how can managers spot people who are working two full-time jobs at once?

A reader writes:

I read your column about an employer who found out their new hire was working two jobs at once. This is becoming surprisingly common, with some people working as many as four jobs at once. We have been burned by this several times, costing us key partnerships and customers due to lack of performance.

The worst of these types will claim sick children, dead relatives, and other similar excuses to play on your emotions and drag out the extra paycheck as long as they can. (There are also organized groups who are using U.S.-based people to interview while having a completely different person in another country show up for work.)

What is the best strategy to quickly weed out people like this? One telltale sign is usually their LinkedIn profile, which they will not update with their new employer, but of course you cannot mandate someone to update their social media. Any other ideas?

Conveniently, the best way to address it is with good management.

If someone isn’t working at the level you need, you address that early and forthrightly.

Aside from conflict of interest issues (which can be hugely important but which don’t sound like the part you’re worried about), the grounds for an employer to object to someone working multiple full-time jobs is if the person’s performance is suffering because of it, right? And the way you deal with that is the same way you should be dealing with any situation where someone’s work isn’t good enough; there’s nothing special about cases where it’s because the person has another job. Good managers should always be doing things like working closely with new hires so they can spot problems and course-correct early on, setting clear goals that represent meaningful progress and monitoring people’s progress against those goals (so it’s easy to see if someone is hitting the bar you need or not), giving feedback, and being direct about problems. Conveniently, that will root out problems whether they’re caused by someone working two full-time jobs, or watching YouTube all day, or just not having the skills needed for the work.

If a manager is upset that they didn’t know someone was working another full-time job and that person’s work suffered as a result, I’d argue that manager wasn’t doing their own job well enough. A fundamental part of managing is spotting and addressing work problems. So either that manager spotted problems and didn’t speak up because they weren’t comfortable doing their own job, or they weren’t paying as much attention as they should have been.

Now, there are situations like this one where an employer gives someone extra slack because the person says they’re going through a tough time (health, family issues, etc.) — situations where they knew the person’s work wasn’t up to par but wanted to be accommodating to someone in a tough spot, but it turns out the person was misrepresenting their circumstances. There’s always some risk of this when you’re managing people — not just with people working other jobs, but with people citing fictitious personal circumstances to get more grace at work. Employers should try to accommodate people who are in hard situations, which means accepting that occasionally someone might take advantage of that. To some extent we’re reliant on what we know of people; it’s easier to trust a long-time employee with a good track record who needs some grace this year and harder when it’s a new hire you don’t have a relationship with yet. And because of that, it does make sense to monitor things more closely when someone is new. But there will always be people who try to scam their employers; remote work has made some ways of doing that easier, but the concept isn’t new.

{ 392 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


    If you have no idea what resources it takes to do a job (equipment, information, training, time, effort, etc.), then you have no business being in management.

    And if the purpose of the job is so nebulous that it defies having those resources clearly identified in advance, then maybe you don’t need to have that position filled in the first place.

    1. Parenthesis Dude*

      Is that true?

      It often takes me a variable amount of time to do a task. Maybe what I thought would work doesn’t work on the first try. Maybe I did something incorrectly and didn’t realize until the end. Maybe what I did broke the system and I have to start from scratch. I may decide it makes sense to automate the task instead of it doing manually, and that causes it to take longer than you’d expect. And I’m considerably faster than other people on my team. What takes me five hours may take someone else ten or fifteen hours.

      How do you tell if someone is working two jobs or simply slow?

      1. Malarkey01*

        I agree with all of this and would add this is going to vary significantly based on the type of work and level of people performing it. I supervise people do high level technical work, and often rely on their expertise to tell me how long tasks take. Very occasionally I might need to dig into a little more detail because why expectation was very off and I want to understand why a deadline needs to be 3 weeks later than expected.

        However I often rely on the technical people to provide me the information on what resources it takes and that doesn’t make me a bad manager. I get great results.

        1. Lizzianna*

          I think the key when you’re supervising technical experts is to ask questions. I supervise a pretty diverse team (people with PhDs and master’s in various fields I took a few courses on in college). No one person could do my job and be an expert in every field they supervise. So I do have to trust my employees when they tell me what it’s going to take to get a particular task done. But I tend to ask questions about the steps, the process, resources needed, etc. If it feels like something is taking a disproportionate amount of resources (time, people, funds), I may dig in a little deeper. In my experience, people who are doing a good job are okay taking the time to explain their work if their supervisor is showing genuine interest and using that info to get resources and set office priorities.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I think Alton is talking about a job, like a position on your team, not about individual tasks. A particular task can take longer than expected, yes – and that should be factored into the assessment of how much work equals one full-time job. It’s a ballpark.

      3. Mid*

        If someone is very different from the norm on time it takes to do tasks, you check in with them. They might be slower/faster than someone, or they might be struggling. Even if something takes a variable amount of time, there’s usually still a reasonable range for most things.

        No one is saying there’s an exact time that everyone should take for every task. A good manager would be in tune with the work and the variables at play, and understand that sometimes you spend 6 hours upfront to save 12 hours down the line, or whatever situation makes sense for the work being done. E.g. it took me 6 hours to draft 3 notices, because I used that time to create a better template with mail merge because I knew that the next month I would need to draft literally hundreds of that same notice, and that large batch took me less than 2 hours to complete. My boss knew what I was doing, and it wasn’t an issue.

        The point is that a good manager should have a frame of reference for reasonable, and then follow up if there are issues.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Good point that it’s important to check in if someone is much faster than usual, as well as slower!

          At an old job we had a data entry team who had a target to enter a certain number of “cases” per day, say 100. Typically 90-110 would be a reasonable range. This one guy and his friend decided to have a “who can be faster” contest and often had 180-200 cases entered! We only found out much later that they were achieving this by leaving out half of the information (for example if the “cases” were resumes, if a resume had 5 previous jobs on it they might only enter 2 of them). (No, the job wasn’t paid as piecework…. I’m not sure why they got it into their head to do this!)

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            I had a coworker like this a long time ago, and she got rewarded for this foolishness so many times at our firm. When she left to take another job at another firm, she ended up coming right back a few weeks later – couldn’t hack it in the new place that actually monitored and checked the work she was doing, lol.

      4. Spero*

        I think you can tell by having core familiarity with the task and the systems in place. For example, if one of my staff tried to tell me they couldn’t do a task because a key system wasn’t functioning – I should either be hearing that from all staff, or none of them. If only one has issues it’s likely something with that individual misusing the system and needing further training. Or, if it’s a unique issue – have we had previous conversations about at what point they ask for help? Maybe we need to do that. If they’ve spent 8 hours trying to make something work, that’s not an effective use of time – they should have stopped at hour 1 or 2 to get help from me or a coworker.
        For tasks that do have a great deal of variability, I look for whether they can explain WHY the task was on the longer end. Ex one task can be 5 minutes if a partner did their part correctly or 2 hours if they didn’t. So I ask -what happened? If they say ‘partner did about 1/2 of theirs incorrectly’ it makes complete sense my employee’s work was longer. If they say ‘I don’t know, it just did’ then I may need to look more closely. It’s fine to take longer – it’s not really fine not to be able or willing to say WHY it took longer.

        1. mlem*

          “When to ask for help” is huge. Some of the people who haven’t worked out in my group have been the ones who spend hours or days spinning their wheels despite being coached in when to reach out, and despite a pretty strongly encouraging peer environment — some of them get stuck on the idea that they “should” be able to do it themselves or they “don’t want to bother” others. Things would be far worse if our management weren’t looking for that factor and working to counter it.

        2. Mangled Metaphor*

          ” if one of my staff tried to tell me they couldn’t do a task because a key system wasn’t functioning – I should either be hearing that from all staff, or none of them. ”
          If this is the culture you have in place, are all your team aware of it?
          If a key system goes down at work and only one person reports it, the manager will then ask for feedback from the rest of the team because, historically receiving 70+ “this isn’t working” updates over the course of 2 hours isn’t an effective use of time, compared with “this isn’t working for X, who else is having issues?” and reporting based on number of responses in the next five minutes.
          Sometimes breakout teams will confer amongst themselves before nominating a spokesperson to report it not working.

      5. Fluffyfish*

        Yes a good manager must have some concept of what resources a job requires which includes time. That’s not to say they sit there with a stopwatch and time how long it takes you to complete an individual task. It’s more of a broad, high level scale and it’s in collaboration with the people filling those jobs.

        A good manager understands that some people work faster and others work slower, but if there’s a HUGE gap then that’s a trigger to look into individual performance. Is the fast performer efficient or are they making a ton of mistakes? Is the slow employee new and still learning or are they struggling to complete the work?

        My managers may not know the nitty gritty details of my position (talk about niche – I’m the only person who does this work), but they know enough about the quality and time I need to do different things that they would know if work starts to suffer. And should someone new be hired to do this work, they would not expect them to be working at my level day one, but they would know enough to judge if that person was progressing or failing.

      6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I mean job, not task. And yes of course sometimes any given task takes longer than you estimate, and sometimes it goes more quickly. But in the aggregate, over time, you ought to know how much output you can expect from a given person.

        If you can’t consistently get within a factor of 4, then there’s a fundamental disconnect between what you’re trying to do and the resources you have available to get them done.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          Real life is more complicated than this. Here’s a story.

          We hired one person for our team that was hired for potential. They were pretty smart, but very young. They weren’t as good technically as the other people, but had the skillset to move up the ranks. Especially since the technical part would be less important as they moved up.

          They completed tasks very slowly. Really, the aim was less for them to understand the technical parts, and more to just get experience understanding the big picture. If they could understand the big picture and explain it to others, then they’d be moved to management and someone else would do the technical work. But there were people that could do the technical work four times faster even though that was this persons’ job also. At their rank, they had to be able to do the technical work.

          About a year and a half later, it’s clear this person isn’t learning fast enough. People look into it, and it comes out that this person was also working somewhere else. In retrospect, the amount of work they were doing was low. But it’s a challenge when their primary responsibility is being expected to learn.

          Maybe a better manager would have caught things sooner. But when dealing with complicated things, it takes time to get them. And it’s hard to tell if someone is just dreaming or just trying to get it.

      7. JSPA*

        Can’t answer that question, but it’s not the best question to be asking. Substitute, “is this person contributing at a level comensurate to their salary,” and it becomes simpler to answer.

      8. Wintermute*

        A good manager should realize that though. Some jobs do have a wildly differing timeline and a manager should know if that’s the case, and should have some rough ideas of what the min/max and average ought to be. In jobs where it isn’t the case they should know that’s not the case and that most employees should be about equally productive over time.

        Also if it seems out of line then they should ask what’s going on, and expect a cogent answer– “I decided it would pay off long-term to spend more time implementing an automation system” would be a perfectly good answer, a shrug and “I dunno this one just seems harder” would not be.

      9. The OTHER other*

        “How do you tell if someone is working two jobs or simply slow?”

        I think the answer is it doesn’t really matter WHY someone isn’t getting the work done, it’s not getting done and needs manager intervention.

        Even for a new employee working remotely, someone who is frequently unavailable during work hours and takes hours to get back to you, seems distracted etc. should be telltale signs.

        The issue isn’t making sure people aren’t working multiple jobs, it’s to make sure they are working the job you hired them for.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I think Alison’s general point is that a manager should care about the job getting done, not the exact reason it isn’t getting done.

          Maybe a manager would feel better about firing someone because they had two jobs than because they weren’t learning fast enough, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have to fire the person who isn’t doing the job they were hired to do.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes. Obviously, once you’ve spotted someone being slower, you investigate and you react differently to someone who’s slow because they’re doing another job, the one who’s slow because they go back to check every single bit three times, and the one who’s getting interrupted every five minutes because of another aspect of their job.

      10. Someone Else's Boss*

        Either way, you manage around it. If I had an employee who did something wrong, then broke something, and then decided to try to automate the task even though it takes longer, those are concerns. I would be concerned.

      11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        As Alison said, it really doesn’t matter why the person is slow. There are people who work faster than others, for sure. I work pretty fast, mainly because I have plenty of experience. I wouldn’t expect someone fresh out of uni to hit the same productivity levels as me. But there are industry standards: a translator ought to be translating at least 2000 words a day. My colleagu never managed that. She claimed that it was because she worked on more complex documents than me, she being specialised in law and me in the arts. However, she was specialised in legal translations because she had a master’s degree in law, so it was much easier for her than for me! She was slow because she was too much of a perfectionist (like Oscar Wilde who reputedly worked on a poem for a day. He added a comma in the morning, then took it out again in the afternoon).
        There are texts that will take longer, if you don’t know the subject very well, or if it’s just a random list of words rather than sentences. Very poorly written texts will take longer because it takes time to understand what the author is trying to say. Very beautifully written texts will take longer too, because of fine nuance and simply trying to make the translation as beautiful as the original.
        But over time, you should be hitting your targets most of the time. For every text that’s harder to chew, there are plenty that you can just toss off easily because you’ve already translated similar stuff and know the terminology.

    2. Fikly*

      What? You mean managers might actually have to do their jobs to make sure their employees do their jobs? But…that’s so unfair! And outrageous!

  2. The one who wears too much black*

    I find it really interesting that there seems to be a double standard around having multiple revenue streams. I don’t think anyone bats an eyelash that business owners might run multiple businesses, but when it comes to matters of exempt or non-exempt employees, there was this idea that they should have one full time job. I am not trying to point fingers, just name an old trend that I have noticed that I think is finally changing. Alison is right, being an observant and active manager is the way to avoid having complicated emotions about it, but I also hope that people stop resenting other workers for holding multiple positions. There will always be some people who want to earn from multiple revenue streams and some who want one.

    1. The one who wears too much black*

      Also, to clarify, this isn’t a comment directed at this specific LW but a trend I have noticed that I am trying to better articulate without being unnecessarily reductive.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      You know how I know my remote employees aren’t screwing around? Multiple times a week, I email them assignments that need to be done ASAP or before COB. These things aren’t overly complicated but they’re not just sending an email either.

      I don’t do it on purpose, of course. It’s the nature of our work.

      No matter what anyone or I throw at them, they always, always get it done on time with minimal or no errors.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        And so if you happened to learn that one of those employees had another full-time job, would that upset you? It sounds like you are happy with their performance, would you become unhappy with their performance if you learned they had another FT job? Not with your competitors or anything that was a conflict of interest, but just another 9-5?

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          If the person has “another 9-5” that’s also full-time, how are they going to reliably be doing assignments that are due ASAP or COB?

          1. Dan*

            If they fail to do ASAP assignments on time (if that is a regular part of their job) then address that problem with them. The reason for it doesn’t matter.

            1. Clobberin' Time*

              Of course the reason matters. If the employee has an illness or a family member who needs care, that’s likely to be a finite problem that the employer is aware of and can work around (especially if there are leave policies). If it’s a secret second job, that’s not a temporary problem.

              1. Mid*

                But that’s part of addressing the issue. If ASAP work isn’t being done ASAP, you talk to the employee and figure out something to make it work.

                If they were in the office and missing ASAP work because they spent half the day on watercooler chatting, or they consistently overslept, or were in too many meetings, or preschool drop off was at a bad time, or anything else, you should still approach the issue the same way. The reason doesn’t really matter because the steps to correct it are the same, though special circumstances could lead to different solutions. But the process to getting there should be the same. Problem with work > talk to employee > find solution that works. The reason doesn’t really matter, the solution does.

          2. L-squared*

            Because its very possible the other job has far fewer things due ASAP, so if something comes in, they can shift things around.

          3. JSPA*

            Maybe it’s not a 9-5 (with the same inflexibility), yet is 40 hours a week. If I cut out all web browsing for personal interest and web forums and youtube and chats with friends, I’d probably have 40 hours to spend on…proofreading? Translation? Building and selling themed doghouses? Out-of-high-season tax prep?

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I’ve known people who have a FT “9 to 5” and a 30 to 40 hour a week flex time consulting gig. They don’t overlap, the person just works their side gig evenings and weekends.

              I have a side business as well as a full time day job. The two are completely unrelated. If I need job time for my side gig, I take PTO. It’s PTO I would take anyway, because my business helps me afford my hobby. But most of my side business is nights and weekends making stuff.

              It only becomes unethical if you are doing side business on your day job employer’s time. That’s essentially stealing time for your employer. (Note: PTO is your own time, so are nights and weekends that you aren’t scheduled to work.)

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I’d say it becomes unethical if there is a conflict of interest or if you are being paid for certain hours and you aren’t working those hours.

                I’m not sure it’s quite as clear-cut if you’re salaried exempt and therefore not being paid for the actual hours you work. If someone is responsive and able to get their work done before deadlines/during busy periods, I’m not sure if it matters if they’re doing other work during slack periods. I imagine that someone could balance one job processing orders for skis and another job processing orders for golf clubs, since they presumably have different busy times.

                Not that I’d want to do any of this myself; one full-time job is almost too much for me.

              2. JSPA*

                If your day job, despite your best efforts to do useful work for them, almost always only has work that fills 60%-80% of your time…such that you’d otherwise be allowed or even encouraged to read a book, study, or surf the web…

                …and if you always drop whatever you are doing and attend to work if there’s work to be done…

                …I’m not convinced it’s “theft” if the “something else” also is done for pay. (The idea that you can read a novel or write fan-fic, but heaven forefend you write and sell a novel–or respond to questions and take orders on your anime-inspired onesie web store–just seems capricious.)

                I’m visualizing of the stockroom attendant (there are deliveries, there are requisitions, there’s a certain amount of dusting you can do, but then what?) or someone with front desk (of the “ring bell for service” variety) or security scanner duties.

