiency for the office. It’s all about how you choose to use your time.

          1. A Reader*

            IKR? Every job I have had, I have worked with my manager to find *something to do* when it’s slow. And yeah, there were times where I organized the supply cabinet. But there were also times that I created a much-needed project that helped the company down the line.

      2. Jimming*

        This. Where are these jobs with downtime? Right now I’m overworked, but even when things are slower there’s always something I can do, like support a teammate.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I work for a govt subcontractor and the amount of work I have to do is minimal. We have busy times of year, but I could probably work another job. But they’re paying me to be available as needed, and when something does come in, we usually have to jump on it ASAP. So if a company is paying you work full time, just because you finish your work in less than the normal amount of time in a work week doesn’t mean you can work at another job (who also expects you to work full time). If something happens and a ton of work is dumped on him, which job does he neglect and what does he say when they both want their work done ASAP? Not to mention, he’s planning on using his current company’s equipment and bandwidth to remote into the 2nd place. Sure it sucks to finish your work quickly, not be challenged and sit around staring at the cube walls all day, but that doesn’t make it okay to dupe 2 different companies into thinking you’re working for each of them exclusively, and they each have your full attention.

    7. Iris Eyes*

      I think this would work for freelance where you could have some sort of say over the flow and deadlines of the other work. And I think that there are a lot of people that are WAY to far on the other side of this. I can recall some outrage about someone doing paid work during a scheduled vacation. As if employees were the property of their job.

    8. ECHM*

      I have a wonderful part-time church secretary job and am also a freelance reporter. I have made the office super-efficient so some days I have a lot of down time. They don’t mind me writing or making phone calls as long as it doesn’t interfere with my work. They even gave me a big raise this year. In return, I do my best work for them and am extremely loyal.

  11. ManderGimlet*

    I think your coworker is completely wrong in his justifications, but I wouldn’t tattle on him. I’d give him a heads up that he’s on his own if he gets caught and to not tell you any more about it, but otherwise stay out of it. What if you tattle and he manages to convince your boss that he can continue doing this and you’re stuck continuing to work with him?

    1. Works in IT*

      This is so egregious, if he starts doing it and the OP DOESN’T tell, the OP could be fired for hiding it when he eventually gets caught.

      1. k_pedia*

        Yeah, there’s no evidence that he told me, to be fair – it’s not like he sent me a hard copy document explaining his dastardly plan – but I’m still concerned that his team members could be questioned about our knowledge of the whole thing. Really, I just feel like he put me in a poor situation by putting this burden on me. He may be a blow-hard, he may be truly planning this, but now it’s just another stupid thing for me to have to think about :(

        1. StressedButOkay*

          I think if he goes through with this and gets caught and they ask you about it, you could always respond with “He did tell me at one point that he was thinking about applying for another job and expressed interest in working both at the same time. However, I never saw any evidence of this actually happening after he mentioned it and took it to be idle chatter.”

          This is, of course, contingent on you not actually having knowledge from this point out! I’d immediately distance yourself as much as possible from him, keep all talk at work to work, etc. He’s put you in a not great position – but you’ve got some wiggle room in that he hasn’t done it yet and you haven’t seen any actual evidence beyond his ‘great idea’.

          After all, this could all be some weird pipe dream that never actually happens.

          1. A Reader*

            Stressed, I think this is the right balance to strike. For all we know, it could just be idle chatter. I don’t think the onus should be on the OP to tell the manager if she doesn’t have any proof. He’s talking about doing it, but she doesn’t actually know he’ll do it.

  12. Forrest*

    >>as I’ve been fired before for doing almost exactly what he’s describing (I, too, thought I could game the system)

    Anyone else *dying* to hear how this went down? Also, is data analytics particularly prone to this kind of thinking??!

    1. Roscoe*

      I also caught that. I find it most interesting that they did it, got fired for it, but now want to get someone else fired for it. It almost seems like they are upset that this person is getting away with it, when they didn’t

      1. Not Australian*

        And there’s no room in your mind for a more charitable explanation, i.e. that the OP would like to stop the co-worker making the same mistake they did? Okay, then.

      2. HR Stoolie*

        I didn’t get that. If OP wanted to sabotage co-worker he would have kept quiet and gave management the heads up once the 2nd job started.

        1. k_pedia*

          OP here – Yeah, I’m not about sabotage, but wanted to be honest about the fact that his departure would benefit me. I am trying to be a better team member, coworker, and human being, so I wanted to act in the best interest of all involved. I’m not trying to be out to get anyone.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I really liked that you included that! I’d love it if all letters included any details that might not reflect entirely well on the letter writer; it’s refreshing.

          2. Hiring Mgr*

            At this point though, the guy hasn’t done anything. He’s just talking about it. I’ve got enough things to worry about as a mgr without hearing rumors or conjecture… Let me know when it actually happens

      3. ala*

        But the other employee in this situation isn’t getting away with it–this is something that they are *planning* to do, not something they are actively doing. It read more to me that it wasn’t a case of being upset that someone else is getting away with it, but that OP is pointing out that they have firsthand experience as to why this is an extremely bad idea.

      4. The New Wanderer*

        That isn’t a fair interpretation. The coworker isn’t doing it at the moment, therefore not getting away with it. The OP is pretty clear that this is a common and tempting idea, so much so that OP actually fell for and got caught doing it, and so a) understands the temptation and b) knows what the probable consequences will be.

        OP isn’t out to get the coworker fired. Coworker’s actions (if they do this) will get that done. OP is asking about their own responsibility in this case because coworker talked about this scheme and seems intent on doing it.

        1. A Reader*

          MTE. I thought it was really interesting that the OP admitted she got fired for this exact same reason. It takes a strength of character to learn from one’s mistakes, and to help others not make that same mistake. My hat’s off to the OP!

