My job has been in a sort of stale area for a week or two where there just isn't anything to do while we wait for the next big event to start up. Management has been keeping us busy with remedial tasks that don't really need to be done and are scarce already.

The problem I'm having is that I'm a fairly fast-paced worker and like to get things done, and don't really care about the fact that there'll be nothing to do later. However, my co-workers like to intentionally slow down their work in order to make these remedial tasks last longer so they can continue getting paid. I can understand slowing down a little and "taking it easy" but they are literally doing one or two things at a time and then taking a break in between. Tasks that should only take a couple hours are taking them entire 8-hour shifts, and it's really bugging me just sitting around waiting for them to catch up all the time.

Everyone hates being the snitch, and everyone hates being sent home without pay. So everyone especially hates being the snitch that gets everyone sent home without pay, but even so, it still bothers me. I hate the fact that telling my boss would get us sent home, but she's the one that complained about a $78 box of materials that got misused and wasted and, well, paying us to do nothing is wasting a lot more than $78.

What's the best way to approach your boss to indicate that there just isn't enough work to sustain us and that everyone is working much, much slower than they ought to be working in order to compensate? How do you encourage co-workers to continue working at a normal pace, even if it causes them a little loss of pay? Should I even encourage them to work normally or just not worry about it and sit there?

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    You mean to say there is literally nothing you can think of to benefit the company? No skills which will be useful to practice for the next projects? No documentation/processes which can be improved? No standard templates or other generic types of things you can develop to help with future projects?
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 17:11
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    Commenters, I don't see why you assume that this is project based work or even an IT project. The OP never stated this. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 11:16
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    @maple_shaft I specifically worded my comment to not be focused on any industry but rather be generic. I can't help you interpreted it from your perspective (although this is the purpose of a generic comment like that, so anyone reading it applies their work environment to see examples which might apply).
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 13:34
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    Your boss may not consider paying contractors to stay available to be wasting money. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 19:21
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    Write documentation... Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 13:59

8 Answers 8


What's the best way to approach your boss to indicate that there just isn't enough work to sustain us and that everyone is working much, much slower than they ought to be working in order to compensate?

Personally, I think it's reasonable for you to offer yourself up as cost-saving to your boss, but it's not your job to offer everyone else up.

You could go to your boss and say "There really isn't enough work to do today. Why don't you send me home and bring me back when there's enough work?"

If your intent is to save your boss money, this will help you accomplish your goal and make you feel good about yourself. It's also possible that your boss will take your situation and generalize it to others and send them home as well - but that's not your problem unless you make that suggestion. I suspect your conscience could be clear if you just focus on yourself.

On the other hand, if your intent is to get others sent home (either instead of you or in addition to you), then you most likely can't do that directly without incurring their wrath. You get to decide if you are more bothered that people are milking the clock, or will be more bothered by everyone hating you if you bring that to the attention of your boss.

I usually advise people to focus on themselves and their own situation, and let management focus on others. But your mileage may vary.

[Addendum: I am not saying "it is OK to allow your coworkers to steal from your employer", nor am I saying "it is only wrong to "snitch" because then you will be hated". I am saying that it is not your job to prevent your co-workers from milking the clock. That job belongs to management, not you. I am also saying that you can indeed choose to be a snitch if that is your preference, even though that is also not your job. But I am saying that you shouldn't expect to be liked by your co-workers for it if you do so. You probably won't actually be liked by your boss if you do (in my years of experience, bosses dislike snitches as much as co-workers do). Still, it is indeed your conscience that should guide you, and it's your choice to make. I hope that helps clear up my answer.]