                Or any other job that requires instant availability, yet only requires actual work-work, from time to time, and much more on some days than others. Jobs where, you know when you’re needed, you know that you’re not otherwise needed, and no amount of hustle will increase your value to your employer.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I mean two full-time jobs was me in undergrad and grad school, except one job paid me and the other one I paid for. Is this really that different from juggling full-time work with full-time school? I remember when I finally graduated I had no idea what to do with ALL THAT TIME once I only had to work 40-50 hrs a week. Even our busiest times were nothing near as bad a FT job+finals

        2. Luffi*

          I think ASAP work performance is easier to quantify – you get it done when asked or you don’t. Where it gets hard is when there are long term projects. I’d have a big problem with an employee regularly asks for extensions on long term or non-urgent projects. I would be addressing that no matter what the reason to identify how to address it (change schedule, change workload, etc). I don’t want my projects / schedules to suffer because she’s shifting that work to the back burner to focus on another job.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Does it really make a difference to the job, though, whether she’s shifting that work to the back burner to focus on another job, or to write a novel, or to nap, or to read through the entire AskAManager archive, or because they haven’t learned what they needed to and won’t ask for help?

            I know it makes a difference emotionally (it feels more honest if they’re just genuinely bad at their job), but does it actually change whether or not the person is doing job they were hired for?

      2. nnn*

        I’m reminded of when I started working from home (years before the pandemic) and people kept asking me “But how does your boss know you’re working?”

        And the answer is “Because of all the actual, tangible work I’m delivering.”

        1. ThatGirl*

          I work from home part of the time, and even when I’m in the office, I sometimes barely see my manager – her desk is several rows away from me and she spends a lot of time in meetings. How does she know I’m getting work done? Like you said — because I’m delivering tangible work on time, not to mention asking for feedback and checking in with her.

          1. LIZZIE*

            This. My job has daily and weekly deliverables, as well as ongoing things that need to be done to stay on top of things. I work with my boss on the daily and weekly stuff, but on the rest of it, he pretty much leaves me alone, unless there’s a question about something, or, as has happened on occasion, I get a little behind, and he’ll just see how its going. But most of the time my job is pretty solitary, whether at home, or in the office, regardless if he’s in the same day I am, or not.
            And if I know I need to come in later, or leave early, I let him know, and adjust my work accordingly.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*


          Delivering results is how they know you are working.

          It’s called “results oriented management” for that reason.

    3. Llama Llama*

      Yeah something about the tone of the LW seemed off to me – like they would rather just ban everyone from having more than one job. Also weird that they would rather monitor linkedin profiles (which not everyone uses, and some people have and never update) instead of just…managing. Alison’s answer is spot on obviously.

      1. The LW*

        “Just managing” is great advice, but it really is a lot more complex than that. The goal of overworkers is not necessarily to maintain multiple consistent paychecks but take on new jobs but to keep an additional paycheck going for as long as possible until they are let go or everything has blown up. In our case, we are talking about $100k+ jobs here, and this is happening more and more. This is in addition to the situations where one person interviews, and a completely different person shows up to work. By the time you have enough supporting evidence to let someone go, you may be out $50k+ in salary and recruiting fees and have to start over, hoping that the next person doesn’t pull the same stunt. It is hard to “just manage” those kinds of repeated hits. These people are signing non-competes and other documents, knowing that it is not worth the time to go after them. It is demoralizing to the rest of the team and supremely expensive in terms of time and resources.

        1. SW*

          This still is a thing that you could investigate before you hire them. I mean, you are checking references, right? Like if this keeps happening to you, maybe the problem is with you?
          Either way I can’t imagine that having this kind of adversarial and suspicious outlook, as you’ve demonstrated in both your initial letter and this reply, is doing you many favors when managing people.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Alison did a post on this a number of years ago: “you don’t get to choose your references.”

              A good reference checker will reach out to people who aren’t on the list the candidate provides to them and/or call the main switchboard of the company directly to ask to talk to [previous manager] instead of calling the number the candidate gives them. A thorough reference check will be more likely to turn up real references.

              1. top five???*

                That actually sounds potentially very invasive. What if I’m searching for a job, I provide my current company as part of my job history but NOT as a reference because I don’t want them to know I’m searching, and they call and manage to talk to my manager about my job search? Or they talk to someone who I didn’t provide as a reference because they were a person I don’t trust to be reasonable (e.g., they got mad at me because I left the company or whatever).

                1. Koalafied*

                  It’s commonly understood that you don’t call the current employer for obvious reasons, but kind of the whole point of calling managers not listed as references is because candidates are virtual strangers, and they’re just as likely to leave a manager off who would give a bad review because the candidate performed poorly as they are to leave a manager off who would give a bad review because the ex-manager is vindictive.

                  References aren’t meant to be treated as gospel by hiring managers – they’re just more data points. Good practice is asking follow-up questions, like asking for specific examples to support their assessment, which is the point where petty and vindictive liars usually tell on themselves. After talking to several people, you look for common themes that stand out and the total picture that’s been painted by all the references together. If one review seems completely out of step with the others, most hiring managers who are diligent enough to be conducting thorough checks like this will grok that either that reviewer is lying because they have an axe to grind, or the employee’s performance in that role was for whatever reason not typical of their usual performance.

                2. JSPA*

                  It’s really normal to call the company, not the (supposed) direct line for the reference. Not the company the person is currently at, normally (just as your current manager is rarely your reference).

                  But you give a reference for someone who was your manager at PinkCorp four years ago? Completely fair game to start by calling PinkCorp’s HR, for confirmation of your employment dates (and whatever else they’ll share). You claim to have set up their internet? Normal to ask to speak to the current IT head, and ask how familiar they are with “[candidate], the employee who set up your internet in 2018” or whether [manager] is still with them, and whether you can talk to them.

                  Does this seem roundabout when everything checks out? Sure.

                  It pays for itself the first time someone says, “Hunh, no. Our internet hasn’t been tweaked since 2015. The name’s familiar, but not in a good way. Entry-level guy, here only a couple of weeks, still in traning when he no-call no-showed after goosing a caterer at the holiday party. What’s the other name? No, no manager here of that name, for at least the past ten years.”

            2. Khatul Madame*

              There are many problems with reference checking. Companies close, merge or divest with a new name; managers/former supervisors go on vacation or leave; many companies have restrictive policies on reference-giving or checking; reference checkers are overwhelmed or lazy. There is pressure to complete the check ASAP, so there is no time or incentive to work through the human networks and discover more people who can talk about the candidate’s work performance.
              At one time I had to work with a recruiter because the background check company could not verify one of my jobs. The former employer had been acquired by another company, and I gave them the name and number for the new company (easily google-able). No one I’d worked with were there anymore. If I’d provided supervisor’s name and phone number, I could easily get away with lies.
              Sure, a reference check, when done right, is an excellent hiring tool…

          1. The LW*

            Checking previous employment only helps so much (where they worked previously is less of an issue than how many jobs they currently have). As a policy, most companies don’t reach out to the current employer.

            The one thing the overemployed community really fear is The Work Number. I am advocating more and more companies to use that check. Though a person can try and hide their employment in TWN, that raises a huge red flag as well.

            And as for my suspicion, my company hired 4 people who were either working multiple jobs or were imposters. It’s only once I realized the pattern (and found the Overemployed subreddit which is a wealth of information on how to stop these folks), have we stop losing staff, partners, and customers to this problem. Suspicion is related to countless bad experiences, that thanks to that subreddit, is now far easier to stop.

            1. Loosy*

              So you’re admitting that the whole purpose of your letter is to promote “The Work Number.” Got it. Hope Allison gets it too.

              1. felix*

                I would think in that case they would have put it in the letter, not dropped in the comment section where many fewer will see it. I admit I don’t know what this letter-writer’s agenda is, it seems like they already had a specific answer they wanted to see and aren’t open to a different viewpoint.

                1. The LW*

                  My agenda was simple, to ask Allison for strategies to weed out these people before they even get hired. However, Allison chose to not answer my question that way. Then my secondary goal was to share with others the strategies I have discovered that could be of help to others, based on reading books on overemployment, and the overemployed subreddit.

                1. JSPA*

                  It’s frankly strange to have a letter that’s all,

                  “oh this crazy thing keeps happening over and over, it’s just so common, everyone agrees that it’s so common,”

                  then when other people say, “uh, that sounds like a ‘you’ thing, it doesn’t happen in my experience, and doesn’t happen at companies that do in-depth reference checks”

                  you say,

                  “Oh, well there’s a perfect solution, and it works really well and here’s what it is.”

                  Dude…if you have the perfect solution, you don’t have a problem anymore. Why write in at all?

                  That’s why it feels like it could be kinda-sorta-product placement. And the reason to do so in the comments is that if it were in the letter itself, Alison would notice, and would either cut out the product placement, or not run the letter at all.

                  This just feels like a manufactured crisis, or the job equivalent of an urban legend. Not saying it doesn’t happen–sure it happens. And sure, someone somewhere probably once put a razor blade in an apple.

                  But, “nevermore shall apples be given out on halloween” and “we should all now use TWN” are both massive over-reactions (and ones that do little, if anything, to increase overall safety).

            2. Emily*

              The LW: Its seems you wrote in with a particular response in mind and are disappointed that you did not get it. The Work Number sounds highly unreliable to me, but you seem to think it’s great, but I do have to wonder if it is so great why it hasn’t solved your problem.

        2. Artemesia*

          Agreed. This sort of thing happened with butts in seats sometimes. I remember a friend who hired a typist who then had a ‘hurt finger’ which she parlayed into paychecks without work for weeks and then when finally let go registered complaints for racial discrimination. Grifters gonna grift.

          A decent employer wants to accommodate people’s life disasters when they damage productivity and so grifters can play on that, producing little because of (personal issue) and play that out as long as they can. It is not always about actually delivering on two different jobs. The shame of course is that once an employer has had that happen, they are less likely to give grace to an employee who genuinely has a crisis and needs that grace.

          If the job performance is very quantifiable and the person delivers then you are unlikely to find out. The problem is in the marginal employee whom you want to ‘give a chance to perform’ when he is just scamming you by doing as little as possible because of juggling two jobs.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            A decent employer wants to accommodate people’s life disasters when they damage productivity and so grifters can play on that.
            This is where I start to get very het up. The Nigerian email scam? That only hurts people who are delighted to help a government official steal millions of dollars from his own people. When scammers prey on people’s kindness rather than their greed, that tears at the fabric of society–might as well trust no one.

            (“Who is in the group of people you can trust?” and how that’s solved is a fascinating sociological/historical question, as we started to live in groups too big to know everyone.)

        3. GrooveBat*

          It seems to me you’re talking about two wildly different situations. One (known) employee working multiple jobs, versus one (fake) employee interviewing for a job but having someone else do the work.

          I can see how the latter would be problematic, but if you have a high level employee who is simultaneously working a second job that should become apparent pretty quickly. And if it’s not readily apparent, then it’s not affecting their work provided there’s no conflict of interest.

          1. The LW*

            In theory, I see your point, but a lot of jobs don’t require 100% all the time. They may require 75% effort most of the time with peaks up to 100% (or more). The problem is that when you are really in the most critical situations, that is when these people will be the least reliable/available. They will find excuses to never travel to a customer or the office no matter how dire the situation since it would be hard to hide the fact that they had multiple laptops etc. And again, the worst of these folks don’t care about having multiple “steady” jobs, they are constantly interviewing, and will leave a job at the worst possible time or just not perform in order to get as many paychecks as possible before they go.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              This is where Allison’s advice comes in. First excuse: excuse them from the travel but remind them that it is a required part of the job and if they can’t do it, it might not be the job for them. For an early hire this is good information whether they are working a second job or have caretaking duties that prevent travel. Second excuse: Suggest that this is not going to work out. Ask them how long they would like their notice period to be.

            2. Qwerty*

              *Have you tried having more structure during the onboarding period? Have everyone spend the first week at the office. Maybe bring them to work for a week each month even for the first 3months. Be clear about this expectation during the interview AND when making the offer. It’ll help you get a head on the travel conversations. Plus the added structure to onboarding will help you get a feel for how fast people tend to learn and get onboarding, so you can be aware of if someone is struggling during that time. (Just keep in mind that some people might struggle for legit reasons too!)

              *Be explicit about needs on in-office time, expected amount of travel, responsiveness, etc during the interview process. For regular employees, it’s good info to have! But it will also be a flag to the dual job seekers that might result in them self-selecting out.

              For the fake employee issue:
              *Consider using software that records interviews **get consent!**. I was at a place with the fake employee problem and our interview system recorded interviews. When I would fill out my rubric, it would show me a screenshot of the previous interview and ask if the candidate was the same.

              *Make sure there is consistency in the interview process and that hiring managers are involved. Places that get targeted regularly like this are the ones that hire a pool of candidates and assign them out to teams after they’ve accepted offers (like consulting or tech outsourcing). It’s easier to hide in these environments – people can even perform poorly and jump from team to team due to the contract nature.

              For both of these, I’d also take a closer look at your contract with recruiters. Are there are any conditions they get held to? You shouldn’t have to pay if a different person shows up than was hired. For the people holding two jobs and getting fired in their first 3months, I wouldn’t be surprised if the contracts required the candidate to be successful employed for X months for the recruiter to get the full fee. And check if there is any pattern in recruiters for both sets of employees.

        4. Clobberin' Time*

          If you’re running into multiple instances of this, especially from organized scammers, then there’s something about your hiring process that these people are essentially hacking. With all respect to AAM, this is above her pay grade. You should likely be talking to an employer-side law firm about how to harden your hiring and onboarding processes against this.

          1. Nynaeve*

            It could be, and probably is, as simple as the name of LW’s company is circulating in one ore more subreddits/discord servers/etc. as a place that has slack enough management to make this easier to accomplish, and possibly, not enough teeth for there to be any real consequences when/if they are “caught” and let go. It sounds like something LW’s company is doing is attracting them, whether it’s lax management, non-existent or unenforceable NDA or non-compete clauses, no specific language in the employee handbook, etc. If they want to discourage this behavior, they need to maybe do some digging or self reflection and see if there is an internal problem that can be solved.

            But, I also agree with the above poster who pointed out that many people are lauded for owning and running multiple business at the same time. Why is this frowned upon for the rank and file workers? 40 hours a week isn’t a proclamation from on high about work/life balance. If you can pull it off successfully and put in a few years at double time in order to FIRE or just live more comfortably later on, why wouldn’t you?

            1. Clobberin' Time*

              If an LW wrote in that their employer was run by a business owner who was never available and who was late with paycheck because she was juggling her other companies, we would be roasting that employer alive in the comments.

              It’s really tiresome to see people who want to scam their employers hide behind the banner of workers’ rights.

            2. The OTHER other*

              “I also agree with the above poster who pointed out that many people are lauded for owning and running multiple business at the same time. Why is this frowned upon for the rank and file workers?”

              The difference is who is paying whom. If someone is paying for your work, you have a responsibility to do it.

              If you can work multiple jobs and still get the work done, good for you, but the LW says multiple people are simply applying for multiple jobs and then either sending someone else to report to work or just trying to collect the multiple paychecks as long as possible.

              I’m amazed that this is so pervasive that the LW has encountered it multiple times, but I believe them. I’m curious whether others have encountered this with any frequency.

              1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

                I’m amazed this has become so widespread too. But I suppose with WFH someone could do this fairly easily using time zones to their advantage.

          2. The LW*

            100%. There are some good things that I think can be done to prevent it, and that is what I was hoping for from the answer.

            * Use “The Work Number”. It can show people who are working multiple jobs. If a person has frozen their work employment history, be extra suspicious.
            * Periodically review your team’s LinkedIn profiles to see if they list another employer. If they are evasive about the profile, be extra suspicious.
            *Require non-competes (particularly from active employees), and enforce them
            * Require periodic in person office visits from time to time. Note the people who always have a reason why they can’t

            Spyware is becoming more and more common on employee machines as a result of overemployment. I think that is a step way to far, but more and more people are going to have to deal with it as a result to employer overreaction to this trend.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Or you could, you know, just manager your employees. See a pattern? As soon as you spot it, ask what is going on and tell them that they are missing key work requirements (if they are). Listen to what they say. Work with them to come up with a plan to make sure they hit their deliverables. Tell them that you will be paying close attention and that if they are not able to reliably stick to the plan, this might not be a good job for them, and if that is the case, suggest that they resign. Then follow through

              1. Calliope*

                This makes sense if it only happens occasionally but is a huge time suck and generally horrible for the workplace if it happens all the time as LW is suggesting. Can you imagine if half your coworkers were being managed out for poor performance because they were scamming this as a second job they just wanted a paycheck for for a couple of months.

                LW, I think what you’re suggesting is maybe also too time consuming. I probably would require people to come in for onboarding (pay their travel costs) but otherwise feels like something to address at the recruiting stage. You’re being targeted for a reason and figuring that reason out is probably the best chance of countering it.

            2. Loosy*

              What is “The Work Number”? Its sounds like a unique identifier that tracks what job a person is registered to work at to make it easier for you to route out people who are working more than one job. If I’m correct, that sounds pretty invasive and sounds like an overreaction to the problem you’re having. You don’t need to track every job a person has. If they have a job they can do outside of the hours they work for you, you have no reason to know that information.

              Also, as Alison and other commenters mentioned, LinkedIn is not a reliable source of information, so I really hope you are not making hiring and firing decisions based on that.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                From The Work Number website:

                The Work Number is a database that organizations can use to verify employment and income information. The Work Number is the largest central repository of payroll information in the United States, with over 2.5 million employers including small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies contributing payroll records.