      5. wittyrepartee*

        It’s possible they did it in college or at something lower stakes. This reminds me of an… embarrassing situation I got myself into during my thesis that made me INCREDIBLY aware of data security issues. NEVER AGAIN!

    2. k_pedia*

      Hi, OP here. I’m not upset about the fairness of the situation. I take full responsibility for the fact that I was running a marketing business on my own while also working for another marketing firm. Wasn’t in the realm of data analytics (this is a second career for me). I caused an obvious and silly conflict of interest. I definitely deserved to be fired.

      I suppose I’d rather protect someone else from making such a huge misstep. My own stupidity could be used to help someone avoid the heartache I experienced.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            You’re kind for telling him your story.

            Now it’s his turn to crash and burn after hearing it. LOTS of people cannot learn from other’s mistakes like that, it’s not shocking at all that he just thinks he’s so much smarter and better at it than you.

    3. CRM*

      To be fair, I think a lot of data analytics jobs tend to be simpler than they appear. They like to hire people who are overqualified in case they need or want those advanced skills, which they rarely do. Most of the time they just want simple operational reports.

      Imagine having just graduated from an MBA program in business analytics. In school you were performing difficult analyses on datasets with millions of records while utilizing multiple complex software programs each had a different syntax. Then you get a job in the real word, and the majority of your time is spent using simple functions in Excel. You feel bored and underwhelmed. You start to wonder why you spent all of that energy, time, and money on a graduate degree in the first place.

      This isn’t always the case, but I’ve seen it happen more than once. I completely understand why these people consider getting a second full-time job.

      1. Frankie*

        Sure, but this is true of a lot of jobs when you get an advanced degree. Sure, in data analytics, but in plenty of other fields, too. To me, that doesn’t make the idea of trying to game two employers more sympathetic.

        I’m not saying being overqualified in a boring job isn’t a sympathetic position, or a “suck it up” situation. I’m not saying folks should just necessarily grind through crappy jobs until they can hope for better. It’d be great if everyone could find their way to satisfying work. But the search for satisfying work to me doesn’t equal doing two jobs in the time of one so you can draw two salaries without anyone being the wiser.

        1. CRM*

          I’m definitely not saying it’s right to have two jobs at once, just that I understand why the inclination is there. And you’re right, I suppose it can happen in any field.

  13. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    I do some freelance work on the side and I have to very occasionally be available for phone meetings during my normal workday. For those I always schedule them for a time when I can reasonably take my “lunch break” and NEVER use company equipment. It would be a huge violation to do otherwise. I can’t imagine that this guy thinks he can use his resources provided by company 1 to do work for company 2.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say anything unless 1) it impacts your work in any way (including him not being available when you might need him) or 2) there are any security issues with him doing this. However, I’d definitely warn him strongly against it and wouldn’t hesitate to mention it to my manager if it ever becomes an issue.

  14. sideGig*

    Wrinkle I’m interested in:

    I work a full time job during normal business hours and part time at a startup on the side. I do the vast majority of work for the side job nights and weekends, though occasionally I have to send an email from my personal phone or take a phone call during day-job business hours. Day job explicitly states it is acceptable to do occasional personal web browsering or take calls while on day job time, and is big on flex time/wfh.

    I understand the legality of the is covered by the respective employment contracts, but ethically where does it stand?

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t think that’s nearly the same situation because it’s such a small extent with your primary job – an occasional email or phone call here or there isn’t a major issue. To me, that level of involvement falls under the general theory “we hired a professional to do a job, we expect you to generally follow norms” under which employers let you listen to podcasts or read a few articles online or send a few texts from your phone.
      Worlds different from OP’s co-worker who is basically going to devote a sizable chunk of his working hours to having two full-time jobs.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Obviously grey zone, but I’d consider it acceptable if it’s either under an hour a week or done on your lunch break.

    3. Uber fan*

      Half the startups in Silicon Valley would not exist but for arrangements like this. Be careful about using company reources though. They can have some claim on your IP.

  15. Noah*

    It’s unlikely there are any “employment law issues” here, but he’s surely going to get fired for this.

  16. Dragoning*

    Wait, if they have similar levels of experience and education, why is OP satisfied here?

    Not entirely related, I know, but I’m confused.

    1. k_pedia*

      Hi, OP here. I’m not really satisfied, but I live in an economically depressed area of the country. For a variety of personal reasons, I prefer not to move. I may consider remote work, but this is a good stop-gap position to help me earn some money while plotting my next move. Good question.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I mean, OP already answered, but more generally speaking I’d like to push back on the idea that it’s not okay for someone to be satisfied with a job that’s lower-level than they could be qualified for. Not everyone is ambitious, there are plenty of people who probably could move up but choose not to, preferring to expend as little energy on their job as possible in order to spend more energy on personal pursuits outside of work.

      I met a woman at a call center I worked at once. She was a level-1 rep, which was the entry-level job I’d just been hired for, and she’d been doing it for 20+ years. She was happy where she was. She didn’t want the extra responsibility of a higher-tier rep, or the stress of managing other people. She wanted to come to work, do the same thing over and over for 8 hours, and go home. So that’s what she did.

      My brain would absolutely melt in that situation, and tbh it kinda freaked me out at the time – I was 22, ambitious, and already having existential crises about Not Achieving My Potential (I was a gifted kid w/depression and ADHD, which is not fun), so all I could think was “oh god am I going to wind up like that?”

      But looking back, she was content with it! That’s what matters. Sometimes people could do more, but choose not to. There’s no need to judge them for that.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah. There are times I love my job, and other times I think wistfully about having one where you take a call, deal with it, move onto next call and never think of the old one again. That would be nice.

        (I suspect I’d get bored soon – and I need the higher pay – but sometimes…. it sounds nice!)

      2. Light37*

        I’m a librarian and lots of people tell me I’d be a great manager, why don’t I apply for this or that library manager job? Except I really, really don’t want to be a manager! I like the reference desk. I like being able to put in my time and go home to do fun stuff instead of being stuck worrying about budgets and staffing and crises. I like not being stuck in endless meetings. I don’t need the stress, even if it comes with a bigger paycheck. To quote The Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”

        1. K2*

          People have said the same to me, but I don’t want everything that comes with a manager position. I am happy right where I am! :)
          Cool to see another library worker on here.

      3. Dragoning*

        Sure, and I’d have accepted that answer if it had been given, too—but it didn’t quite sound that way, as it seems that the coworker is bored because he is overqualified (and often, yes, getting higher degrees like this Master’s does imply you don’t want to stay in a lower-level career), and also the OP mentions potentially benefiting from the information–which wouldn’t be a benefit if they didn’t want the promotions.

      4. hbc*

        There are some “menial” jobs that I could joyfully do 40 hours a week, setting aside the money issue. Shelving/sorting books at the library is like meditation for me.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        My dad loved shift work, he did it for 35 years and then happily retired.

        Meanwhile I started zooming up the ladder first chance I got. He is super proud of me and loves to brag to all his silly old man friends and my hermit small mountain town extended family about his daughter being so ambitious but “I could never have done it, I was just happy with getting paid enough to live and do my hobbies”

  17. Elenia*

    “I’m certain that’s not the case, as I’ve been fired before for doing almost exactly what he’s describing (I, too, thought I could game the system).”

    I just wanted to say thank you to the OP for sharing this. I too have been fired for this. I was very early in my career and it was a stupid thing but I have always been humiliated by my stupid behavior. I am so grateful to hear I am not the only dumbass in the world.

    1. k_pedia*

      OP here. Ah, the travails of being younger and smarter than everyone else! Ha!

      This coworker is several years younger than me. He’s spent most of his time getting degrees instead of working, so he’s somewhat naive about work culture. I’d rather he didn’t walk my same path!

    2. Jadelyn*

      If social media has taught me anything, it’s that you are NEVER, EVER the *only* one to do something/think something/want something/etc. Life is a rich tapestry, all that.

      I mean if nothing else, it defies statistical odds that you alone, out of seven billion humans, are the only one to ever make a particular mistake.

    3. I coulda been a lawyer*

      You are at least never the only person doing something dumb, that’s for certain – every dog has his day and all that.

  18. Lily in NYC*

    Interesting. I guess it’s a blurry line. We have a few people here who are playwrights (not all that uncommon in NYC) and most of them work on their plays when they have downtime and no one cares. But someone doing what OP describes would probably get fired. I had a coworker who had a side business as a contractor. He wanted to meet one of my contacts so I set it up as a favor (this was for our regular job) – he left the guy waiting for over 30 minutes in reception while he was on a call related to his side business. I got annoyed and walked over to his desk and told him to work on his business in his own time (we were sort of friends) and he never spoke to me again. The End.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think that’s different. Working on something creative in your downtime makes sense to me (and I’ve done it), but having another 40 hour/week job is something else altogether. Your contractor co-worker made the mistake of putting his side business before his full-time gig, and that’s a huge no-no, so imagine two whole separate full-time jobs concurrently! How on earth would they prioritize? Just a terrible idea besides being unethical.

      Writing in your downtime is like studying, which I do in my downtime. It’s self-directed “hobby” studying, I guess. When I’m in the middle of it and someone comes to my office, I put down the study materials because my job has to take precedence. “Let me finish this stage direction” is ok, but “I can’t come to that meeting, I need to finish up Act II” is not.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I should have mentioned they write professionally and they often have plays produced. I personally don’t have an issue with it but I can see how someone might not think it’s fair.

    2. somebody blonde*

      Yeah, working on a play is different because it’s a hobby until someone actually pays for it. It’s also something you can absolutely put down if anything comes up in your job.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        These are people who get paid for it. One of them had a play make it into the Fringe Festival this year and another one took 4 months off because her play was getting produced in Scotland. I purposely referred to people who make money in their creative endeavors but forgot to actually write it in the comment! I still don’t think it’s the same thing but it got me thinking.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Creative projects tend to be self-directed, so you can put them aside as needed during working hours, which you don’t usually have the option of doing with a more typical job. Even if you’re working on a commission, you’re still usually working to a deadline rather than specific tasks. The problem with trying to work two jobs at once, if they’re a certain kind of job, is that at some point you’re going to get two people who have an equal demand on your time because they’re paying for it, and who want what they want at the same time, and then what do you do?

  19. Rose*

    OP, no, he can’t do it, no don’t say anything. Tell him that if ever asked you’ll say what he told you but that you told him not to (maybe document this? send him an email as a CYA?)

    1. Washi*

      I think this could be just as bad – the OP is documenting that they knew it was wrong but decided not to say anything? (I assume we’re talking about if the coworker actually goes ahead and does it, not just hypotheticals.)

      1. Rose*

        I would phrase it as “per our convo about you blah blah blah, as I said it is wrong because x, y, z and I trust you will not be moving forward with your plan.” OP is not responsible for the decisions of her coworker. If they mention it to her again in the context of “today I was doing this” then you say something. My two cents.

      2. HR Stoolie*

        If OP documents the conversation then I’d suggest he be sure the subject if not spoken of again. My guess is double dipper might not want to anyway since OP was clear on how it’s not OK and was actually fired for it.

    2. Former wage slave*

      A friend in a somewhat similar situation wrote a memo with all the info, signed and dated it, and sealed it in an envelope. He then asked someone in HR to sign and date the outside of the envelope, and then to keep the sealed envelope in his employee file. When his coworker tried to take several other team members down with him (including Friend), Friend asked HR to produce the envelope, which saved his job and a couple of others’ as well. He put in the memo that he didn’t report it at the time because the coworker was basically running his mouth, but Friend wanted to cover his bases. Their manager said she wished he had reported it but understood that he didn’t want to pass on what might have been someone simply talking about a what-if. Don’t know if something similar would work for you.