                My understanding is that a lot of companies/workplaces are not in The Work Number database and my guess is that companies/workplaces have to pay to access the database. So the LW’s company could certainly look at The Work Number database to avoid some of the problems they’re having, but not everyone who has ever had two jobs at the same time will show up in the database.

                1. anon this time*

                  My landlord uses that. It is absolutely rubbish; in 2016, my record said that I had been employed by “SDI” since 2000 (and therefore lied on my rental application by not mentioning it).

                  In 2000, I was ***on*** Short-Term Disability Insurance for 6 months. Somehow, this showed up as my being ***employed by*** the SDI agency. As my application did not list 6 months of state disability 16 years earlier as a current job, I had to find proof the same day that I was not lying about this job at SDI to hide my income (to qualify for affordable housing).

                  I had to go to the state employment agency, which administers SDI, to get a letter from them stating that I was not working for the agency. I got the impression I was not the only person who had been in that situation; they produced a letter amazingly quickly while I waited.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                It’s an Equifax personal data aggregation site, including salary and other personal stuff. It’s like running a credit report, only includes details about employers and employee’s tenure.

                1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  Huh. I’d never heard of it and am now curious to look myself up. I had an international org, one European, and one Indigenous employer and I have money on none of those jobs being included.

                2. MigraineMonth*

                  So this would be a way to get around the laws being passed that restrict employers from asking about previous salaries? Lovely.

              3. Aitch Arr*

                A better idea would be for an employer could use an actual background check vendor, which would include employment and education verification.

            3. Underemployed Erin*

              I think you may be in tech because there have been people scamming the tech interview process, especially with the FAANGs and also with some of the banks.

              The interview process has become very stupid so that anyone internal to the company can run it. However, this filters out the actual humans v the one dude who runs all the challenge coding problems and puts other people into jobs that they are not qualified for. This needs to be fixed, but everyone is too lazy to do it.

              Spyware on employees computers is demoralizing and slows their stuff down. If people feel like they are not trusted by their company, they are generally less motivated.

              A lot of the best tech people dropped LinkedIn because some scammy people were hacking their networks and growing networks by saying “I met X at this conference” but exaggerating the extent of the connection and essentially poaching their entire LinkedIn network. This is a problem.

            4. Just Another Zebra*

              My personal thoughts about your letter aside, I want to make you aware that the Work Number is… unreliable at best. I’ve had 3 jobs. I was at each of these employers for a minimum of 2 years each, across a decade of employment. Do you know how many show up on my TWN report?


              It’s also my first job, ironically, so there’s no employment history for me on the site after 2013 or so.

              And I don’t have a LinkedIn. I don’t really see the need at the moment – it’s not really used in my industry. Sorry if all this is extra suspicious, LW.

              1. Cedrus Libani*

                I’ve not checked, but I wonder how many jobs I’ve got in there. The last time I changed jobs, I found out that I was working for at least three other companies. My social security number was overemployed, though I was not.

          3. JSPA*

            …or figuring out who they have planted inside your HR (or at your recruiter), putting their finger on the hiring scales.

        5. Minhag*

          It always sucks to fire someone and lose out on all the time and energy and money you spent recruiting them, bringing them in, and then having to replace them.

          The big question is: is this loss to the business unique to someone working two jobs? Or could this happen with anyone you have to fire for poor performance? Have you ever hired someone who just plain sucks and you have to fire them after a few months? If so, did it cost about the same $50k that you referenced above? Did you fire the sucky person faster than the two-jobs person and it only cost you $30k?

          I think commenters are pointing out and Alison is drawing your attention to the fact that you will always have to fire poor performs and it sucks that the business will take the loss because of that. Is firing a poor performer for working two-jobs uniquely more painful to the business than a poor performer who just is poor? And Alison is saying the solution to addressing poor performers is always “manage closely to catch and address poor performers early.” If you did that, would it eliminate these two-job poor performers?

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, that’s where I come down on this issue. Obviously it’s an issue if the worker has an actual conflict of interest, is farming their work out to someone who hasn’t been vetted by the company, or is providing fraudulent excuses.

            However, I’m concerned that the LW is putting far too much energy into punishing the fraudsters. A manager still needs to identify and manage out the people who are working only one job but are underperforming. Maybe streamlining the process for letting go of underperforming new hires–for whatever reason–is the real solution.

            If the job requires travel, then sure it makes sense to front-load some of that to see if the new hire handles it well. If my remote-only job asked me to travel to the office just to check if I was sufficiently committed, though, I would quit.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Yeah, the idea of requiring new hires to work from the office just to make sure they are who they say they are is problematic.

              Just off the top of my head, it would have disparate impact on Disabled people. Someone who needs any specialized equipment at home, or who has a mobility device*, isn’t going to be able to just fly to HQ and live in a corporate extended stay hotel for a few weeks. Heck, even just someone immune-compromised who doesn’t want to risk exposure to COVID (or even seasonal flu) traveling etc. would have problems with that plan.

              If someone’s a single parent, how are they supposed to just board their kids somewhere for a month or whatever? If they bring the kids, would they be able to get short-term daycare on short notice? I keep hearing how hard it is to get kids into daycare with waiting lists, etc. plus not all daycare is good and how would you have time to shop for it properly?

              I agree with the folks saying that the company needs to figure out what weakness in the hiring process is being exploited by scammers.

              *A friend of mine flew cross-country a couple of months ago, and American Airlines broke her mobility scooter. They opted to repair instead of replace, but she didn’t have the replacement as of this time last week.

        6. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

          I wonder if there is something you need to change about your recruitment and onboarding processes. In the instance(s) you’ve referenced of someone other than the person interviewed “showing up” to work, can you create some internal controls that would prevent that from happening or enable it to be discovered more quickly? Are day-to-day managers part of the hiring process? Are day-to-day managers having face-to-face meetings (even virtual ones) during onboarding? This impersonation issue seems like something entirely different than the general practice of holding more than one full time job at once, and is akin to fraud where the other situation is not.

          1. redflagday701*

            What you and Clobberin’ Time said above. I know a lot of wild things are going on in the work world right now, but if multiple new hires are successfully getting hired at six-figure salaries just to scam an employer, it’s pretty hard for me to imagine there isn’t some reason for that on the employer’s side. It’s just…not a normal thing.

          2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

            Yeah I’ve seen places that ask for the interviewees ID at the start of the interview. Some legit candidates might push back but a simple “we’ve had a few cases of fraud” or whatever would put them at ease.

            This might help solve some of this, if they are more diligent upfront with screening people/background checks

            1. Kate in Colorado*

              Good idea. Even though I would totally think it was weird to be asked for ID at an interview, you’re right- a quick and simple explanation of fraud would clear it up, and I would be happy to oblige.

        7. Saffy_Taffy*

          Honestly, LW, it sounds like you have a lot of emotions wrapped up in all of this. You’re using all of these charged phrases- blown up, dragged out as long as possible, happening more and more. That’s much more outrage than the situation warrants.
          You say this can’t be fixed by “managing those kind of repeated hits,” but… Yes, that’s exactly what you do. Vet people properly and engage with them. Hold people to sensible standards. Do what Alison suggests.
          I feel like if you can let go of your emotional response, you’ll see that this is solvable. It’s a management challenge, but not a personal attack.

          1. Me ... Just Me*

            I guess you haven’t lost time, energy, and company resources to this? Having to recruit and rehire is costly in every way, not to mention the loss productivity when the person you hired doesn’t actually produce results. We’re talking budgets blown and companies put in jeopardy. Too much of this absolutely can torpedo a business. It is stressful and frought.

        8. Evergreen*

          I also think it’s interesting to think about what kinds of jobs people are working two of. The ‘issue’ seems to be when the jobs have overlapping hours where people are expected to do work. A retail employee might be working multiple jobs but cannot physically be in two stores at the same time. Similarly so many teachers have a second job outside of school hours but couldn’t work a second job during the day. It seems to me there’s a specific kind of white collar job where this is possible and I wonder if that contributes to the problems (real and perceived)

        9. Loosy*

          Do you know if this is also happening at other companies in your industry? It may be worth finding out if this is an industry-wide problem or if there’s some reason why your company is being targeted for this, like a recruitment process that isn’t thorough enough.

        10. Emily*

          The LW: What is the purpose of having people sign non-competes if they are not going to be enforced? I also think it should be pretty easy to verify that the person who interviewed is the same person who showed up, by checking IDs, etc. You talk about getting enough supporting evidence and being out 50k in salary, but if someone who shows up for the job is different than who was interviewed, they should be let go on the spot. I am going to echo what other commenters are saying and encourage you to take a hard look at your hiring process.

          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            I’ve personally witnessed several cases where employers required unenforceable non-compete agreements because they (mostly correctly) expected that the mere existence of the agreement would prevent employees from working for a competitor.

            That is, the agreement had no real legal value but the employees (not being experts on employment law) thought it did – so the result for the company was the same as if it was ironclad.

            The occasional employee who knows their rights and/or doesn’t care will dare the employer to take them to court, at which point the employer will back down and cut their losses.

            1. Emily*

              It seems like the non-compete agreement is not working for LW’s company though (even if it’s not legal but they are hoping employees think it is and follow it) because it seems like it is being violated fairly regularly. My point to LW is if the non-compete is legal then they need to enforce it, but if it’s not then there is no point in having it because it is not being followed.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Also, if you are out 50K, you are letting this drag on way to long LW. You need to address this in months 1-2 and fire the person if behavior doesn’t change

            1. Emily*

              I think this is a great point. It seems like LW’s company is investing way too much time before they let underperformers go.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              I think it’s pretty easy to get to this hypothetical $50K in under three months (our probationary period of employment – you’d have to do something fairly awful to be fired in less than 90 days), if you consider time and effort to recruit (and possible recruiter’s fees), investment in training (inside resources or outside courses), salary, benefits, and the extra supervisor time that it tends to take to onboard new hires. Plus the cost of having to do the recruiting process again.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                I wonder if this is field dependent? In my field, recruitment costs are generally low because we are either direct government or grant funded and it is not considered an appropriate use of funds. In a super hard to fill post, we might get permission to pay to post on LI or Indeed, but that is about it.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Oh, yes, definitely – I’m sure that field and position-level/pay factor in. We don’t use outside recruiters for my entry-levels at all, but, from seeing their financials (salary, benefits, payroll taxes, overhead) and knowing the time and effort my existing team puts into onboarding/training for new hires, I know even my entry-levels cost *way* more than one would think, especially at the beginning, so I am doing a rough extrapolation on the level of employee that OP is talking about (for whom we do sometimes use outside recruiters, which is not cheap – and I’m private sector, no external funding restrictions).

                  Once they are trained and working more independently, their cost levels out to just salary + benefits/payroll taxes/overhead, which is roughly 30% salary. They are a total money-suck their first few months.

              2. J*

                My employer lost over $100,000 in pay on the probationary period (ours is 120 days) because it was a director-level person who was doing this, plus the onboarding and licenses. We caught wind of issues early but it was a newly created role which made it more complicated to determine timelines for delivery. The role is still unfilled months later because it’s a tight labor market, despite the pay, and now they’re less willing to do a hybrid employee in the role. We’re currently contracting it out instead but at great cost, the 100ish days of work made us fall very behind.

            3. The LW*

              The fee of a recruiter for a $150k position is between $30-37.5k. You don’t have to work that long to hit the rest.

      2. A*

        The LI comment stood out to me because I know a lot of folks that don’t update their profile when switching employers, or take a year or so to update etc. I wouldn’t take that as a potential red flag. And if the employees output and performance is good, there’s no conflict of interest, and their available when they need to be, why does it matter?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, there’s a lot of advice out there to wait at least a few weeks/months in case the job doesn’t work out! Super common.

        2. Aerin*

          The advice I got when I started at my current job was “Do not put where you work on social media.” It’s a lot easier to stay clear of rules about the way your online activity reflects on your employer if you aren’t tied to your employer (and also helps protect from doxxing). My bios all say the name of my side business. And that only feels right to me. DayJob is wonderful and has helped me build a comfortable life for myself, but it’s not who I am.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Honestly, I wait a year because sometimes the job I start with isn’t the one I end up with. Way easier to do an update 1 year in when the role is more defined

        4. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I don’t update anything but maybe the company name until I’ve been there for six months to a year. It’s super common to avoid the LI cesspit unless you need to find a gig.

        5. The LW*

          I said it’s a red flag, not the only thing to look at. The problem is overemployed people tend to get through the initial few months and slow periods just fine. It is when things get busy that their performance takes a nose dive. Also, getting them to travel is hard for obvious reasons if you have a situation, and their approach to work (as is written in all of the books on overworking) is to not be the worst person, but do just what it takes to get by. That is not fair to the rest of the team.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            I’m not clear on why doing what it takes to get by is not manageable? If they are not meeting expectations, they should be on a PIP, if they are doing their job but other team members are doing more, then it seems like their workload/expectations should be adjusted, right? I guess I’m not understanding how someone doing what it takes to get by is not fair to the team?

        6. MarinaraFlag*

          I put my LI to private because (like many other women) I was being pestered by weirdos who think it’s a dating app and barely have any information visible (see: weirdos).

    4. Boof*

      It’s about honesty and integrity on all parts
      1) be up front about the level of commitment one can offer – yes one can misjudge but it’s very different to try to work one day kob and one evening or weekend job than two 9-5 jobs and lie about sick family causing low performance
      2) i think aam at least is very clear that absent management/ non management is a serious problem one should consider leaving over

    5. Important Moi*

      This is an interesting observation. I think the discussion around it is still being developed.

      I do agree there seems to be no issues with business owners owning more than one business and (presumably) running them. This does not seem to viewed as problematic.

      The expectations of workers (generally speaking) do seem different.

      And yes, I do know the types of jobs that would be affected or not would vary.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I think the level of “running” the business matters a lot. Someone who owns three businesses and oversees them at a high level but has hired competent managers to run the day-to-day: no problem. Someone who owns three businesses and demands to sign off on every decision but is difficult to get a hold of because everything from “can I give this customer a refund” to “can you approve 100 hrs of R&D time to develop a new product” needs their attention: eventually one or all of the businesses will suffer because the owner is a bottleneck.

        Because there is no one above the business owner, the only “feedback” they will have if they are doing a bad job running multiple businesses is if customers/clients and employees leave the business. An employee working multiple jobs could get more immediate feedback to shape up, if their manager(s) are paying attention and willing to give feedback. I think because of this difference, it’s often easier for business owners to successfully run multiple businesses or to unsuccessfully run multiple businesses for longer than an employee can unsuccessfully work multiple simultaneous jobs.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      That’s not the meaning of the word “double standard” LOL.

      If a business has multiple streams, it has different teams dealing with each one, or people have time within their day to handle both.

      In contrast with one person, I pay them partially for their skills, partially to live in their area about 8 hours a day so they can spot issues and take ownership of them.

      I’ve noticed online that many people think “your job” is just to do the set tasks your boss gives you, even if it’s only an hour a day. It’s the biggest work misconception out there. I can automate that stuff. I hire someone to do it so they can notice discrepancies and problems and dive into them and handle emergencies when they come up, which also involved them being available during regular hours.

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        They didn’t say business, though. They said business owner. There’s a clear distinction between the two.

      2. Feral Humanist*

        I interpreted the original comment to be about business owners (individual people, i.e. entrepreneurs) owning and running multiple businesses, not about businesses having multiple revenue streams. I think “double standard” is not a totally wrong label here, but I also think there are reasons for it. A business owner takes on a lot of risk in exchange for potential profit; if they don’t do the work, their businesses fail and they don’t get paid anything. Employees, on the other hand, take on much less risk but also often much less profit –– usually just their salary. If they don’t do the work, the business might fail, and they could get laid off, but overall the risk is much lower.

        All of that being said, if someone is ACTUALLY able to work two fulltime jobs, I don’t personally have a problem with it. But I also don’t think that a business owner with multiple businesses and an employee with multiple jobs are fully analogous situations.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Right. I used to manage a store for a local entreprenuer. He got paid or lost money depending on success of each business and would pay people to be there to make sure each business runs smoothly. That’s where the employee part comes in. He didn’t pay me well to them treat the business the same way as he did! I was probably making more than him at some points. I was making that much to baby the business. Not sure why people are making this more complicated than it is

    7. PivotPivot*

      I think the point is not there is a double standard about multiple revenue streams but rather if one can fulfill the requirements/benchmarks/output of all the streams. If one can’t, then whether it is a business or an employee, management will need to show some accountability. “This requirement/benchmark/output is not being met. What can you do going forward to help rectify this?”

      1. Artemesia*

        If someone can literally deliver on two full time jobs with overlapping hours then the expectations of productivity are two low for one or both jobs.

        1. Mid*

          Or that person is particularly good at their job/s. My job alternates between so slow, watching paint dry would be more work, and so overworked that I pull 100 hour weeks. (It shouldn’t be like that, it’s an issue with how the workflow is coming to me, honestly, and I’ve been trying to change it for years.) During the slow periods, I could easily work another position without issue.

          And, some roles are more like you’re there to cover an emergency. A friend of mine does IT for a large corporation. They’re very good at it, so a lot of the days, they have nothing to do but watch movies while hanging out. But, when things go wrong, they go very, very wrong, and their job is to fix them. Their boss knows that they watch Netflix most days, but is okay with that because they also know that this person is the best person in an emergency. Like an EMT, they’re basically being paid to be on call for the rare emergency that pops up.

          1. Aerin*

            When I worked college IT helpdesk, we had people who also worked as TAs who would do their grading while at the desk, essentially getting paid twice. As a supervisor I had no problem with it, as long as they understood that if someone needed their help they were to drop the other work immediately.

            In another helpdesk job where I worked weekends, it was pretty much the same deal. I did a lot of writing and crafting in my plentiful downtime, and as long as I didn’t miss any calls and my sidework was done it was fine.

    8. Chairman of the Bored*

      Interestingly, corporate honchos often don’t see any issues with multiple income streams for *themselves*.

      Pull up the bios of a few C-level executives at big-name companies and note how many other places they serve as board members or advisors etc.

      They only get upset about this sort of thing when it’s the worker bees doing it. Go figure.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        But many of us are not OK with people getting paid to sit on boards and do nothing! Hence, again, not a double standard

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Interesting that you jump straight to “And do nothing” for what boards do.

          (I may be prickly because while our board only meets a couple of times a month, they’re also essential to running the show. They’re also paid less than peanuts – in the range from 20-30k a year – and they’re probably not the kind of board you mean, but you might want to clarify, because if you’re hitting school divisions, libraries, and the like, you probably didn’t mean to.)

    9. PreggoAmoeba*

      I think there’s a difference between an employee having multiple revenue streams and doing work for multiple employers AT THE SAME TIME. FOr example, we had a employee fired for doing DoorDash during the workday. The issue wasn’t them doing DoorDash, it was that they were doing it during the time they were being paid to do other work. They were on a written warning for non-performance, when the DD part came out, they went straight to fired.

      1. Roland*

        But salaried workers aren’t actually paid for any specific hours, so any job they take could be said to be “during” their salaried job. Where is the line?

        1. PreggoAmoeba*

          I can’t speak to all positions everywhere, but many generally have core hours where you are expected to be working. Sure you can work on the TPS reports at 10 pm, but if you’re not paying attention during the team meetings or missing client calls during normal working hours because you are doing work for someone else, you’re not an effective employee. And that is the crux of the problem.The same way drunks often overestimate their ability to make good decisions while drunk, if you are trying to do multiple jobs during the same working hours, you’re likely doing a mediocre or less job at all of them.

          1. Roland*

            > you’re likely doing a mediocre or less job at all of them

            Then THAT should be the problem, exactly as Alison says, not the fact you’re doing multiple jobs. I have a salary job with 4 “core hours”. Many salaried people have jobs with similar amounts of “core hours” or none at all, which you could interpret to be all hours of the day, or none of them. I don’t want a 2nd full time job because I already goof off half the day but frankly if I got my ADHD under control I don’t see why it would be morally wrong to use those other 4 productive hours for a 2nd job instead of the 1 I have that gives me great reviews.

            1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              I think that IS the LW’s problem. People are working multiple jobs and thus NOT doing the job he hired them for up to a reasonable standard. The LW identifies the issue as having lost clients due to nonperformance.

              Also, the employee in the recent letter was working for one company and essentially doing almost nothing for the 2d company. People like that are not trying in good faith to get two jobs done, they’re trying to get paid for doing nothing until someone catches on.

          2. londonedit*

            Yeah, I’m paid to work 37.5 hours a week (as a salaried employee; I don’t get paid for overtime but if I have to do something out of the ordinary like working a weekend day then I’ll get time off in lieu) and I’m paid to work a set number of hours per day and be available for our core hours of 10-3. Where I work we’re allowed to flex our hours but it has to be with the agreement of your manager and it still has to be a regular pattern. So you can say ‘my working hours are 9:30-6’ (instead of a standard 9-5:30) or ‘my working hours are 7-3:30’, or you can even say ‘my working hours are 9-6 Monday-Thursday and 9-3.30 on Fridays’, but you can’t just vaguely be available from 10-3 and then work the rest of your hours from 9pm or whatever.

            I think there’s a big difference between me taking a job in a cafe at the weekend, and me literally working two jobs during weekdays. I don’t think my employer would have a leg to stand on if they complained that I was working in a cafe on a Saturday and Sunday morning for a bit of extra cash, but they could certainly complain if I was doing another job Monday-Friday during the working day I’ve agreed with them. Most employment contracts I’ve signed (which we have in the UK as a matter of course) also have a no moonlighting clause – a lot of people in the industry do take on freelance work out-of-hours and at weekends, but their employers are never particularly keen if they find out about it.

        2. Prospect Gone Bad*

          It’s baked into most salaries. You need to generally be around to deal with issues in your arena.

        3. nona*

          Eyeroll. Just because you aren’t paid hourly, doesn’t mean you don’t have expected hours you are meant to be available. Many employers with salaried workers set core business hours where the expect employees to be available for near-synchronous communication. If it’s not 8/9-5 then it’s 10-3 or whatever.

        4. doreen*

          Exempt employees aren’t paid “by the hour” as in their pay cannot be docked because they come in late, leave early, take an extra-long lunch break and so on. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be required to work specific hours – there are plenty of exempt jobs that require people to work certain hours, everything from doctors who are required to work certain shifts in hospitals and clinics to retail managers who are required to work certain shifts. If a retail manager is scheduled to work on Tuesday from 8pm-4pm and they are doing DoorDash deliveries from 11-1, they are absolutely working for DoorDash during the time they are being paid to work for the retail store. It’s just that the retail store can’t reduce their pay for the two hours.

        5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          The line is that people are generally expected to (a) work an 8-hour day and (b) get their work done. If (b) is happening, people won’t catch on to (a) not happening and it’s sort of no-harm, no-foul. But the line is definitely before the business loses clients due to nonperformance, like the LW.

        6. Elitist Semicolon*

          Salaried workers who have a formal contract will often see language like “expected working hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” so yes, they are being paid for those specific hours.

      2. Smithy*

        My friend’s boss of only 6 months was recently fired for essentially nonperformance. Their jobs are 100% remote, so maybe she had another job, maybe she was juggling other responsibilities or just watching YouTube – but ultimately what caught up with her was missing key deliverables, repeatedly no-showing to 1 on 1’s with her direct reports, etc.

        Now had it come out that she was doing a second job at the same time, it would be easy to point the finger at that. However, the reason might have been that she was trying to also manage primary care responsibilities for children or other family members. Option #2 might result in more sympathy which would have led to trying to allow for greater accommodation and adjustment – but at some point, the end results are the same.

        1. Aerin*

          Last year we had a particularly hectic training class with overlapping phases, and one of our new hires was still showing on their phone as being in training when they were supposed to be taking calls. They got away with it for about a week before we started getting caught up on our call reviews and noticed that they had taken way, way fewer calls than anyone else. I don’t know if it was a personal situation, a second job, or just wanting to see how much they could get away with, but we brought it to the attention of their manager, there was a conversation, and it stopped.

          If you want to make sure a new remote employee is fully engaged, it’s just a matter of having clearly defined metrics/deliverables, watching those metrics closely until they’re settled in, and making it clear that you are actually watching. That should catch any shenanigans pretty quickly. (In our case the only reason it lasted a week was because there was another training class going on, otherwise the people who watch that stuff for us would have caught it and called it out immediately.)

    10. Hlao-roo*

      Hmm, there are cases where it’s OK for people to work multiple jobs. Both/all jobs know and it’s all above-board. Where I’ve heard about this, it’s been:
      – work 1st shift at a factory/warehouse, 2nd shift at a different factory/warehouse
      – work 9-5 office job, work as waitstaff nights/weekends

      So in both cases I know about, all of the work was in-person (pre-pandemic) and took place at different times. I think most of what people have objected to in the cases of people working multiple jobs at once is people who are working multiple jobs that take place during the same hours (and often not doing all of the work for the positions they are employed in).

      1. RIP Pillow Fort*

        This. Everyone I know that has multiple jobs are 100% above the board that they work different shifts at the jobs (for shift based work) or that it’s work not in conflict with their day job. My dad worked at a grocery store doing stocking for years on their 3rd shift/weekend schedules because he worked a traditional 8-5 job M-F.

        It’s not the multiple jobs but working them at the same time you’re supposed to be committed to another job.

          1. ferrina*

            Yep. I did know someone who was available to Employer A 40 hours, but Employer A only had 20 hours of work for him. He would actively try to do more, but they told him to just sit and wait for work….for 20 hours per week. He got a freelance consulting gig that he did during that time (though if something came up for Employer A, he’d immediately address that and finish the consulting work after hours)

            1. penny dreadful analyzer*

              I also used to double dip freelancing during slow times at my day job, and I think the really key thing here is that the first job was my *first* job and the freelancing was my *second* job, so it was very clear which had to be fit in around the other. If someone is working two full-time, 9-5 jobs that are designed to be someone’s primary employment, *both* of them will expect to be Priority #1 during regular work time. Making either one of them Priority #2 is not meeting the expectation you were hired under.

            2. The OTHER other*

              We’ve seen lots of letters on this before, where an employer only offers a few hours of work per week but expects the employee to be available at a moment’s notice as though they were working for them full time. It’s something bad employers were able to get away with when there were lots of people looking for work.

        1. Grammar Penguin*

          Exactly this. I think a good test is transparency. If you’re open to both employers about working two jobs, then there’s no problem. If you’re concealing the fact from either employer, you’re lying to them. And you’re lying because you know they wouldn’t be ok with it.

          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            Say I have a job, decide I don’t like it very much, and start looking/interviewing for a new job.

            I am not “transparent” with my current employer about this, inasmuch as I don’t tell them that I’m job hunting.

            I do this because I reasonably expect that they would not be OK with it.

            Am I lying to them?

            1. Shirley Keeldar*

              Hmmmm….an interesting point but I do think there’s a distinction. Your employer has not paid for any rights in your future labor. So it’s not ethical for them to interfere in that, and they’re not owed full transparency about it. And if you need to take a “sick day” for an interview, far be it from me to object.

              But your employer has bought the rights to your current labor and has a reasonable concern with how/when that labor is being performed. So I feel they’re owed more honesty there.

            2. Spencer Hastings*

              I think there’s some equivocation of “being OK with” going on here. You can’t reasonably expect your employees to stay with your business forever; accepting that most people will leave for another job at some point is kind of a cost of doing business. That doesn’t mean that you have to find it acceptable for someone to “sell the same hours to multiple jobs”, as someone above put it.

    11. Former Gifted Kid*

      Huh. I don’t think I’ve really noticed this pattern. I know there are a lot of people that look askance at someone doing multiple fulltime jobs, but I think that has more to do with most people not being able to handle working 80+ hours a week so they must be slacking on at least one job. I don’t think it’s about multiple revenue streams. You don’t hear as much about it anymore, but side hustles are still encouraged by our society, I think. I don’t think anyone is batting an eye at someone with a fulltime job also having a part-time job, or doing some freelancing, or have a business on the side.

      1. Koalafied*

        Exactly this. People generally don’t care how many income sources you have, they just care about whether you’re delivering the product they paid for and that you agreed to deliver (roughly 40 hours of effort per week and core business hours availability). Loads of people have Etsy shops, evening/weekend PT jobs, dabble in freelancing with their evening/weekend time, or run an AirBnB while working a full time job and nobody particularly cares.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I worked with a woman who did data entry with us from 7-3 and then did 5-whenever last plane arrived for Brown Shipping Co. I have no idea what she was like on her job there, but she rocked at ours. I have no idea how she had the energy, but she did.

    12. Clobberin' Time*

      “Multiple revenue streams” is disingenuous.

      The discussion isn’t about an employee who obtains additional revenue from their successful romance novels, or the food truck they run at the Saturday farmer’s market, or a rental property.

    13. Uhhh*

      With the lack of loyalty from employers while at the same expecting employees to sacrifice home and health and constantly do more with less, you kinda have to expect employees to try to have a plan b.
      Whether that is a side business, job or other income stream.

    14. L-squared*

      There are double standards around a bunch of stuff like this.

      Like, you can have one job and one “side hustle” and its fine. Want to sell some products on the side? No problem. You want to bartend or be a server on nights and weekends? Sure. But heaven forbid you arrange your days so you can do 2 full time things, and now you are some monster.

    15. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah I mean a big reason for that is that business owners (especially those that own multiple businesses) often don’t actually do the labor that makes their company function. The value business owners/career-entrepreneurs typically provide is capital, plus the social connections to put that capital to work. Business owners don’t make money by working, they make money by paying other people less than the value of their labor.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        I get your point. But this:

        Business owners don’t make money by working, they make money by paying other people less than the value of their labor.

        … would be news to most small business owners.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          “OFTEN don’t actually do the labor” obviously I am talking about business owners with employees. And yeah actually small business owners with employees are some of the most exploitative, so!

      2. Kitry*

        I’m a business owner with zero employees (other than myself, of course). How is it that you think I earn my money, Gerry?

        1. Gerry Keay*

          I am so very obviously talking about business owners with employees that I assumed only someone reading in bad faith would not understand that.

    16. Fluffyfish*

      Apples and oranges – business owners make the rules for their business.

      Employers don’t care if people have multiple jobs (conflict of interest issues aside). They DO care if they hire someone to work M-F, 8-4 and that person is working another full-time job M-F 8-4. They are operating under the assumption they have your attention and access to you during business hours.

      While there may be a handful of jobs you could successfully do both FT with overlapping hours, the vast majority you are shortchanging one, the other or both.

      It’s lying by omission and an excellent way to be fired immediately if found out. I don’t resent people who do that. I do think its ethically wrong.

      It’s not sticking it to capitalism.

      1. Koalafied*

        It’s not sticking it to capitalism.


        If you want to game the system for personal gain, that’s your choice. But let’s not pretend that it’s an act of rebelling against capitalism. Exploiting loopholes for personal gain is fully embracing capitalism.

    17. Firm Believer*

      What? Sorry that’s a bizarre take. There’s no ethical concerns around someone owning multiple businesses. Who would bat an eye? They don’t report to anyone and no one is paying them for an expected output.

    18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yes there was a letter a while back about someone working two jobs and keeping on top of both without palming work off on colleagues. Alison basically said if you can hack it, more power to you.

      My reaction would be to say that obviously the person is under-employed and should have been promoted long ago to something that they can truly get their teeth into, at a salary that reflects their talent.

    19. Emmy Noether*

      I think those things are actually very different.

      Employees sell their time and/or their labor to the company. Business owners put in their capital (and often also labor, but let’s leave that out for now). That’s basic capitalism. The difference between the two is that time and the labor of one person are finite: everyone only gets 24 hours in a day, and can only work so much without being exhausted. TTre just isn’t really time and energy to work two fulltime jobs (nevermind more ). Capital isn’t finite in that way. If a business is suffering and employees are not being paid because the money is taken out to fund other ventures, that’s a big problem, and people will rightfully be upset. If that’s not the case, there’s no problem.

      There also seems to be a cultural divide. Americans don’t seem to consider need to rest. Where I am, it’s mandated by law that one has to take a least 11 hours of rest between ending work and starting work again. In an 8 hour work day, there has to be a 45 minute break. If you do the math, that means that one can theoretically juuuuuuust about fit two full time jobs (2×43,57h jobs including breaks+77 hours rest = 164,5h out of 168 hours in a week) if there is no commute (commute is not break time) and no overtime ever and no weekends, no time for any family or social obligations. BUT no-one here would consider this sustainable.

      Most humans cannot be at full capacity for 80 hours a week. There may be some people who can do it, but they’re exceedingly rare. Yeah, yeah, there are people who work that much for one job, I don’t care what they say, they’re not at their best during all that time. Most people will turn into zombies after a few weeks. So now the double-job people are maybe putting in their 40 hours, but they’re doing that time at a much lower efficiency. They’re inattentive and making mistakes because they aren’t rested. So that’s a problem.

      And all that is without getting into conflicts of interest, prioritizing for emergencies, traveling for work, and all that.

    20. Umm really*

      If the position requires X hours per week and you don’t spend those because you’re also employed elsewhere pretending to spend X hours per week, you’re committing fraud. If you have 2 40 hour per week jobs and spend 80 hours and give your best effort, then sure.

  3. ...*

    Just this weekend a friend told me how their team lead was dramatically fired after being caught working four simultaneous jobs. The rumor at their workplace is that the boss caught on because the team lead pled social anxiety and never turned their cam on (lest the background reveal four simultaneous workstations and headsets.)

    Absolutely baffling to me, I can barely keep up with my one job! But apparently the team lead told my friend plainly afterwards that they didn’t do anything at 3 of the jobs, but no one had noticed yet. They’re still working the three others. Wild!

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I can barely keep up with one, I think this 2 job thing is going to catch up with everyone who is doing it on anything > entry level, low level/low pay jobs that companies don’t view as high stakes.

      I’m seen so many misconception it’s not even funny, it all points to us being peak employment. In other places, I’ve seen people humble bragging about doing little work. They don’t realize that only lasts short term. If I have four employers doing 2 hours of work a day, I will eventually use any excuse (like a recession) to combine it into two jobs, maybe hire a 3rd person with potential with the hopes they also don’t fizzle out

      1. Spearmint*

        I have a job where I only work 2-4 hours in a typical day for most of the year, but there are periods where I do need to work 8 or more. Also, I did need to work a full 8 hours for months when I was learning the job, and only now having mastered it can I work fewer hours. So I don’t think my job could easily be consolidated, and I think that’s true for many others as well.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          My job is similar, and I never know some days what’s going to pop up and suddenly I’m very busy for the next several weeks. Are there days I could potentially work two jobs simultaneously? Sure. But not long term, and not very well. The stress of it wouldn’t be worth it.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, my job is feast or famine. I can put in 9 hour days for a couple days to meet a sudden deadline or fix a problem, then spend the next two weeks twiddling my thumbs and reading AAM. The difference is that when I need to do something, AAM gets forgotten and my work comes first.