  20. CupcakeCounter*

    The ONLY way I would possibly be mentally OK with this would be if the employee was already remote and worked flexible hours and had different equipment for each job (and obviously the companies were not in the same industry).

    The using company A’s equipment to work for company B part makes it an extremely egregious no-no.

  21. Karen from Finance*

    I know someone who called in sick to work to go do some freelance work somewhere else, with their boss’s blessing. But I don’t see this working in the long-term, without telling the bosses about it, it’s risky.

    1. Jadelyn*

      My dad was a corporate pilot who sometimes took one- or two-day charter jobs on the side. A couple of times he was approached to do longer (and quite lucrative) charters, and in those cases he arranged with his employer to go “on vacation” for a week or two while he was working the charter flight. Some employers can be flexible, but you gotta get them in on it up-front or else that’s just asking for problems.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I recall a post about someone who wanted to use their vacation time to do some nanny work for their old family and the comments blew up with “HOW DARE YOU EVAAAAAAAAA”…

        Whereas I duncur what anyone does on their paid vacation, your vacation is your time to do whatever you want, even if it means you’re hauling someone’s kids to and from the hotel pool for cash or flying a jet on the side.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          I think the issue is using sick vs. vacation/annual leave. I see no issue with using vacation/annual leave to make money at another gig. That’s your time to do with as you please. Sick leave is another ballgame. My employer has fired a couple of people that were abusing sick leave and working at another job. The internal investigators even told them that had they used annual leave, there would have been no issue. I think it’s interesting that people had an issue with vacation time being used to make money at another gig.

  22. Steve*

    If I went this route, I would be even more explicit. “I’m not going to report this hypothetical conversation to our employer, but if I ever witness such activity, I’ll have no choice but to report it.”

  23. SaaSyPaaS*

    I had a coworker do this. Each day he would disappear from about 10am until 2 pm. Our manager was out of state, so we we’re basically in our own at a client site. It was a large campus, so I had no way of knowing where he was or what he was doing. I just knew that I was ridiculously busy during that window, and it was really affecting my job. I found out from another person that he’d been driving for Uber in work time. This person would see him leave each day and come back. I was not a happy camper when I found out. The next time I was asked to do something that I couldn’t get to because I was doing the job of two people, I was sure to tell my manager that coworker was gone again, I was supporting about 1,000 people by myself, and I was told by a reliable source that he had been Ubering on company time while I unknowingly covered for him. I’m still irritated over the whole thing.

      1. SaaSyPaaS*

        I know there was a private discussion, and they started monitoring him. Shortly after all this, I accepted another position. He has since been let go, but I don’t know if it was the Ubering that did him in or if it was something else. He was not good at his job, so he could have been let go for anything, really.

        1. SaaSyPaaS*

          To clarify, the private discussion was between coworker and boss where coworker denied leaving regularly to Uber. So, that triggered the monitoring.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I can see this being done in a sitcom.

      When your boss goes out to a lunch with a client. Afterwards the client is waiting for their Uber and the boss is still hanging out, wrapping up the conversation before sprinting off to his car to get back to the office and this goober shows up as the Uber driver for the client!

      1. SaaSyPaaS*

        It actually did happen, but the guy picked up someone higher in the org at a hotel to take him to the airport. Coworker had just interviewed for the position WITH this guy he just picked up. When he was asked why he was Ubering at 2pm on a Friday, he just said, “Oh, I’m off.”

        How did he get hired? A new global company came in and bought the company he was already a contractor at. He interviewed for a permanent position with the new company, so they didn’t know his work schedule and assumed he was telling the truth about being off work. I was hired after him and heard the story. They didn’t catch the flashing red flag.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      WOW!! 4 hours a day! I worked with a guy hat ran a handyman business on the side. He routinely took lengthy calls during the day and would occasionally disappear for hours at a time. Not at his desk and his car was gone. I suspect he was going out to give quotes to clients. He ultimately left on his own, but when his cases were transferred to other people it was obvious that his work had suffered due to the side gig. On several cases, he’d charged over 100 hours to doing “work” that was not evidenced anywhere in the case file, nor were the documents that he said he looked at even present. The most astonishing part is that he’d been doing this for yeaaarrssss and yet, despite all of our reviews, the boss never said a word about the scant amount of work he appeared to be doing.

  24. proc freak*

    I’m in a data analytics SaaS industry and had a co-worker try this years ago.
    We had very flexible schedules and could work from home when needed.
    It lasted about a month before he was found out.
    Calling into meetings for Job B while sitting in Job A office was his final undoing.
    His metrics had dropped off quite a bit as well.
    He promptly lost both jobs and was perp walked out of the office.
    The story is widely known in our local industry and he has had a hard time finding employment since.

  25. somebody blonde*

    How much do you like this coworker? I think what you do depends on that. If you don’t like him much, you’ve already warned him, so if he starts actually doing it, you can casually mention it to your boss in a check-in. If you actually want to save him from himself, ask HR or your boss for clarification on this hypothetical scenario without mentioning him. I bet they’ll send you a policy about 2nd jobs that outright bans this practice. Then you can show him before he actually starts doing it.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Oof, if I was a manager or HR, I would have some concerns about someone even asking that question

      1. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, that’s immediate yellow-flag “Why are you asking this?” territory. And absent clear indicators to the contrary, I’m going to assume you were asking for yourself.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      You should be able to find such a policy in your employee handbook without going to HR / your boss.

      1. k_pedia*

        OP here — our employee handbook appears to be the source of my coworker’s confusion. It states that moonlighting is acceptable as long as it does not “pose a conflict of interest” to our company. The statement is very short and ambiguous, and I believe it definitely could be improved.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Thanks for the info :) For what it’s worth, I agree that the rule could be improved, especially to help guide more ambiguous cases. This one, however, seems pretty cut and dry! I don’t think an employee handbook need be so casuistic as to cover every possible situation.