    2. Phony Genius*

      Interesting stunt the team lead was pulling that could make them some short-term extra money. Apply for multiple remote jobs at the same time. Accept every offer you receive. Do all of the work that the employer who gave you the best deal assigns you (who will now be your “real” employer). For the other jobs, do little or nothing until they fire you (after they’ve each sent you a paycheck or two).

      The one thing that can go wrong is if one of those jobs finds out who your “real” employer is and contacts them.

    3. Cei*

      I can barelly keep up with one, so I always get jealous of these people. Even when they do it by slacking off on some or all those jobs – the level of energy, confidence, not caring, organizational ability that must take. I want that.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Wow. One of my friends worked for a company that was purchased and merged with a big conglomerate. He was based in Vienna in a lovely corporate apartment overlooking St. Stephen’s Square. During the reorganization he ended up assigned to a boss based in Dubai who promptly forgot my friend existed. My friend sent project updates, scheduled meetings, called, offered to come to Dubai, all to radio silence. Finally he gave up. Someone somewhere kept paying his rent, paying for his corporate car, and paying his salary, so he just did whatever and waited for someone to notice. No one did until he quit and asked for his agreed relocation home that was part of his contract. It was 2 years later

      1. Gumby*

        Yup, I know someone whose immediate supervisor was laid off and apparently no one noticed that said supervisor’s two assistants were still on payroll. They asked what they should be doing, heard crickets, and waited it out. Multiple contacts with HR, talked to other employees – they weren’t hiding that they were still there and getting paid. I think it took a year until they were also let go. The company was also surprisingly supportive about it all – gave them nice layoff packages, etc.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        This boggles me because they reached out and *tried* to get attention, and got nothing back. I’ve heard about people getting hired and forgotten, but they usually also made no attempt to find someone and ask “What now?”

  4. tiredfromallmyjobs*

    The LW could be more sympathetic to what might drive someone to take on multiple jobs. Our economy is in shambles and people are going through unprecedented tough times – I know in my case, my full time job doesn’t cover my rent, bills, student loans, etc. I work a part time job on the weekends to make it work, as do my coworkers. I got into this position before the pandemic, hoping for some career and salary growth by now, but that hasn’t happened for obvious reasons. I haven’t been able to find another job that pays more AND has health insurance, and would allow me to work remotely to help my ailing parent. I am stuck here, but it still isn’t enough for me to survive. I am doing what I have to do.

    I don’t know whose responsibility it is to pay workers enough. But if that is the crux of the issue, like it is for me and so many people I know, it might help to look at this with empathy rather than through the lens of “catching” someone in a nefarious act. It’s nice to think everyone is doing their best.

    1. Jen*

      I doubt the LW is concerned with someone having a weekend job. The issue is when people are being paid by multiple jobs for the same working hours. There is a small percentage that could balance it but for most, one if not all of their jobs will suffer.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I just want to note that many people bragging about doing this are high income folk mostly in software. They do not get my sympathy. I work in the field and am angry at all of these people giving out bad advice to younger people all over the internet. Telling people to do the bare minimum and not ask for more work. We’re literally setting up younger people for failure, thinking the advice is good becuase it worked during covid.

      1. PreggoAmoeba*

        This is my issue with it too. The people who brag about holding down multiple full time jobs but only working maybe 50 hours a week is rarely people just trying to keep their heads above water with a couple low to mid wage jobs. It’s people working multiple six figure jobs and doing the bare minimum for each. I see story after story of this blowing up in peoples faces and then others being shocked Pikachu face about employers tightening the reins or coming up with admittedly ridiculous rules to avoid similar situations.

      2. doreen*

        At my last job, nearly everyone who had a second job was well-paid. It wasn’t the support staff who earned $40K who had the second jobs- it was the people in jobs that pay between $90K and $160K ( And more than one got caught claiming to have worked both jobs during the same hours and lost one or both). You can’t assume that people who work second jobs, even second full-time jobs , are doing it because a single job doesn’t pay enough.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I have a lot of sympathy for what drives people to take multiple jobs, but I really don’t want my workplace to take my personal life into account. That’s how you get places like the workplaces where people with kids consistently get different treatment than childfree people, beyond what would be considered a reasonable accommodation. One’s challenges should not become a burden on one’s coworkers as well as oneself – that’s not fair to anyone.

    4. Clobberin' Time*

      Perhaps you could also dispense some empathy for the people who have to pick up the slack for the two-job people lying about their sick grandmas?

    5. The LW*

      These are people making $150k+, some without degrees (IT field). Unfair pay is not the problem. Being in the top 10% of earners is not being exploited.

      Your situation is clearly different and I sympathize.

    6. Witch with a B*

      Agreed. I have a fairly well-paid friend who is not being utilized for full-time hours at her full-time job, and got scammed last year by someone who stole high 5-figures from her. She’s paying down debts from this with income from a busy part-time job, which when it gets extra busy, overlaps some with her un-busy full-time job as they’re in different time zones. No one is the wiser and she’s getting incredibly high marks at both jobs in performance reviews. She could absolutely have pulled this off with 2 full-time jobs. She doesn’t feel guilty, nor should she. The work is getting done, and then some.

  5. AlphabetSoupCity*

    I recently applied to a job where they asked you if you intended to hold other full time employment at the same time. This is obviously not preventive of someone doing it but if you like they have something to go back to

    1. Antilles*

      What’s the point of that question?

      -Nobody is ever going to say yes – even if you *were* planning on working two jobs simultaneously, you’re not going to say it on the application.
      -It’s not going to prevent anyone from doing it. Anybody who’s going to work two jobs without telling you isn’t going to be held back by a single question on the application.
      -It’s completely meaningless. They can fire you for lying on your application if they later find out you were working two jobs, but they could do that anyways. They don’t need “something to go back to”, they can just handle it.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Like you said, if they find that you are working another job, then you lied on your application and that tends to be grounds for immediate termination with cause — which affects unemployment claims. If they don’t have that question, and find that you are working a second job, they probably have a company policy to document performance issues, create a corrective plan, document the plan progress, meet, discuss, correct, document… etc etc etc. for months. The theory that they can fire someone immediately for any reason isn’t really the practice at most functional businesses.

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          Besides employment claims, it’s also a black-and-white, tangible reason for firing someone that prevents other legal claims. “No, we did not fire Fergus because he is a Pastafarian. We fired him immediately after we discovered that he lied about having a second job.” Unless Fergus can prove that the company has routinely let it slide when non-Pastafarians are found to have second jobs, he is probably out of luck.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          They would have asked this question for the same reason the US immigration people asked if I’d ever committed genocide when I applied for a green card. It’s not that they think you will answer yes if that’s the truth – it’s so they can punish you later on if it turns out that you were lying.

      2. penny dreadful analyzer*

        honestly, probably just to signal that they know it’s a thing, so that people who are planning to do it won’t assume they’re too soft a target.

  6. Toni Childs, of Toni Childs Realty*

    I thought about working a second remote full-time job but decided against it. I knew I would have to let some things slack from my main job just to complete duties from the second job. And when I was trying to figure out what I could say to my boss regarding being missing for one to two days for site visits, I realized that this is TEW MUCH!

  7. Chairman of the Bored*

    Just evaluate people on the quality/quantity of work they do, stop worrying about how they spend the rest of their time.

    -Is Joe doing good work? Great, no problem.
    -Is Joe doing marginal work? Put him on a PIP and see if he improves.
    -Is Joe consistently doing unacceptable work? Fire Joe.

    All of this applies regardless of whether Joe is working 1 job or 5.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      The problem is that this model alienates people with genuine personal issues. It means people with childcare problems, disabilities, and medical emergencies get put on PIPs.

      1. PreggoAmoeba*

        This! When people screw around, employers set the bar higher, which affects the people who are dealing with genuine issues more. Rather than accepting an employees word they are going through a family issue, now the employer wants proof which requires time and effort on the employee’s part. Or the employee is having a temporarily tough time due to mental health issues. Now they are scrutinized harder because of people abusing the excuse in the past. I could go on.

      2. Chairman of the Bored*

        Obviously you give employees who are struggling with real life/family difficulties as much latitude as you can. Only a very dumb and awful boss would put somebody on a PIP because they missed work with a broken leg.

        However, people do also need to generally be able to do their jobs to an acceptable standard in exchange for money.

        If not a PIP, what do you propose to do with a marginal employee whose issues are not health-related or similar?

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          That’s not the right question to be asking (because the answer is obvious). The real question is what do you do with an employee who claims to have childcare problems and therefore can only be online 25 hours a week. Do you take them at their word and accommodate them? Or do you require proof that they are having the problem that they claim to be having? I don’t know the correct answer, but it’s the question that does need to be answered.

          1. londonedit*

            Where I work if an employee has childcare demands that mean they’re only available 25 hours a week, there would be a discussion about them reducing their working hours accordingly (with pay and holiday pro-rated). Plenty of people (mostly women) in my industry come back three or four days a week once they’ve had children, and that allows them to keep their job but still manage childcare (so, for instance, they’re only paying for three days of nursery a week instead of five). But no one would expect to say ‘Hey, I want to still be paid for 37.5 hours a week but I have childcare problems so I can only actually work 25 hours’.

            1. Anonymous Koala*

              I think the issues arise when an employee wants to work 40 hours but only be online for 25 hours. In some industries that would be impossible, in others it’s fine, and still in others there’s this gray area where technically an employee could work that way but their manager doesn’t like it/ it forces management to be more deliberate about assigning work / it makes them less visible and hinders their professional development / the optics are bad / etc. This is where companies need to have a strategy in place.

            2. Koalafied*

              I think so too. Rather than asking people to produce documentation of whatever they’re going through, I would simply put a time limit on how long grace can be temporarily extended to an employee who isn’t getting all their work done due to a personal crisis.

              Up to that point, I’ll take the employee at their word, because I know one way or another the situation is temporary so there’s a limit to how much damage a grifter can do, and I’d rather absorb the occasional damage from a grifter, knowing that the harm is limited, than make things even harder for an employee who is genuinely going through something.

              Eventually, whether the person is genuine or a grifter won’t matter as much as the fact that the business does need someone in that role who can deliver a certain amount of work product to a certain standard, and they can’t pay someone a full salary for only doing half of a job. Whether that means letting them go or reducing their hours and pay accordingly, either way it’s a business decision that’s made as a direct result of what the business needs, not what the employee is or claims to be going through.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I think the idea is that they do those remaining 12.5 hours outside normal working hours, once their spouse has come home and can relay them on the childcare front for example.

      3. Anonymous Koala*

        This is why formal accommodations need to be more widely accepted and enforced by employers. If your work is affected by childcare issues, disabilities, or medical emergencies, it should be fairly easy to document that and come up with some sort of reasonable work around. Maternity leave is a good example of a formal temporary accommodation. Employers don’t punish their entire workforce with tighter rules because four people had babies last year, they just hold people to same standards they always have and offer maternity leave.

        1. anonagoose*

          They should be more widely accepted–but they should also be more accessible. It’s not actually that easy for all people to document a disability or need for accommodations under the best of circumstances. And if you need disability accommodations and your disability is not “obvious”, that can in worse circumstances carry a huge or prohibitive financial cost. And then there are structural barriers for various populations to even getting medical professionals to take seriously your need for accommodations (it took my sister nearly a eight years and a reconstructive hip surgery before a doctor was willing to fill out medical documentation for a disability placard at the DMV and accessibility stuff at her college).

          So it’s worth noting here that a system that accepts and enforces accommodations is still a system that needs flexibility and empathy on the part of the employer because if it only leans on documentation to justify accommodations, it will privilege those who have access to good health insurance, who have the know-how needed to self-advocate in medical settings, who are of demographics more likely to be taken seriously by doctors, and who can afford to take the time needed to go through the diagnosis/documentation process anyways.

    2. mcfizzle*

      If only it were that easy! If Joe pleads that his mom is really sick and he’s an only child and has to help, do you take him at his word or force him to provide proof? If so, what? Same for child care or mental health issues or funerals or what have you. Most of us want to make allowances for staff going through a rough time, as we know it happens. But if you have people gaming the system, then what happens to that (necessary) tolerance for legitimate issues?

      1. Qwerty*

        There’s a reason that this became A Thing during the pandemic, a time when we’ve been pushing employers/managers to give employees a break because they are dealing with all the crazy. It’s refusing to go away, so people are still dealing with all of the issues with childcare, health, etc, plus there are legit reasons for people not to feel safe going into the office or traveling. I suspect this is also way more common in tech where its harder to measure output and most of the attempts to really address this will come across as micromanaging to decent employees.

    3. The LW*

      The PIP will give them 30-60 days of guaranteed income. That is exactly what they want. The most exploitative will use this time to line up several other jobs and start the process again with a new employer. I am sure the guy who left us high and dry and cost us a client and partner is still working 2-3 other jobs, and will keep doing to for as long as they can get away with it.

  8. PreggoAmoeba*

    I hope this trend goes away. So many people claim its their way of “getting back at the system” and doing what’s best for themselves. But the people who do this generally aren’t stringing along two low wage jobs to manage a living wage.
    Instead they are likely taking up an opportunity for someone else while doing mediocre work for two places. Because most people aren’t rockstars at both jobs, no matter what they think. And when it comes out, it makes it harder for others by making employers distrustful of future employees looking for opportunities.
    I work in HR and I see all the policies and changes put into place because someone tried to or successfully gamed the system for a while. Making it harder for future people in similar circumstances be believed. eg Employers who require an obit, travel plans etc before granting bereavement leave because of it being abused in the past; demanding medical proof for even minimal situations etc.

    1. Robin*

      Yeah, honestly *this* is the part that gets to me. Most systems start out with folks generally trusting each other and expecting reasonable behavior. We get overly complex and intrusive systems because of lack of trust/belief from one party to another. That can be because of systemic/societal oppression (ie some groups are treated as unreliable narrators of their own lives) but it ALSO happens because some jerk decided to exploit a loophole and now the system is so much more onerous on folks who actually need it

      1. Alli*

        I am fine with people working second jobs, but I think you need to be clear what is core business hours for required real time meetings. I worked a full-time job that was the (known to us, but not their other employer) second job for other people. If it was just completing deliverables it would have worked, but it was next to impossible to schedule team necessary meetings that included these people. It could have worked and I believe people can have second full time jobs ethically, but only if it doesn’t inconvenience your colleagues.

    2. Mid*

      Honestly, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to a trend. It’s pretty clearly a very, very tiny group of people who are doing this, and it’s being spread around like a modern day Welfare Queen myth. It’s a massively overblown fear, and I think people are jumping on it as an excuse to micromanage or force people to come into the office instead of being better managers. And honestly, enacting super stringent policies because one/a small group of people abused the system isn’t the best way to handle those issues. Requiring obits for someone to get funeral leave because one person went to Cancun instead of a wake isn’t really a reasonable response, no more than banning all glassware because one person broke a cup would be. Have a system with consequences for abuse rather than punishing everyone for one person’s misdeeds.

      1. TransmascJourno*

        @Mid Agreed. The language the LW is using in their comments seems to smell strongly of this — like “the overworked” (their term, not mine) is a portentous shadow network out to wreak havoc on the machinery of business. I don’t want to be unkind to the LW in pointing how I perceived their follow-ups, but I think the LW framing it that was has, as you more or less noted, done them a huge disservice in seeing this for what it is: a managing issue.

        1. Payne's Grey*

          Yeah – I think LW’s company has been burned a very unusual number of times by this, and LW has gone down a rabbit hole of reading Reddit users talking about doing it, and the combination has created the impression that this is absolutely rife when it just…isn’t. The fact is that hiring is always a risk, you can always end up taking on an employee who turns out to be terrible (in so many ways, as this advice column shows), and that’s always costly. There’s an emotional component to finding out you hired someone who never had any intention of doing a good and conscientious job, rather than someone who meant well but was incompetent. But the impact is otherwise the same, and it shouldn’t take any longer to discover the problem.

    3. Elbe*

      I agree with this completely. It doesn’t benefit anyone to set up system where everyone is mistrustful of everyone else and everyone is constantly trying not to get screwed.

      If people were doing this ONLY to bad employers – one that didn’t value their employees, paid low wages, and weren’t considerate of their employees lives outside of work – then this argument could make sense. But of course that’s the not the case. In fact, it’s actually the decent employers that are at the most risk, because they try to be flexible with employees and resolve issues as opposed to just letting someone go.

  9. DarthVelma*

    Tell ya what, I’ll agree on behalf of all workers everywhere not to work multiple jobs for different organizations as soon as management at all companies everywhere agrees to stop under-staffing and expecting people to do the work of multiple FTEs at the same time for the same organization.

    Yes, I’ve been doing 3 people’s jobs for over a year now. For no increase in pay. And I’m tired of it.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      With all due respect, these aren’t the opposite of eachother! People are setting up many false dichotomies on the topic, here and elsewhere You being overworked is not alleviated by some overpaid worker temporarily screwing over two jobs somewhere else!

  10. Alex*

    Yes, the entire issue should be centered around that person’s performance. And if someone manages to perform to your expectations while holding down another full time job in addition, then kudos to them. They have every right to do so. There’s no reason to feel “burned” when a good employee is found to have a second job.

  11. soontoberetired*

    My co-workers and I suspect someone of working two jobs at one time because he is always missing meetings that he should be at – and I have heard management is not happy with that – plus he has taken weird calls while on camera. He also seems to not be totally aware of what’s going on.

    He could also just be incompetent.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      I’d suggest that regardless of whether this guy’s problem is a second job, normal incompetence, or he just won the lottery and doesn’t need the paycheck anymore; the employer’s response should be the same thing.

      Somebody isn’t showing up and isn’t doing their job well – presumably for reasons unrelated to a medial issue or similar. Coach them to improve, or fire them.

      Outside of some very specific cases, it doesn’t really matter *why* somebody isn’t doing their job to standard. “Second job” is not one of these cases.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. There’s a saying about always assuming incompetence over malice. If the issue can be explained by incompetence, treat it that way.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      I know. I’m trying to engage intellectually with this letter and the debate but…I keep coming back to this. Whoever these people are, they are REALLY GOOD at getting jobs. Way better than me. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I’ve only read about this on Ask A Manager and from what I’ve seen in the comments sections, working two jobs at once seems most common in IT and tech. So I think the secret is: have a desirable skill set in a highly in-demand field.

        1. Jan Levison Gould*

          Ah yes… the tech people…. that makes sense. I work in the nonprofit world, and it really is a whole other world… my roommate is in tech and it’s just nuts how different the job markets are.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          LOL. They also must be really good at tech interviewing, because it takes me months just to get one job in tech, after hundreds of applications and interviews. Because while the tech field is hot, the people doing the hiring are always looking for a golden unicorn with every skill at expert level, not a mere mortal like me.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          …and I think it’s at a level where the manager can’t be sure whether the worker is sincere when he says he needs three weeks to get it done, or whether he’s saying that because he has a deadline for the other job in two weeks, and then he can get your job wrapped up in a week.
          A software developers once blithely told me he always vastly overestimates the amount of time he’ll take to get something done, because he knows his manager has no idea. In his case it’s to leave plenty of time for watching football or whatever, rather than working a second job.

  12. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    I mean, you could hire a PI to track all new employees, and run credit checks every few months, require they have their taxes done by a company accountant and/or pay a service to check their wage and earning records. Or buy spyware and insist on them installing it on all their devices as a condition of employment (I hear NSO Group is desperate for new clients! Maybe they’re having a sale?).

    You’d be a horrible terrible very bad invasive employer if you did that, of course. And any employee you do it to would be fully justified in burning your house and business premises to the ground, then salting the earth.

    But you could do these things, if being a good manager is completely beyond your personal and corporate capabilities.

    1. PreggoAmoeba*

      What sucks is people gaming the system is what convinces some overbearing employers that doing nonsense like this is necessary and okay. In a perfect world, we would all have reasonable trust and respect for each other and all managers and company owners would be good at managing. But we don’t live in a perfect world. And there are some employers who would implement these highly intrusive measures because one person screwed it up. Basically, we live in a world where “Peter pay for Paul and Paul pay for all” is a mantra some people fully believe in.

    2. Rae*

      No way is my job getting access to my tax returns. I would hope that would create a mass exodus at the mere hint from management.

        1. Mid*

          I don’t know of anywhere that background checks are seen by the employer, aside from jobs requiring secret clearance. Every background check I’ve done has been done by a government office or a private company that then tells the employer if I pass or not. Your employer shouldn’t be seeing any of that information, except in some pretty rare, specialized cases.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            I see the bg check results – criminal, SS check – as allowed under the FCRA.

            Not sure what a credit check would show.

        2. nona*

          A job might ask *you* for a copy of W-2 as proof of…previous employment and a sneaky way of seeing what you were paid?

          A job might get your credit report, but that generally doesn’t include your tax returns, unless you’ve maybe been deliquent paying and you’ve got a debt that needs paying.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Regrettably, it was not a thing pulled out of nowhere. While working at a non-profit, I did overhear a finance committee member ask about having the organization’s accountant (someone he used to teach in high school) do taxes for the employees “you know, just to make sure everyone’s family is getting by fine”

        The accountant, to their credit, lit into the committee member about how thoroughly that would have violated their professional ethics.

  13. irritable vowel*

    How about paying and valuing your employees enough that they don’t need to work multiple full-time jobs to make ends meet? People don’t do that for fun, they do it because they have to.

    1. Parenthesis Dude*

      Most people that do this are working in the tech world, and making high five figures at least (if not six figures). They do it because they can.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, irritable vowel makes a good point that applies in a lot of cases, but the tech world is seeing a lot of this and the issue generally isn’t low pay.

      2. irritable vowel*

        “They do it because they can” indicates, to me, that they’re succeeding at both jobs, in which case, it doesn’t seem like there’s a problem. People whose work is suffering at one or both jobs are not people who are successfully pulling this off.

        1. Parenthesis Dude*

          Clearly we work in very different environments. Where I’ve worked, it normally takes a few months of very poor performance to put someone on a PIP, and then another few months to actually fire them. Someone that’s just poor might last for longer before being put on a PIP.

          It’s very easy to do a bit of work to survive a ninety day trial period, start slacking off for a few months before being put on a PIP, and then surviving another few months before getting fired. By that point, you’ve been paid for maybe ten months, which can be well into the six figures while doing poorly.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          “They do it because they can” to me suggests that it’s technically possible because they’re working remotely, which a lot of tech jobs allow, and no one can see them try to juggle two (or more) jobs. Whether they do either job well, or well enough to escape management notice, is another question.

          1. nona*

            +1 “Because they can” means because they can get away with it. Not that they can successfully do both jobs.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            I’ll also add that the repercussions of a poor performance in a tech job may take a while to actually rear its ugly head; a bad code works until the next guy comes along and has to unravel the mess.

            But I also think that tech companies are much more loath to allow their employees to work 2 tech jobs even if they are doing both of them well…it’s really easy to just duplicate what could be proprietary info if no one is watching carefully. If they were working their tech job Mon-Fri and then pool cleaning on the weekends, no one cares.

    2. ADidgeridooForYou*

      The LW said that these employees make $100k+. A lot of the people I’ve heard of doing this (the LW who famously wrote in a couple of times earlier this year for example) make excellent salaries. I don’t know if the “making ends meet” thing applies here.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          So, doing the work your supervisor assigns to their satisfaction isn’t enough to justify the salary that the employer has committed to paying someone? I would think the employer/payer is the one who determines what is “enough work to justify it”, not the employee.

      1. redflagday701*

        It’s so interesting that this kind of scam seems to be prevalent among highly paid workers, given the tendency to blame lower-paid workers for “not contributing.” At the same time, it makes sense, because there’s an understanding, or even an expectation, that people with lower incomes will often need to work multiple jobs. I wonder how much of this might tie in with David Graeber’s notion of “bulls**t jobs” — it seems like it would sure be easier to get away with secretly working two jobs if a lot of your work for at least one has little concrete value.

    3. Mid*

      Exactly. We have a few cases of people at higher paying jobs bragging about it, but the majority of people who are *actually* working two jobs aren’t doing it for fun, and probably aren’t bragging about it. People are taking a super small scale example and running with it, and acting like it’s the norm. It’s not. It’s a very, very small number of people who are high income working two overlapping full-time jobs.

      And honestly, if the work is getting done to a satisfactory level, who honestly cares? Everyone wants to justify punishing people for a theoretical thing that might happen in a very small number of cases. It’s reaching urban myth levels of weird and pervasive in people’s minds. People aren’t giving your child heroin laced candy for Halloween, and they aren’t all working two high paying jobs for fun and bragging.

  14. Velawciraptor*

    Another way to be sure your employees aren’t working multiple jobs, beyond the obvious management tools addressed by Alison, is to be sure you pay your employees a living wage (or, ideally, a thriving wage) so they don’t need multiple jobs to make ends meet.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      Do we have data anywhere on what types of workers are mostly doing this? My understanding is that we’re seeing this disproportionately in the high-tech world where people are getting paid very well.

  15. kiki*

    We have been burned by this several times, costing us key partnerships and customers due to lack of performance.

    Bad things can break through even the best systems and processes, but I do want to say that it’s worth examining your management and processes if a single employee’s poor performance is having such a tremendous and negative impact on partnerships and clients. Are you throwing new employees into projects without any oversight? Even if you need to have an employee working independently, there should be some sort of checks and balance to ensure there’s regular, quality output. Unless you’re in a particularly fast-paced industry, I have to imagine it would take at least a couple weeks of poor performance, if not more, for a client relationship to be irretrievably broken. I know it’s easy to get fixated on weeding out this specific employee scenario, but with a functional management structure, employees with poor output for any reason shouldn’t be having such a detrimental affect on your business.

    1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      Good point. I’m picturing Andy from the office when he got a new client and 5 seconds later he loses the account. How? In that case it’s comedy. In this case, it seems like something else is going on.

    2. ferrina*

      Agree! Our onboarding process is very involved, with safety nets built in in case the new hire doesn’t work out (also to help us identify if there are additional trainings/resources the new hire needs to succeed- a win for us and for them). Unless the new hire is working at least 6 months before getting the new job and tanking their performance, this would get caught.

  16. Employment Lawyah*

    “the grounds for an employer to object to someone working multiple full-time jobs is if the person’s performance is suffering because of it, right?”

    I disagree. It’s an enormous ethical issue.

    “But they meet expectations!” Well, so what? We hire employees in the hopes that some will meet expectations, and some will EXCEED them. People who work 2 jobs are never going to exceed; they rob you of that opportunity. Moreover, we all ADJUST our expectations as we see how people perform: Again, the second job interferes with that.

    “They’re doing the work .” Even if they are doing work, they’re not doing as much as they COULD be doing. They rob you of that opportunity. And their mind isn’t focused on the job.

    “No job requires full-on attention for the entire workday.” True. But when you give employees time off, lunch, breaks, etc… you would expect some sort of relaxation that will benefit your job and the employee in the long run. That is often the reason behind such breaks. When employees work two jobs, they are, again, stealing that benefit from you.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      If an employer fails to pay me as much as they COULD be paying me, or opts to not offer compensation that EXCEEDS my expectations, are they “robbing me” of the opportunities that additional money could provide me?

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I mean, I’m not doing as much as I could be doing because I don’t want to burn myself out and I pace myself. This leaves me capacity when I need to sprint, but if you’re in a job without sprints and can perform at expectations while earning a second income I don’t think the ethical issue is the labor lost by your employer. You’re exchanging the amount of labor you’re being compensated for. You may be giving up opportunities for advancement, but that’s personal calculus. Likewise if the breaks are supposed to benefit the employee, I see no issue with the employee using them as they like.

      There may be other ethical issues – taking two jobs if you’re in a competitive field, conflicts of interest, abusing or exceeding allocations for time off, leaving coworkers in a lurch, etc. But the idea of hypothetical labor being lost to an employer because maybe possibly someone could be an overachiever is a little silly.

      1. ferrina*


        Obligating someone to always give 40 hours per week of their absolute best work is silly. How would you even tell what is someone’s best vs them only giving 50%? I’m ADHD, and my best looks very different than a lot of peoples (i.e., I struggle with “basic’ things, but excel at insanely complex things). Employers don’t pay on potential, they pay on product.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Are good, but not exceptional employees robbing you of that opportunity as well?

      I don’t think an employer is owed the absolute maximum that an employee can do. They have a need. If the employee fulfills that need, then where’s the problem?

    4. irritable vowel*

      The vast majority of unethical behavior in an employer-employee relationship is on the employer side, not the employee side. As it is in any relationship where there’s a power hierarchy that can be taken advantage of. Someone working more than one job is not engaging in unethical behavior, they are seeking to compensate for imbalances in a system where they are at an inherent disadvantage.

    5. Roland*

      The only time an employee is “stealing” something from an employer is if they take objects belonging to the employer away from the employer for their own use. “Not using your time in the way an employer would perhaps prefer” is not theft, that’s laughable. Your hopes mean nothing. You don’t get to complain because you’re bummed that 2 people are performing the same instead of one performing better for the SAME salary. I mean, you get to complain, it’s a free country, but I get to think that’s capitalist nonsense.

        1. Mid*

          Where’s the time card fraud though? People are, in most cases, required to be paid for on-call hours. If your job needs 2 hours of actual work, and for you to monitor your inbox for 8 hours, that’s what they’re paying you for. If you’re monitoring your inbox and also selling dog fidget spinners via EBay auctions, you’re not committing time card fraud.

    6. Raven*

      They’re not stealing anything because you never owned it.
      If you want people to go above and beyond, you need to compensate them for that.
      When you hire someone, you hire them to do the job as you advertised it, not some secret secondary job you had in mind.
      Point being, you don’t own other people’s talents or abilities or even potential, you just rent them for a bit.

    7. Alex*

      My employer is paying me to do a job, not to own my soul.

      This could all be fixed with merit-based compensation. Rockstars make more. Mediocre employees make less. If someone can rockstar two jobs, they get rockstar pay at two jobs. If someone can only deliver mediocre work at one job, they get one mediocre salary.

      What you are saying is that an employer should get to pay one (probably low) salary and expect every person’s 100%, even if one person’s 100% is a 6/10 and another’s is 11/10 in terms of expectations. This is why rockstars leave companies–because they see their less productive peers get the same raises and compensation. Why should they give it their all if it is not valued? Fairness goes both ways. If my employer is not going to financially reward excellent work over mediocre, I’m not inclined to give it to them, second job or not.

      Personally, my employer has not earned my 100%. I used to give it, and I stopped, because all my mediocre colleagues were getting the same (or higher!) pay that I was. So now I give it about 40%. And you know what? I got the same exact raise. So my employer has shown me that it doesn’t want to pay for my 100%. So it doesn’t get it anymore.

    8. Feral Humanist*

      No employee owes their employer more than what they are being paid for. Sure, some people exceed expectations, but an employer (IMO) can’t actually expect that (in fact, that is the definition of “exceeding expectations”). I am considered a high performer but even I don’t do everything I *could* be doing. My job doesn’t own my time outside of work, or my brain at all moments of the workday even –– especially on my lunch breaks! If I use my lunch break to go to the doctor or make widgets to sell on Etsy (assuming I’m not using company supplies) instead of “relaxing,” that is frankly not my employer’s business. Most things, indeed, are not my employer’s business, aside from my performance in the job they are paying for.

    9. Job Juggler*

      Employers don’t own someone just because they hired them to do a job. I do the work I am compensated to do. After years of overworking myself to impress employers, I just won’t anymore. I am not going to go above and beyond for an employer who doesn’t do it for me. You want above and beyond? Compensate me the same way. Share the wealth when the business does well, but don’t pay me peanuts while the CEO makes millions for doing a tiny portion of the work I do and then cut my pay during the pandemic because business was struggling.

      No one batted an eye when I worked at Starbucks as a second job for years, but the minute I want to get a second job that pays well, it’s suddenly an issue. Working at Starbucks as a second job was way more work than what I do now in terms of hours worked and physical exhaustion. I currently work two professional level jobs during the same work hours, but I do work a slightly more than full time to get everything done. My annual reviews were glowing at both jobs. I never miss meetings or short anyone. Employers don’t own me, they pay for my work and performance. Everyone is happy, so where is the ethical issue? It’s just corporate greed IMO. The higher ups are also usually sitting on multiple boards and have their own little side businesses and hobbies. Why is that not unethical? Expecting above and beyond without compensating for it is greed.

    10. Just Another Zebra*

      To be clear, your response to someone meeting your expectations is “so what? Do more!”


      You pay for X amount of labor with Y salary. You want more labor? There’s a way to get that.

      1. mlem*

        Yeah, that really jumped out at me. “Fine, you exceeded expectations *this* year, but next year, that same amount of work will be only barely acceptable!” Imagine bragging about that.

    11. kiki*

      I can see what you’re saying and I also look askance at folks who try to pull this sort of stunt off, but I also think it’s on employers to do a better job incentivizing folks to exceed expectations. There are jobs and industries that do a good job at keeping up and paying employees who excel what they’re worth, but so much more often, employees who exceed expectations are paid the same or only marginally more than folks who do the bare minimum. So many letters come through this site about employees who have only gotten peanut raises but then need to be replaced by 2-3 people when they leave. Having two jobs is a hassle! I don’t think many people would pursue it if it were possible to get paid better for going above-and-beyond at one job.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’ve been replaced by two or more people at several jobs, usually after I quit for a better job in terms of money and balance. They didn’t want to pay what I wanted, so now they had to pay twice my ask to get the same work output.

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      It sounds like you’re suggesting that people give it their all and routinely do more than is expected/asked of them. For that to work, they need to be offered incentives like promotions, higher comp, bonuses, etc. If your incentives don’t increase with your expectations, you’re not worth working for, and certainly not exceeding standards if there’s no reward for it.

      Like it or not, there are people who successfully work two jobs and even manage to excel at one or both of them. This could be because the jobs are poorly structured/monitored or it could be because you have a superstar that just does things better/faster. If your performance metrics are being met – and those performance metrics can include availability/responsiveness/whatever butt-in-seat measure you want – you’re not in a position to demand more from someone without giving in return.

    13. I laugh at inappropriate times*

      This is a dumb argument. When I go to McDonalds and order 10 chicken McNuggets, and I pay for 10 McNuggets, and they give me 10 McNuggets, no one is robbing anyone if I didn’t pay more than the cost of the nuggets, or if they didn’t give me more than 10. Our mutual contractual obligations have been fulfilled. Same with employment. Employers agree to pay employees X amount of money for X amount of work. Again, no one is robbing anyone for the contractual obligations being fulfilled exactly. Would both parties like more? Of course they would. But neither is entitled to it. I’d like 15 or 20 nuggets for the price of 10, but it ain’t happening. And I have zero grounds to complain about it.