          Yesterday, we had someone write in because their coworker was BURNING TOILET PAPER IN THE BATHROOM. Sometimes, you just have to trust your employees to act like professionals, you can’t spell out every possible scenario. If you look through this site’s archives, you’ll come to the conclusion that you’d need a thousand prohibitions (eg. Employees may not put magic curses on their coworkers) and it still wouldn’t be comprehensive.

  26. Earthwalker*

    Custom says this is wrong, and I agree that in the real world he shouldn’t do it. That said, just as a sort of thought experiment, suppose the guy is turning in the same deliverables as his full time coworkers, and he’s paid the same as his full time coworkers are paid, and the only difference is that he ends up with a lot of free time. If a good company manages exempt employees by results instead of butt-in-seat time, his job is done. Why should he not fill the extra time in any way he chooses, so long as he can avoid causing his firm any harm (like using their equipment for another employer, being unavailable when needed, compromising security, or conflict of interest)? Holding another job that way feels cheating to me, but then, I’ve lived in a butt-in-seat culture all my life. My employers would expect that he do twice the work of the others for the same pay because they own him for 40+ hours. But that feels like the company is cheating him and fuzzing the difference between exempt and non-exempt. While I believe theoretically in managing exempts by results, in situations like this I sure don’t see how to apply it.

    1. Elspeth*

      Yeah, except that LW’s coworker (IF he actually goes through with this) is going to be using first job’s equipment to remote in to another company’s system. Not good at all. According to LW, coworker does not do a good job at all either.

  27. Rainbow Roses*

    There’s nothing to report yet and who know if there ever will? You already warned him and even told him about your personal experience. Tell him that you don’t want to know anything more about this subject and that you don’t want to know if he ever gets a 2nd job. This way, you can honesty claim ignorance if ever questioned.

  28. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    This is very much coloured by my personal experience, but whatever you do, protect yourself before you take any action. This is someone who probably wouldn’t hesitate to drag you into whatever nonsense he gets up to, and you want to make sure people know you’re not involved.

    I don’t know if you’re obliged to say anything, but I’d snitch in a heartbeat because no way is he taking me down with him. I once worked with someone who came up with an outlandish plan to get revenge on their former workplace (where I was still working). It was shared with me over lunch and everyone was laughing. I assumed it was a joke. When the person actually did it, I got dragged into the mess. The bosses were very angry that I ‘knew’ and didn’t say anything. My only defence was that I honestly thought they were just blowing off steam and never thought they’d go through with it, which was the truth. The bosses weren’t impressed and said I should have told them. I know they wouldn’t have taken me seriously if I had, to be honest. If the former employee hadn’t done anything, the bosses would have mocked me for falling for people’s stories. But since it did happen, and the police got involved, I’d have preferred the mockery.

    I was going to suggest emailing a friend about the situation so that you had written proof that you weren’t okay with this, but maybe having this post is just as good. That might sound paranoid but he’s not suggesting this out of dire financial need. He’s just bored. What else is he doing out of boredom? I would let my employer know out of self-preservation.

    All that being said, you know your situation better than me and I’ll be the first to admit that I assume the worst. Whatever happens, good luck and let us know how it works out.

    1. k_pedia*

      OP here — “What else is he doing out of boredom?”
      Honestly, he watches TV most of the day on his phone. While in the office. I’m a little irritated with him because his job function is a big bottleneck for us (I push the work downstream to him, where it tends to sit for a long time). I feel incredulous that he wants to get a second job when he’s not really performing all that highly at this one.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Good to hear he’s not up to anything shady (yet). Although wow, that’s some audacity, not even doing your first job and thinking about getting a second!

        Does your boss know about that? Him slacking off at work should be enough for him to get some kind of warning. That might be enough to scare him into doing his work and you won’t have to worry about the second job nonsense.

        I just saw your comment above that he’s in the US on a visa, and have to admit that changes my perspective a bit. Maybe if your boss gives him a talking-to, he might wisen up and do his job. Or quit and find something that suits him better.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        I should add that my perspective changes in that telling the boss about this plan of his should be a last resort – you wouldn’t want to get someone deported just because they said something stupid. But definitely prioritise protecting yourself in the meantime.

        1. pegster*

          Surely this is the perfect thing to discuss with your boss? You could tangentially mention at that time that your coworker had mentioned taking a side-gig, but currently he’s a bottleneck for a lot of you. That should be your boss’s focus and something she could act on.

  29. Database Developer Dude*

    This is such a bad idea, and I don’t care how well your coworker plans for this, OP. He will get caught. Pretend you know nothing, and tell him not to discuss this with you anymore. The less you know, the better, lest you get caught up in it when he does get caught.

    1. MommyMD*

      And when he gets caught, which he will, he very likely will try to tangle OP in the net with him. She knew! Then two sink.

  30. Cass*

    I gotta say that if this person isn’t discreet enough to keep this potential plan to himself (telling you about it) then it’s highly unlikely that he can pull this off, IT problems notwithstanding. Yeesh.

  31. Res Admin*

    Where I work, we have to report ALL outside work, both paid and unpaid. The PTBs may decide that it isn’t a problem, however they want to be the ones to make that decision. Generally, doing the same work that you do here as an outside gig would NOT be approved (and in some cases, such as IT, is specifically disallowed).

  32. MJL*

    I really strongly feel you shouldn’t rate your coworkers out whenever you can avoid it. What he is doing is weird and risky, but capitalism sucks, and everyone makes their own gamble, and if gets fired, he gets fired, its nothing to you? Unless it is going to directly impact your ability to do your job. I don’t see how the fact that he casually mentioned this to you in conversation once can actually be used against you, because, worst case scenario, if he mentions that thinking it could some how help (though, why?) just deny it? It’s your word against the guy who got caught working two jobs? So yeah, I’d really advise staying out of it unless it directly impacts you.

    1. Snark*

      But it does affect her; he’s already so distracted and over it that he delays work she passes to him.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      My response above might give the opposite impression, but I do agree with you as a general rule. If someone is acting strangely but it doesn’t affect me, I ignore it (e.g., coming and going at odd times, making extra phone calls). If someone drags me into their shady doings, though, my first priority is to protect myself.

      You do have a good point in simply denying he told you anything. I actually didn’t consider that because I’m terrible at lying. But yeah, they’re going to believe the person who wasn’t caught doing anything wrong versus the one who did.

        1. LondonEngineer*

          Get up on the wrong side of bed? OP made a lighthearted comment in response to another lighthearted comment and you are issuing a stern rebuke that they shouldn’t use standard internet slang to indicate their approval of this response unless they similarly approve of every single piece of direct advice?

  33. WatchOutForThatTree*

    IT security may not be the only concern. What about potential intellectual property issues? If his work with company 2 involves creating something of value to company 2 or company 2’s clients, I am positive that company 1 has a super strong legal claim against both the employee and company 2. It was done on company 1’s equipment, at their facility, during the time the employee was working at and being paid by company 1. Tell management.

  34. hbc*

    In theory, I don’t have an issue with someone doing two jobs simultaneously if one has no negative effect on the other. If someone’s job is to greet the occasional visitor and they’re allowed to discreetly read a book or surf the web, then it doesn’t matter that they’re discreetly editing a manuscript for pay or emailing new workout routines as a personal trainer. But the number of people who have two jobs like this and can context shift seamlessly is dwarfed by the number of people who *think* they can squeeze 10 hours worth of work into an 8 hour day but screw it all up.

    That’s before you get to the use of company resources, which, no. Thou shalt not remote into other companies’ systems for a side job.

  35. Undine*

    OP, you say this guy is from abroad. Having two jobs is very common in some countries, and the norms around office jobs may be different. And even here it’s normal if you’re a part-time in retail or food service. I might try one more time to explain the local norms around office jobs to him. And if he does take the job, go to your boss, but present it as this is a normal he needs to learn.

    (As a side note, I love to speculate what are the side gigs of everyone on Death in Paradise. Is the police commissioner a dentist? Or does he run an auto shop?)

    1. US expat in Eastern Europe*

      Literally everyone in our office is doing this. I’m fact, I have routinely been paid less than my contract calls for because our accountants just assume that “you must have lots of private clients on the side.”

    2. Amber Rose*

      Having two jobs is normal everywhere I’ve been. Even my mom worked two jobs. The morally questionable bit is having two jobs with the same working hours. Because technically, you have two companies paying you for time you’re spending working for someone else. That’s… almost like theft.

      1. Sarah N*

        This. Like, no one in retail is trying to man the cash registers at the Gap and also sell Orange Julius on the side IN THE SAME HOURS, by running back and forth between the store and the food court. Nor would either company be okay with it if they were.

  36. Suzwhat*

    My company has a code of conduct that prohibits using company resources like a computer to do anything except company business. We are required to sign/acknowledge that we understand this each year. We also have a responsibility to report things that we feel are against the code of conduct. It is a gray area to me if I would have to report a similar thing unless I know for sure/suspect it is happening. Then our HR and security teams would investigate it.

  37. Chelsea*

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that your employer can see if you are working for someone else when they issue your W-2 / file your taxes, if you’re in the US.

    1. JustMyOpinion*

      I don’t think that they get to see your taxes. So your W-2 isn’t public knowledge and he would receive a W-2 from both employers separately. But I could be wrong…

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Taxes are not public. Unless it’s for a non-profit business.

        This is why they keep hollering, demanding Donald release his returns and he goes “LOL nah”.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s not how a W-2 works.

      Each employer issues their own, you don’t combine them ever! It’s all under their government ID’s so they can be audited in payroll if necessary.

      I issue W-2s myself for almost two decades now, I promise you that they do not ever see your other earnings from anywhere else. The only people who see your taxes are the IRS and your accountant if you have one.

    3. EMW*

      Where this would turn up is if the second employer did a background check. He could say he’s planning to leave that job though once he lands the new one.

  38. Former Computer Professional*

    Once upon a time my job decided I needed an underling, so a junior person from another group was moved to train with me. After about a year, this person took the knowledge I helped them gain and got another job. To be honest, I was proud.

    Three years later, management changes have made my job no longer fun, as my new manager and I do not get along. I start job hunting and get offers, and pick one. Before I can resign, my manager announces that the former junior coworker is coming back — as senior to me, and at higher pay than mine. The next day, I sign new job offer papers and turn in my resignation letter.

    Three days later, my former coworker is standing in my office. “Take it back,” they say. “You can’t quit!” It turned out that in the intervening years, they’d developed a profitable consulting business on the side. Their plan was that they’d pool both of our duties and cherry-pick the ones they could do remotely while doing the consulting business at the same time. I would be required to do the rest which, somehow, was the majority of the work. As this was against company rules, they were depending on — begging — me to keep quiet about it.

    I did keep quiet, guessing what would happen. I left as planned. My new job had better pay, better management, and it was again fun to go to work.

    The former, re-hired coworker lasted about six months before the manager finally caught on to how infrequently they were in the office, since in-office tasks weren’t getting done in a timely manner and there were many, many complaints.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      :D that’s one hell of a story! It’s fascinating that it took your company 6 months to do so – that just goes to show how poorly managed it was.

  39. 2 jobs*

    I work a second job while at my first job, however I am remote for both and use separate computers (and Internets) for both. Also no one but my husband knows I work both positions during the same time frame, both boss’s know I have another job and what it is but we have not discussed when I work the other job. I have to say I could not have started either job as a new employee and done this ( the second job was a job I did before I took the job I have now, and I started doing it again a year after starting the main job I have now). Mine do not conflict one is a Project Manager for an online consulting, and the other is a Analytics reporting position. It takes a lot of organization and a lot of space to do both jobs well and stay separate. I have taken over our master bedroom as my work space and usually work at least 2 hours over schedule every day and start at least an hour before I am scheduled to get my day planned and set up for the day. We are using the money to pay off my enormous Student loan debt.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      The ultimate ‘output is more important than butts in seats’. But at least both your bosses know about the other job.