  17. devtoo*

    Yep, this happened on my team and I think my manager handled it really well. There was a lot of speculation that my new coworker was running a shady real estate business on the side, but the real problem was performance issues: hardly pushing any code despite being hired at a high level, attending pre-scheduled meetings but never ever being available for ad-hoc chats during normal working hours, not reviewing other teammates’ code in a timely fashion or at all. I think my manager gave him a lot of grace and flexibility, and it seemed like he might actually have a family situation going on additionally, but ultimately he was put on a PIP and let go (and then he blocked us all on LinkedIn and apparently deleted all job history related to software engineering?? very odd). It is possible that more thorough reference checking during the hiring stage would have prevented the situation entirely, but I guess we’ll never know

    1. kiki*

      This is a good example of how a situation like this should be handled. Bad hires cost money and suck to deal with, but ultimately it’s a cost of doing business. It’s worth considering how to avoid similar situations in the future, like by perhaps being a bit more thorough with reference checks, but getting especially hung up on this specific scenario isn’t useful. Hiring is always a bit of a gamble, to a certain extent. What’s most important is making sure a bad hire isn’t going to majorly derail things and that there’s a process for identifying and removing bad hires.

  18. Sparkles McFadden*

    The two-jobs thing is irrelevant. People with no integrity have been lying to management forever. Fake deaths, fake illnesses, fake surgery…excuses since the dawn of the modern world. I think you are concerned about the wrong thing.

    I’ve worked with people who were working two jobs and it made no difference to their productivity and responsiveness. People with no integrity, however, never did anything particularly well. You have to hold people to standards and manage them effectively. That’s it.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I think this is a big part of it. If someone can legitimately do 2 full time jobs at once, then it doesn’t seem like they should be forbidden from doing it. If they’re constantly creating excuses not to do something – at either job, that’s an entirely different problem and the person genuinely isn’t doing either job they’ve been hired to do.

  19. Anon for this*

    We had this happen at a nonprofit I used to work at, with an employee who apparently accepted two full time jobs simultaneously. That person was fired within three months of starting, but not before creating a ton of issues on our billing team. Honestly, they could have kept it going a lot longer if they’d been slightly better at doing some work. They had a ton of “family emergencies” and the org wanted to be really supportive and flexible for those issues, but contractors not getting paid wasn’t acceptable. Someone figured it out when they googled the person and found the other job’s press release announcing their hire a week after their start date at my old job. It really eroded the ED’s trust which sucked for the rest of us.

    1. Elbe*

      Exactly. One of the biggest reasons why doing this is wrong is because of how detrimental it is for the employer-employee relationship as a whole. If being understanding of and trusting your employees carries really high risk for a company, fewer of them will do it. And everyone is going to suffer for that.

  20. PreggoAmoeba*

    After reading the comments, it seems two separate issues are being conflated. One is working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Example is working a regular 40 hour job and doing another on nights and weekends.

    The other is working multiple jobs DURING THE SAME WORKING HOURS so essentially double dipping what are likely two high paying professional jobs just because you can make more money. Example is doing two six figure dev jobs and working from say 7-5 daily while doing the duties of both jobs during the same working hours.

    I took the post to mean the second and I am commenting accordingly.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. People DO do this just because they feel like they can capitalize on the circumstances of being remote and undersupervised. I totally get the knee-jerk reaction to blame this on undercompensating employees or otherwise being a crappy employer – we want to side with the workers, that’s great – but in reality this happens a lot in decently-well paid jobs that just have the opportunities available for exploitation, as opposed to people cobbling jobs together to survive which is something different.

    2. Alex*

      I don’t think it matters. Salaried employees are not being paid for their time, they are being paid for their work.

      1. Plumbum*

        Of course salaried employees are being paid for their time. If theyvl were pnly being paid for their work they’d be on a [work unit]-based contract or on commission. A full-time or part-time salaried job has an expectation of hours worked, often explicitly.

        1. Alex*

          how so? We expect exempt employees to work overtime when the work demands it. It also goes the other way–they do not need to work “standard” hours if the work does not demand it.

          Therefore, they are being paid to do a job. If the business has any kind of basic management competency, that job will take more or less the amount of hours that would be “expected” but the entire point of being exempt is to divorce the task from the time.

          1. Plumbum*

            The expectation is still there, if there’s the occasional need for overtime it’s just more of an average than a set schedule. At my workplace we get time off in lieu instead of overtime pay, so the averaging is handled more formally, but even if handled informally that’s not the same as paying someone to produce X [work-units] per week when you offered them a full-time job.

            Isn’t one of the tests for whether a US worker is classified as an employee whether they set their own schedule, implying that an employee’s schedule is usually set by their employer, not just their assignments?

      2. nona*

        Sorry, that’s not a blanket statement that applies to all salaried workers.

        I’m also being paid for my availability during a certain set of hours so that I can collaborate with co-workers. My “work” is often being available to give an expert opinion on a subject. I *could* do that asynchronously, but the job/company works better when I do it as close to real time as possible, and if the company works better, my bonus and company-plan purchased stock does better.

      3. AnonyMouse*

        Um this is not at all true… salaried jobs almost always have hours. You’re thinking of a consultant role.

    3. irritable vowel*

      There are lots of high-paying professional jobs where there’s a significant amount of downtime and people are expected to be able to manage their workload independently – so, if someone wants to do work for another job in the time when they’d otherwise be surfing the web or taking a lengthy coffee break/running errands, what’s the issue? Assuming they’re salaried/exempt, the employer is still paying them for that time regardless of what they’re doing.

  21. Miss Suzie*

    My previous employer was very up front that employees could not have any other employment, full time, part time, any time. They never found out that I was also doing some part-time consulting work, never when I was on their time. However, when they learned that a member of the finance department had applied for a part time job at a convenience store they fired them on the spot. No conflict of interest, it would have been on weekends. I really don’t think it is any of the employer’s business what you are doing when you are not on the clock.

    1. Plumbum*

      When you’re not on the clock, absolutely. But this letter is clearly talking about working another job while on the clock.

  22. Anne Wentworth*

    I wonder if this will result in companies finally waking up to the fact that management is a separate set of skills that they should train on when promoting folks to management positions. Or if they’ll just start to penalize untrained managers who don’t have the skills to adequately manage these situations.

    1. ferrina*

      More likely they’ll just start penalizing the whole company based on the actions of bad actors that aren’t’ caught by bad managers (i.e., installing spying software)

      But yes, some companies are getting better about that. My company is devoting resources to a more robust training program that includes management training. It’s a great business strategy but with hard-to-measure results – we’re aiming for higher individual productivity, better utilization (so folks aren’t just waiting for work to come) and better retention.

  23. Person from the Resume*

    It’s hard to know what’s going on when if the employee is lying to you. It’s not just bad management. Not just the outrageous constantly growing lies about illness, family illness, and dying relatives, but the smaller lies about how fast they’re working. When someone is new, you give them time to learn the new job and duties. You may ultimately start to get the impression that they take longer than expected to do a task, but when they’re first learning you may give them the benefit of the doubt.

    What if someone tells you something takes longer than it really does consistently? You can might start to think they’re just a slow employee, but also maybe just everything they work on is complicated. For example a coder fixing a defect could say they had trouble tracking down the issue and doubling the time it took. And for writing code and unit testing, they claim it takes them twice the time it did. No one else is working on that exact issue to compare times. No one can say “no, that doesn’t take that long” because different developers come at a problem from different directions. Maybe they develop a reputation as a good but slow coder when they’re really not slow, but just only working half time.

    The nature of my team work and size of backlog, people never run out of work. When they finish working on one defect or new feature they are supposed to start on the next one. So someone claiming to work takes longer than it does is getting less work done than they are being paid for.

    I don’t have an answer. But saying bad management is not always accurate and true. People willing to lie (and come up with consistent and reasonable lies) can get away with a lot because managers don’t want to assume that their employee are lying to them so they’ll overlook a lot.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes, this is really true. When someone says they have personal circumstances or are working as fast as they can, it can be really hard to verify that. I’ve definitely struggled with that, and sometimes there’s no good answer. Optics can often come into play- your team, your boss or HR will see the situation in a certain way, and you need to account for that.
      For the personal circumstances, I’ve found that being flexible on their work type can help- sometimes they can’t do X quickly right now, but they are great at Y and we can funnel that work to them. It’s also important to look at attitude- I’ll grant a lot more leeway to someone that’s actively suggesting fixes and following through.
      For speed of work, I will shadow someone. I position it as wanting to know how I can help them do X faster (which is true! I just don’t mention that I’m also evaluating if they are a good fit for this role). Then I’ll have them share their screen as they go through X. If I don’t have the expertise, I’ll enlist a trusted colleague to watch and I’ll check in with them afterwards so I can understand more about the process (i.e., I want a full report). I’ve put an employee on a PIP because he couldn’t work at speed (he had also lied on his resume that he had experience with Software when he didn’t). He quit the next day. That was less than a month after he’d been hired, so minimal loss to the company.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I never have a problem with someone wanted me to “show my work” – unless it’s all the time.

        Another issue in my field – tech – is that sometimes there is just plain skull work, and there are no fingers on keys. I try to push my skull work into the background by taking up a completely different task, but that doesn’t always work.

        Sometimes I will spend hours flipping between three or four files of code, trying to build a mental map of the process flow just to figure out where I need to change it. This kind of thing gets regularly blown to bits in an open plan office, because interruptions mean I need to backtrack and/or start over. It’s especially bad if a) I didn’t write the original code, b) the code is poorly commented, and/or c) the code is poor quality. Then I will spend even more time making a fix, testing it, see what it does, then lather, rinse, repeat until it does what it should do.

        Fixing bugs or inserting new features into existing code bases sometimes takes much longer than writing brand new code.

    2. Riot Grrrl*

      I’m so glad you said this. And in a much more diplomatic way than I’m about to post downthread.

      People act like management is algebra; that you plug in certain numbers and variables and you know for certain that X task should take exactly 3 hours and 17 minutes to complete. When it comes to most white-collar work–and definitely when it comes to creative work–things just aren’t that clear cut.

  24. KP*

    I think a lot of the divide on this has to do with the type of field people are in and/or what type of work they’re doing.

    My job is not just completing a specific set of routine tasks a day. If I finish with my tasks, there are always continuous improvement opportunities, lesser side projects, tech support, audits, and simply being available if needed when shit hits the fan. There is always something for me to do, even if it’s not routine work. A lot of my work is non-routine! It’s built into my job description “Other responsibilities/duties as needed.” My employer is buying my time for 40 hours a week. They are expecting me to be available for 40 hours a week.

    And I’m wondering if some of the people who are working two jobs have roles that have very defined responsibilities instead of having a role where a lot of their work is non-routine? If I only had to fulfill 20 widget orders and it only took 2 hours a day, AND that’s all I was expected to do, I could see getting a second job. If my role was to fulfill 20 widget orders and then work on all that side stuff that’s a little more nebulous? Nope, that’s me breaking a business agreement with my employer.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I absolutely agree. My job, my team members’ job never really runs out of work. There’s always a backlog of work. You make sure critical time sensitive tasks meet deadlines. You pace yourself to not burnout. But you’re expected to put in ~80 hours over each 2 week period discounting PTO and sick leave.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I also think it’s a conflict of interest if two companies are paying you for the same set of daily hours in the expectation that you are effectively full-time available to each of them, when the reality is generally you wouldn’t be.

      FWIW my work includes lots of downtime but big expectations that I’m available to jump on a call or a task as needed. I’m salaried but I also have to record hours so it would be time card fraud to put down 40 hours/week if I wasn’t available/working for those full 40 (or use approved leave if <40).

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This is where I am.

        I’m in a production support organization. If nothing is on fire we have a few projects, but generally are expected to be available. If there is something broken or urgent to upgrade, even if it means scheduling weekend work with corresponding time off the next week, that’s what we do. Take today – I have had two hours of meetings, a few emails, a database to enter data into and that’s about it – about 4 hours of actual work. But part of what they are paying for is me to be available for an ad-hoc meeting, or chat, or even an email that has some task that needs to be done right now. If my boss pinged me and asked me to be on a call about a high severity incident, I would abandon even this reply, do what was needed for as long as it took, then come back to it.

        What they are paying me for is two fold: 1) my availability during my regularly scheduled hours to do tasks or answer questions, and 2) my expertise and sheer experience in being able to look at a problem, run a few commands, and say “we need to do X, let me get on that right away.”

        I have a side hustle, but I never work on it using company resources or on company time. (It’s the equivalent of selling widgets on Etsy.) I don’t even log in to my data on sales during work hours.

  25. Elbe*

    I get this advice and I think that it would work in a lot of cases, but I also think that there are important cases where it won’t.

    Part of what you’re paying an employee a salary for is their availability. If someone is working multiple jobs during the same work hours, there will inevitably be issues, even if someone can keep up a lot of the time. These things have a tendency to crash and burn, not to be consistently negative over time in a way that a manager can notice.

    If a person is taking on multiple jobs based on current work or current patterns, it’s all going to fall apart when that changes, and change happens frequently in business – usually at really critical times. It’s inevitable. The second they need to have an emergency client on-site, it will crash and burn if the person doing the work is actually overseas. The second they need to expand or change the person’s tasks, it will crash and burn because now the workload balance is different.

    Lying about qualifications on a resume is considered a bad thing for an employee to do, even if someone can skate by on the lie for a while. Because a) tasks can change and the lie can be more relevant later and b) even if the manager is able to catch on and let the person go early, they’re still out the training time/effort/money. I feel like this is a similar thing.

  26. Melanie Cavill*

    There are also organized groups who are using U.S.-based people to interview while having a completely different person in another country show up for work.



    1. Mid*

      I feel like I’ve been hearing about this for decades, so I have a sneaking suspicion it’s 99% urban myth, with maybe a handful of cases where it actually happened. Much like the massively overblown fear of someone working two full time jobs at the same time. Does it happen? Sure. People also get struck by lightning, attacked by cows, and win the lottery. Probably at far higher rates than the people who are working two jobs.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        There was as Ask A Manager letter where this happened!

        I think your assessment that it’s 99% urban myth, 1% actual cases of bait-and-switch between interview and first day on the job. I also imagine that if/when it does happen, it’s largely concentrated in a few industries (so the fakers are interviewing for the same kinds of jobs all the time and can ace the interviews).

        1. Mid*

          I remember that letter! But it sticks out because it’s so abnormal, regardless of industry. I could see it being easier to pull of in some roles compared to others, but I absolutely refuse to believe it’s a major/frequent issue until I can see solid evidence of it. Because those stories are memorable so they feel more important than they actually are.

      2. Can't think of a funny name*

        This happens at my company. Another trick they use is they apply for an in-person job but after they get it, claim something came up and they need to work remote for a month (or however long they feel like they can get away with).

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        I did! What tripped me up is the different countries of it all. I do not have a strong enough imagination to even begin to guess at logstics.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I contract and pay the worker who is doing my job. So I get a remote programming job at $120K, and I find a remote foreign worker who is willing to do the work under the table for $30K. They send the work to me, I send the work to my employer.

        But it’s dumb. Sure, it gets me money, but it erodes who I am. I was going to say something about my reputation of work quality, but people who do this are probably not that great at programming either.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        I think it goes, Person A applies with all of their own personal information–name, email, phone number, etc. Interview time! Person B goes to the interview, claims to be Person A, knocks the interview/skills test/what have you out of the park, and gets hired.

        Then Person A shows up to the job, with all their documents (passport, driver license, whatever) to fill out the hiring paperwork and tax forms.

  27. SelinaKyle*

    Is this more of a US issue? I feel with the way the tax system works in the UK having a second job would not be worth it as you would be taxed so heavily? Plus each place of work would find out about the other due to the tax code? You’d have to be paid cash in hand for one of the jobs?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There are tax implications in the US too but not quite so steep. I don’t know if/how it would work elsewhere.

  28. Generic Name*

    Is this happening frequently at your company? I work for a very remote-friendly company, and I’ve never heard of this happening here, or anywhere else in my industry (environmental services/engineering/construction adjacent). If so, I’m wondering if it’s a symptom of lax/excessively hands-off management or maybe it’s some aspect of the jobs themselves. I hear stories (primarily reddit, so grain of salt) of people who are hired to do a job that involves data entry or working with databases or something who figure out how to automate a huge portion of their tasks. In the stories I’m recalling, folks in those jobs run the script/program to do their tasks and then goof off the rest of the time. Maybe now people are doing that and then using the extra time to do multiple jobs?

  29. Parenthesis Dude*

    As you’ve learned, this is very difficult to do successfully. It’s always hard to tell in a timely matter who is simply a slow worker, which person you’re developing is simply developing slower than you’d like, or who is doing two jobs at once.

    The best way to deal with this is figure it out early. As such, you want to make sure that this person is working directly with your team members. Make sure that one or more of your senior people is working closely with the newbie so that they can see how this person is doing. Have them do frequent reviews. Incidentally, this is a good way to give those senior people management experience and see if management is right for them.

    Aside from that, providing a physical token to have someone log onto your network is a good idea. That way, multiple people can’t be doing one job. Try to make sure that people can only log into your system from the appropriate country.

    Determine what should have accomplished in a ninety day period, and make all your offers contingent on them surviving a ninety day period. This won’t prevent people from taking advantage of you for ninety days and if you’re paying $200k for an employee (salary and benefits) then this hurts. But it’s better than finding out after nine months that something is wrong.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      You want to make sure that this person is working directly with your team members. Make sure that one or more of your senior people is working closely with the newbie so that they can see how this person is doing. Have them do frequent reviews.

      Determine what should have accomplished in a ninety day period

      Yes! These are two very good examples of what “good management” looks like, and how it will help you discover if people are working multiple jobs/otherwise not a good fit for the role. And for the expected accomplishments in the first 90 days, be clear for yourself and for the new employee. It will help good employees succeed early if they know what you want them to accomplish right off the bat.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I wish my employer provided a Yubikey for 2FA. (A yubikey is a second factor code generator that plugs in to your machine that you simply touch to enter the code.) It would be easier than digging out my phone to log in to the VPN.