  40. Lynn Whitehat*

    I volunteered on some political campaigns during the last election cycle, and did phone-banking and text-banking during slow times at work. 10/10 would do again. I recommend it to others if you are bored to tears at work, and obviously if your IT permits some personal use of your work computer. (Or if the campaign uses Hustle to text, you can just do it on your phone.) Typically you sign up for one shift at a time, so if you’re actually busy that day, don’t sign up. There’s also Postcards to Voters, which is pretty much what it sounds like, and doesn’t require a computer.

    Or take some training! Your company may even have a corporate subscription to something like Lynda or PluralSight. If not, there are tons of reasonably-priced web-based classes you can take on your own.

    There are a looooottttt of ways to skin the cat of having a ton of down time at work, and wanting to do something halfway constructive with it. Reading all the comments above, it seems like the bright line is you can’t be getting paid.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have been messing around on one of those survey apps that gives you credits for giftcards on my downtime because it’s one of “those weeks”.

      It’s not even not being paid so much as you need to be honest…

      I could take another job because of my flex schedule or go to school if I wanted to, I just need to clock out, go do that stuff and then come back at our agreed upon time! I’ve worked 3 jobs at once, everyone knew about the other one. I would take work related texts frequently enough at another job but it never literally switching back and forth between systems and doing in depth work on the other person’s dime!

  41. EvilQueenRegina*

    I had a coworker at my old job “The Real Office”, who was found out to be moonlighting. Boss was suspicious of him once after he called out with a back injury but then didn’t provide any updates, and one night she had someone drive past his house and it was all in darkness. He explained that away as him recovering at his mother’s (she lived 100 miles away) and it was dropped.

    A few months later, he had another unexplained long sickness absence. However it turned out he was taking time off sick, doing handyman jobs on the side, telling his wife that the handyman jobs he was doing for us were so quiet that he’d been advised to do his own jobs on the side in the meantime (totally untrue). He had admitted it to someone who was known to be indiscreet and had blabbed.

    There was an investigation, but he wasn’t fired (we’re in the UK, where it is harder to fire people, but I don’t know what the reasons were that he was saved). The same thing continued to happen again. He’d change the hours logged on his jobs, trying to make out he was doing work jobs when he wasn’t. One time he slipped up and claimed to have been somewhere on 31st February 2011. Still nothing was said.

    Layoffs were coming and everyone pretty much thought this opportunity would be taken to get rid of him. However, when the interviews took place for that role, he scored so highly that Grandboss told Boss she couldn’t justify letting him go. I left myself around that time so don’t know if any more happened.

  42. Goose Lavel*

    I once worked at a government lab with only 10 employees that was housed in a two-story large old building. The building’s full time janitor would come in every morning, unlock the cabinet to get his bucket and mop and then push it to the other end of the building, where he hide it in a storage room. He would then leave to go work a full day at his own private Janitorial Service Company. He would then return, retrieve his bucket and mop and then walk through the building saying goodnight to people and lock the bucket and mop in his cabinet.

    He was only caught when there was a spill in the lab that required clean up and no one could find him and his car was missing from the lot. He’d been apparently doing this for many years without trouble, but it finally cost him his job.

  43. MissDisplaced*

    Yeah, this is unethical unless the main company allows it.
    I only had that happen once, where I was allowed to freelance design for our client/advertisers. It was a service the publisher didn’t want to provide, but it helped people get their ads made. Even so, I had some parameters, and most of it was after hours and weekend work, but I was allowed to use work equipment.

  44. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Ah shadiness, you think it’s going to pay off, you think you’re so smart and slick…until you’re not.

    This is just like how people assume they’ll get away with the perfect crime and that they’re smarter than all the cops combined. Bless is ignorant greedy heart, tell everyone on him, he’s not even smart enough not to tell a colleague about his devious plans. Trololololol

  45. LaDeeDa*

    I once did some consulting work for a company and discovered one of their employees was doing exactly what was described and had been doing it for over a year!! I had to take that information to the CEO with the proof.

    I have a side gig, but I made it clear to the side gig that I am not available during the week until after 7 pm. It is no big deal for the type of work I am doing, I can do it in the evenings, and on the weekends and do not need to participate in calls, or answering emails during regular business hours. It isn’t a conflict of interest- a totally different industry, totally different work from my normal gig.

  46. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    We had a dude secretly running a car repair business at work during work hours (and using the staff that he supervised!)… how do people think this is a good idea? Hoooooow?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve seen this nonsense happen in shops before. Someone repairing or making something for someone else on the side with my bosses tools and materials, that they didn’t even have the decency to pay for since he would give scrap away for PERSONAL things…argh. Case and point, we could all go and make ourselves cute coffee tables from the scrap if we wanted to and had downtime between duties [lots of standing around and waiting while the products were at the station[s] ahead of yours sometimes, I had someone making them for all their friends and charging them, I wasn’t a happy camper.

      1. I work on a Hellmouth*

        Laaaaaaaame! I would have been peeved, too.

        The thing about the car repair business the guy was running that got to me was the fact that we’re an apartment complex…and not only was he openly working on cars in the middle of the property, no maintenance requests were being completed. How did he think no one was going to notice??? Although apparently it went on for a REALLY long time before I got there…

  47. Alex*

    I have to admit that for a very short time a long time ago, I did this. I was in my 20s and I didn’t know about “norms” and I had one of those jobs where sometimes I had nothing to do. Then someone came along and offered me some freelance work, and I was very happy to do it. I didn’t *have* to do it while I was at work in order to get it done, but I had so much down time that felt like such a waste of my life, I thought the freelance work was a great solution.

    I’m glad I never got caught, (not that I was trying hard to hide it, just that no one who would have cared was paying any attention) and I would never do this now because I understand people get fired for it, but at the time had someone said it was wrong, I would have been surprised, because to me it felt like a much better use of my time than just sitting there waiting for something to happen. I could always put it down at any time when my “real” work became active.

    Your coworker may just have a hard time seeing how it is a problem, because it may seem completely illogical to him.

  48. All Outrage, All The Time*

    I don’t think this is the OPs problem and I don’t think they should snitch.

    If coworker brings it up again I would say “I am going to assume you are joking about this because it’s dishonest and unethical. If you keep talking about it to me, I am going to feel ethically obliged to mention it to boss.”

  49. Beth*

    If it never comes up again, I think you should probably assume he took your advice and isn’t doing it. He was speaking hypothetically (as in, he isn’t doing it yet; even if he seems pretty set on it, he’s not technically doing anything wrong yet, and plans can always change or fall through). I think you’ll come off as a bit of a tattletale if you bring it to your employer’s attention at this point, especially since you stand to benefit if he gets knocked down a notch.

    But if you ever hear him talking about it more concretely, or see signs that he’s actually doing it, at that point I think you’re in the clear to bring it to a manager’s attention if you want. Or, you can also stay out if you want to avoid the drama. It’s not the kind of thing I’d feel obligated to report unless I had some ridiculous level of evidence staring me in the face; I think you can make your own call there.

  50. Workallthetime*

    Ummm I would mind your own business. I have work remotely for years and on occasion have picked up a temp gig that requires me to work in an office. When this happens I just work both at the same time and to date, knock on wood, have had zero issues. If he can manage his time and get his work done let him work both jobs. Do you honestly think your company truly cares about you? That they want you to have a healthy retirement account, be able to put your kids through school, afford to live a middle class life? So if you can “double dip” as you put it and cause no issues with either employer I say have at it. Damn the ethics.

    1. k_pedia*

      OP here – the concern I have is being held responsible for not reporting (as we discussed earlier in the comments section). I would prefer to stay employed, and being entrusted with this information could compromise my position at the company if the higher-ups determine that I knew something was amiss but didn’t report it.

    2. Elspeth*

      Uh, no. If LW’s coworker goes ahead with this really bad idea, he’s going to be using the first company’s resources to remotely work with another company. Also, LW has said that the coworker doesn’t get his work done and in fact, causes a bottle-neck effect.

  51. Nancy B Tiller*

    COI aside, side work during office hours is a Conflict of Commitment, ie. you have committed specific hours to a given employer you can not use those same hours for another employer. It is like selling the same car to 2 different people.

  52. LCL*

    (SaaS stands for Software as a service, renting it instead of buying it.)
    OP believes their job might be jeopardized if she didn’t report it, so she should report it. But be very clear in the report that this was just a discussion they held, she has no idea what his future actions are in this regard or if he was really going to do it or just scheming. And OP can definitely complain whenever a production bottleneck occurs because scammer hasn’t done his job.

    Bitter experience has shown me that schemers are going to scheme. People that scam on company time to the degree proposed are untrustworthy and will metaphorically knife you in the back whenever they get the chance. OP should stay as far away from this man as her job allows.

  53. Kenneth*

    There’s a simple reason it’s unethical to do what the coworker has planned: you have a fiduciary duty to your employer. When you are on their property using their resources to do your job, or offsite/WFH during a time your employer expects you are working for them (because that’s their policy or agreement with you), they are trusting that you will do what they’re paying you to do. Working a second job on what is supposed to be your employer’s time is a breach of that trust, especially if you’re leveraging your employer’s resources to accomplish that.

    That fiduciary duty also means you do have a duty to report to your employer any activity by other employees that you know, should know, or have reason to believe will be damaging to your employer or is otherwise a breach of ethics and/or law.

    As kind of an extreme example to illustrate this, back in August, there was a woman who wrote in about a coworker who she knew was continuing to drive a company car while out on bail for a DUI charge – no license, no insurance, but continuing to drive. (Original:, Update: The overwhelming consensus in the comments was the coworker had a duty to report, in large part because she knew the coworker was breaking the law. Now what your coworker is doing isn’t anywhere on par with driving on a revoked license pending sentencing on DUI. But the duty to your employer is no different.

    Plus that letter described actions being taken, not actions an employee is planning to take. If the employee never takes the second job, never “double dips”, then there is no damage to your employer, and no duty to report. But once you know the employee is “double dipping”, then I feel you do have a duty to report that since that is damaging to your employer since they would be paying him for time he was (unbeknownst to your employer) working for someone else. Especially if he’s tunneling through his company-issued resources to do that work.

  54. AptNickname*

    I once worked at a place that processed home mortgages. A coworker was also a realtor, and would take calls (very loudly) in his cube to schedule showings. It was my first ‘real’ job and I was only 20, but I still thought it wasn’t OK. What your coworker is planning is worse.

  55. Susan*

    At a previous job, a number of people were running personal businesses. One was selling real estate, one was doing some kind of product sales (think of Avon or some such), and so on. One person wrote a book focused on what she did for the organization – wrote it during office hours on her office computer and used office contacts to get it printed (she was praised for having done this). Another had a business basically doing office tasks – keying in documents, etc., which she tried to force other, lower-level staff to do for her during office hours on office computers. All this done pretty much with the knowledge of the higher-ups. The kicker was that this was for a not-for-profit organization … and the fact that all these people were running for-profit businesses out of the office using office equipment and supplies (i.e., printing out the first versions of the book and the typed documents) put the organization’s not-for-profit status at risk. No one chose to do anything until there was a change in management at which time there was a ban on those activities. I left before that change-over, but heard about it afterwards.

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