      BTW, one way to track if people are actually working and from where is to have a VPN and/or a bastion host that they have to log in to to do any work. It can be a bit clunky, and some work can be done offline, but if I said I logged on to a bunch of hosts and did X to them, at least the network traffic should be in a log somewhere.

      I suppose I could have a second machine and type alternating on both, but that would be a pain in the butt.

  30. mcfizzle*

    Technically, I don’t care if someone is working multiple jobs – honestly, kudos to them if they can pull it off.

    What I care about is if they’re lying / making excuses (sick family! mental health issues! child care!) that play with and exploit our natural sympathies. Then the natural reaction is to be suspicious / less sympathetic with others in the future, which is so terrible for people who are legitimately going through something. I just can’t stand anyone who lies, cheats, or steals. Working multiple jobs like OP is describing falls into all 3, and makes everything worse. Aka, bosses who were leery of remote – now even harder to fight for it. Or bosses who want to install all the software to see how often you click your mouse (no pun intended).

    1. kiki*

      I totally get this, but I also think it’s important to remind managers that one or two bad employees do not justify distrusting everyone to else or dismantling a system that works 98% of the time

      1. mcfizzle*

        Totally fair point! Admittedly, my faith in humanity is rather low. One of the many, many reasons I am not in management.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      One company I worked for, pre-pandemic, removed remote work privileges from the entire multi-thousand person company because there were remote employees that were not even logging on or delivering any work.

      Instead of improving their managers who didn’t know how to manage remote employee deliverables, they just said “No more remote. If you don’t live near an office, move close enough to come in or you are fired.”

      I picked up the workload of one such employee. He hadn’t even been logging on to the VPN or the bastion host more than one day out of five. The stuff he wasn’t doing in a week took me about two to five hours. His manager had also been remote, and just retired when the edict came down.

      But everyone who wanted one or two days a week WFH couldn’t because of him, his manager and others like them being flakes. Instead of fixing management, they shafted the rank and file.

  31. Sangamo Girl*

    Do this for certain government entities and the least of your problems will be getting fired. In certain cases it can even lead to fines or an indictment for theft of services. Many of us work under a web of ethics laws and rules that require clearance for, and even outright prohibition of, certain activities

  32. Snow Globe*

    Alison briefly mentioned conflict of interest often being another issue with this, although most people seem to be ignoring that issue. It seems likely that if you are working for two jobs in the same profession or industry, that conflict of interest could come into play pretty easily. Are the two companies competitors? Is one a client of the other? Does corporate strategy for one large company influence other companies in the industry, so, for example, a planned product launch might complete disrupt the business? I think a lot of people may not even really think about how conflicts might arise, but that’s the area where I think it could be really unethical to work two jobs simultaneously without either company being aware.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think this is a fair assessment. It’s not that different than people who didn’t realize the tax implications of working from other states – if you don’t know what factors go into assessing conflict of interest (especially if you’re only familiar with one segment of your company business), it’s a hard determination to make. It’s even more difficult if you work in a regulated or disclosure-heavy industry.

      My employer does not ban outside employment outright, but they do require you disclose it, primarily for conflict-related issues. They have a clearly-stated policy and have approved unrelated outside work that does not interfere with core business hours, but they will also fire you in a heartbeat if you are working a second, unapproved job.

  33. Hell in a Handbasket*

    I have a lot more sympathy for the LW than many of the commenters here. I think a lot of this is happening in well-paid jobs in tech. The reality is:
    (1) it’s not easy for managers to assess how quickly someone should be working, because they are usually not that technical themselves, and with every task being somewhat unique, don’t have a great sense of how long something should take.
    (2) there is expected to be a substantial learning curve, so instant productivity is not expected.
    (3) it can be hard to distinguish someone who is not putting in the effort compared to someone who is just not that great at their job — and it tends to be difficult and time-consuming to get rid of the latter category (vs. just giving them more support and training).
    This all adds up to getting strung along for months and months before someone is actually let go, and in the meantime they’re dragging down their whole team. It really angers me that the end result is probably going to be that people who really are struggling — either with the job itself, or with something going on in their personal lives — will not be given the benefit of the doubt anymore because of all these people taking advantage of their employer’s good will.

    1. Can't think of a funny name*

      100%. And even if LW figures it out in 2 weeks…it’s still 2 weeks of wasted time and money and now the process starts over again.

    2. AthenaC*

      Exactly. Which is why I’m really not a fan of the glib “well if you’re a competent manager it won’t be an issue!”

      I’m oversimplifying but that’s what many of the responses are coming down to.

      If someone is a bit slower or has a longer learning curve but is making a good faith effort – fine! It’s just part of managing humans. But if someone is a bit slower or has a longer learning curve because they’re essentially collecting a paycheck but not putting in the effort, that’s really crappy. And you’re not going to know right away so meanwhile it’s making the rest of the team’s life difficult to pick up the slack.

      So this whole issue makes my blood boil.

  34. Luffi*

    I guess I think that no employee will be able to perform as well if they are working multiple jobs. Full stop. Also at the level of expertise and income we are talking about here, I think it’s deeply unethical. At lower levels it’s not an issue for me, but management level? Nah. We can squirm around the details much as we want, but it ain’t right.

    I do agree though of course that it’s on managers to implement systems to find it out so they can kick out these scammers or not hire them in the first place.

  35. Dawn*

    “These types,” “sick children, dead relatives, similar excuses”

    You sound like you must be an absolute delight to work with.

    Manage them like you would any other employee and save the presumptive moral judgments, especially in a day and age of rising costs where people are consistently told “Just work a second/third job!”

    1. Dawn*

      Yes I understand that it is frustrating, especially in instances when you are straight-up conned, but that can also be the price of doing business.

  36. Candy Apples*

    So I’ve noticed with remote work that employers don’t realize how little time some jobs take. I currently am working a job that I complete in, no joke, 1.5 to 2 hours. The rest of the day I shop, write, do my grad school assignments, anything.

    I won’t work a second job in case they need me, but I totally see why some people do. My coworker does and I’m the only one who knows and she’s doing fine!

    I know I’m doing good at my job because I was just offered a promotion yesterday. I declined it though, it wasn’t much of a raise but would require way more work. I like the balance I’ve struck. Not saying this to brag on myself, just really shows how little some jobs require.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      So part of the advice is this:

      Good managers should always be doing things like working closely with new hires so they can spot problems and course-correct early on, setting clear goals that represent meaningful progress and monitoring people’s progress against those goals (so it’s easy to see if someone is hitting the bar you need or not)

      I think this is true in broad strokes, but doesn’t take a few realities into consideration. I’ve been a manager for 15 years, but I have never been a manager during a pandemic before. And certainly not one that forced my entire staff into seclusion with about a week’s notice. The tools to do this sort of “working closely” and “spot[ting] problems” simply did not exist for us, except in the most heavy-handed, onerous ways that are universally despised such as time logs and constant meetings.

      On top of that, we work in a creative (or at least creative-adjacent) field. When hiring a new employee it is impossible to determine ahead of time how long it should take them to pick up new creative skills. And if they’re going a bit slower than expected, is it because they just work slowly? Is it because they are a slow learner but will speed up in time? Is it because the environment and informal relationships that would have helped when everyone was in the office aren’t available to them? Is it because they are still working the job they claimed to have quit? Or are they actually doing just fine, but spending half their day on Facebook so progress looks slower than it really is? There’s just no way to know.

      And it’s very hard to know what the right reaction should be if you ask for improved performance, and the answer is some version of: “I’m going as fast as I can, but things are hard because there’s a pandemic.”

      I don’t have answers, but I feel like many remote management practices don’t work without the good will and integrity of the employee. And sometimes that good will simply isn’t there.

        1. Candy Apples*

          Great advice! And no worries, I like what you said. It’s really hard to manage remote workers and there does need to be goodwill. I have asked if anyone needed assistance and had set up calls to train others who do the same job as me. My role is brand new and I don’t think they realized how little work is required. My boss is aware that my work gets done quicker than most. Though I don’t advertise how much of my day is spent on other tasks, as long as he’s happy with my work, then I’m happy.

    2. Econobiker*

      Doing your grad school work is your 2nd job but you’re not compensated for it. you could probably do a paid 2nd job if you didn’t have the college credits to earn.

    3. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I think you’re right about that Candy Apples.
      When everyone was in the office and butts in seats, most managers didn’t know if a job only took 2-3 hours to do because there was so much presentism.

      Think of all the water cooler talk, smoke breaks, gossip, chitchat, and other office time wasters we all engaged in. It was a waste, but you were still THERE for 8 hours and that’s all they cared about.

  37. Art3mis*

    One, in my last two jobs my managers have not at all been involved with me as a new hire. I think there’s a difference between being an absent manager and not being a micro manager.
    Two, there’s a whole subreddit dedicated to this practice. I’m too straight laced to even try, and certainty not talented enough to get two jobs, but I’m also not a narc.

    1. Econobiker*

      yup I’ve been on that subreddit too and it’s obviously it’s slanted to remote IT tech work. If some of the stories are true, becoming “over employed” (as the subreddit is labeled) is helping some people pay off debts especially student loans and save for houses. Ethical? nope. Illegal? nope.
      But it seems that some folks think that alot of the stories are fake just like many of the replies on Reddit might be false to gain karma up votes.

  38. That’s What I Said*

    Wouldn’t employment verification services help weed some of this out? I know there is a cost involved, so HR would want documentation of issues to support using these services.

    1. Candy Apples*

      A lot of background check places (at least in the US) only verify the information provided for employment. Criminal can check nationally and pull from places not listed going by ss number and stuff but with employment, since each company keeps their information unless they are made aware of it, no one would know.

      1. That’s What I Said*

        There are many that have beginning/end dates. If no end date shows up, that would be a cause for further investigation.

        1. kiki*

          A lot of background checks are done before an employee gives their notice or officially ends the job. If the job is listed as their current job when you hire them, there’s not a great way to ensure “hey, you quit that job, right?” unless the company re-runs the employment verification.

    2. Art3mis*

      I’ve had those things come back with wrong information though. One place hired me and never called to actually offer me the job showed up on a report once. Another place I worked for years had an incorrect date of hire.

    3. Parenthesis Dude*

      It’s easy to check that you’re employed where you say you were. You call up the HR, and they verify (or not) your employment. It’s much harder to find out if you’re employed somewhere that you didn’t mention. What do they do, call up every employer in your field and ask?

      In the US, they’d have to demand that you release your tax information to figure that out.

  39. Sleepy*

    I mean, it would be better to find out from the start if someone is planning to have someone else do the work or otherwise does not have the time.

  40. Econobiker*

    From the 2018 posting about the guy with 2 jobs this is probably the best response to the situation from an employer:

    April 4, 2018 at 6:42 pm:
    I worked for a company that had it in the employee policies that we could not collect employment money from another company for the same hours that we were being paid by that company. It even said you could not take PTO in order to work at another paying job for the time you were being paid the PTO.
    This was many years ago so I don’t know if this type of limitation is still legal or not.”

  41. Xaraja*

    One of the great things about managing the outcome instead of the method is that it helps you manage different work styles effectively and fairly. I sometimes feel like I’m cheating because I get really great reviews and get a lot done but I’m looking at my phone a lot. On the other hand, I don’t really have a hurry mode, other than not looking at my phone. I can’t work faster because I don’t know how to work slower. Apparently is the way I stop to think or wait while my brain catches up or whatever it is people do when they are working slower. If you insist I always look like I’m working, you burn me out. If you keep giving me more work and pushing me to hurry you’ll burn me out faster. Every boss I’ve left has told me that they were going to have to hire multiple people to replace me (sigh). But if you expect a high level of work and accuracy without worrying about how I do it and without trying to fill several roles with just me, you’ll get it (and I’ll finish some puzzles on my phone and listen to a lot of podcasts along the way, and I’ll be happier and stay longer).

  42. Edward John Williams*

    I have an idea!
    Pay them a living wage so one full-time job is enough.
    Please nominate me for the Nobel prize in economics.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      As others have pointed out, this is most seen in positions like tech and software development that are well paid. The letter we had from someone doing this was working two director level positions. They’re just remote and low contact so the opportunity is more present.

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        I’d be curious to see actual statistics on that. I remember the letter about the director-level positions, but I wouldn’t take a letter here as indication that this is most seen with high-paying jobs. A couple commenters have said their impressions are that it’s happening in tech/software dev with high-paid positions, but I wonder how prevalent it actually is. I know the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece about it last year, but it wasn’t clear if it was something they saw happening within that group of people or if the majority of people double-dipping on jobs consisted of that group.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It’s going to be a ridiculously difficult thing to get statistics on, but anecdotally a lot of the articles I’ve seen and the people who self-report on the reddit for this are definitely tech focused.

  43. Legalize Texas*

    I think the “people are working multiple remote jobs as a big scam” thing is actually extremely rare and the supposed preponderance of cases in the news is astroturfing to make people skeptical of remote work / skeptical of people who are actually having family emergencies and need flexibility. I doubt there is a single person on the planet earth who actually needs to worry about preventing or catching this among their employees.

  44. Daria grace*

    I want to know where people are finding these jobs with so much spare time and flexibility. Not because I plan to have multiple but because it would be so nice to have some wriggle room in my packed work schedule

    Please try not to read anything into whether they’ve updated LinkedIn. For those of us who don’t use it much job hunting and don’t use it at all while employed, updating it is a task easily forgotten

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I also wonder because I have days of 6-7 hours of meetings. Sometimes it’s so many meetings, I literally need another 4-5 hours to actually work.
      I wonder how anyone could escape all the meetings nowadays?

  45. tinyhipsterboy*

    “The worst of these types will claim sick children, dead relatives, and other similar excuses to play on your emotions and drag out the extra paycheck as long as they can.”

    Something about this phrasing rubs me the wrong way. You absolutely shouldn’t lie about drastic situations like that, but “play on your emotions” seems a bit… idk, drastic? If the job paid well enough, it wouldn’t be nearly as likely that workers would need a second job, for one thing. I’d also worry that letting that bitterness build up will end up with you not believing anyone that actually needs some slack…

  46. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    My company has recently hired a whole bunch of new people. Some of these people are in sales ir product development roles, and I know they’re not being managed because they seem to have no idea what their job is, or what to sell. It would be very easy for someone to work another job, especially if they’re based in the West.

    Haven’t heard of it happening yet here though we did have one person who regularly falls asleep on meetings or randomly blurts out inconsequential questions about things that have been covered. Perhaps that’s their problem?

  47. MarySH*

    This feels like the “this is what happens when people work from home!” scary story that employers use to force people back into the office “JUST IN CASE”.

  48. Alli*

    I am fine with people working second jobs, but I think you need to be clear what is core business hours for required real time meetings. I worked a full-time job that was the (known to us, but not their other employer) second job for other people. If it was just completing deliverables it would have worked, but it was next to impossible to schedule team necessary meetings that included these people. It could have worked and I believe people can have second full time jobs ethically, but only if it doesn’t inconvenience your colleagues.

  49. münchner kindl*

    After getting over the cultural disconnect that it’s allowed, I now see the funny side on how “US has almost no employee protection laws” now bites employers in the ass.

    In EU countries, employee protection laws forbid people from working more than 40 hours per week (and unless special reasons, more than 8 hours per day without break) because employees are humans, and humans need periods to eat and sleep.
    And because humans do not live to work, but work to live (= pay the bills).
    Along with a culture where most people have a contract, and definitly will be reported to tax office and health insurance.

    So anybody trying to work more than one full-time position outside the US would quickly be found out and in trouble for breaking the law. (Two part-time jobs that add up to max. of 40 hours = legal; two part time jobs that add up to 50 or more hourse = illegal).

    As for freelancing in addition to one full-time employee job: I don’t know the legal specifics on that, but I’ve never heard of that either.

    Because the law requires employers to give breaks and rest to employees, in turn employees are expected to generally be rested and refreshed when returning to work. That doesn’t mean people can’t have strenous hobbies or drink on the weekend; but working more than one full-time job would exhaust normal people too much to give their best at either.

    I also disagree with Alison’s take that a good manager should spot Joe doing less-than-good work and therefore it be treated as performance problem, because people aren’t robots.

    If Joe and Bill work at slightly different speeds, that may simply be because Joe is a bit quicker than Bill. Putting Joe on a performance plan for that seems unduly harsh, and could lead into the method of “every year, we fire the bottom 10% of performers” which is.. not good management.

  50. Ash4225*

    I’ve been working anywhere between 2-4 jobs since Nov 2021 (combo of FT & PT). It’s hard and I work 7 days a week and long hours to accomplish everything I need but it’s totally worth it because I can actually survive and put a roof over my head and food on the table. Bottom line is I don’t do this bc I want to but because I have to and I wish it were more acceptable for companies to allow this. If the person is performing at the level you need them to and their not flaky with attendance then I’d encourage you to let it go. I wonder if this is part of the reason companies are so adamant about returning to the office in some capacity….

  51. Aitch Arr*

    Make sure you have a robust reference and background check process, including looking at LinkedIn.

    Our reference check vendor flagged duplicate IPs from multiple references that were supposed to be from different companies in different geographic areas. The IP address also matched the candidate’s.

  52. Umm really*

    This is why some employers don’t want to allow remote work. It is really freaking hard on small business owners when this happens, and there are zero repercussions to employees so far, but criminal charges as well as civil liability may start in the future.

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