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    "in my years of experience, bosses dislike snitches as much as co-workers do" -- which is among the reasons that e.g. foreign exchange traders can get away with frauds worth billions. Both the thief and the person who reports them get it in the neck, albeit the former more publicly. The fact that it's not right doesn't mean you can necessarily ignore that it's true... Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 18:41
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    +1. However I would worry that even if OP offered to go home without pay without reference to the others, then it would only be a small extra step for the manager to send others home, and OP would still get the blame... Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 13:13

To some extent I can sympathise with people who simply need the money to pay their mortgage and feed their children, and who cannot miss the paychechk just because management has poorly planned. In addition, I agree with both commenters on your question that I'm surprised there is nothing to do. Reading books to enhance your knowledge, write documentation, refactoring code (assuming you program), brainstorming with colleagues how things can be improved.

In stead of getting your co-workers sent home, you could also try and make your and their time more productive by suggesting alternative options in how to fill the time. If you play this right, everyone will be more productive and happy, including the management. If this is not possible, ratting out your colleagues to your boss will not make you popular, and it might also backfire if your boss also does not appreciate the ratting out.

If you cannot make something productive out of it, and you keep feeling strongly about this, you could also try and find another job where this does not happen. In addition, I wholeheartedly agree with @JoeStrazzere, focus on yourself, and let management do the managing.


I think your coworkers are acting in their in own rational interests here and you would be unwise to say anything.

I am not saying that you should also milk your hours but perhaps find other things to do to fill your time and report your accomplishments on unassigned tasks to your manager. Unless your manager is grossly incompetent, he will realize that you personally are achieving all of your tasks and goals at a fraction of the other employees.

The correct thing for the manager to do will be to downsize the team or find more tasks at this point. Doing this requires competent management that is not spineless (an apparently endangered species based on my career experience), but if they do not posess these qualities then in the very least if hard financial times force them to address the issue then you will stand out as the single most productive person on the team and that will only bode well for you.


Everyone always assumes management doesn't know about these things and if they did, they'd share it with everyone. It's so obvious based on the way you explained it. Personally, I think your company would be wise to allow people some slow time between projects. Hopefully this will decrease the risk of burn-out during the next project.

Creating 'busy work' is the worse thing they can do. Some people will latch on to these time wasters when meaningful work needs to be done especially if the new project is more difficult.

As others mentioned, this is a good time for self-study and researching other technologies and methodologies.

If you're so worried about the company paying people to not work, why don't you ask to leave early for no pay? Either that, or take vacation time.

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    I like this answer for a salaried guy, but as currently worded it seems like the OP and his team are paid hourly. Many employers of hourly workers will actually reprimand people who do self study and research on company time. Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 16:45

Nobody likes the situation you described of wasting time. Someone will get fed up with it and leave eventually which is most likely cheaper and with less risk than having someone get laid off.

Fight laziness and worry about improving your skills and give it time. Most companies have no problems with their people studying or improving their abilities during work hours as long as it doesn't negatively affect their work. Being paid hourly might change this so you should know your environment first. Another benefit is that if your boss talks to you about your studying during work hours it can open a door to a positive discussion that I would highly recommend keeping your co workers out of and focusing on your career growth.

Human resources are different than material resources. A wasted box of materials is something everyone should try to avoid because it shows bad processes or inefficiency. The wasted time of an employee is far more expensive however it is cheaper than employee turn over and it gives your company the potential to increase production as needed without the headache of hiring and training.

Improve yourself and be patient. Don't let the negative atmosphere turn you against people that you should have positive relationships with.


You would be ill-advised to go to your boss and complain that other workers should be sent home (in your opinion) as that could be perceived as criticism of your boss, instead of improving the team, which you are hoping that it might be.

There's also the very unpleasant fact that one or more of your co-workers might be personal friends of your boss outside of work and your comments could very easily find their way into an off-work conversation about you. Things will get very unpleasant for you if this does occur and you may find yourself the odd person out in a small department.

That's not a pleasant situation in which to find yourself.

If you are doing your job effectively, that's all that matters. If you are asked for some input, then provide it in a tactful manner and make certain that it appears that you are attempting to improve the "team" and not single out others for criticism. If you do single out others, you'll simply make yourself appear to be the problem and that's almost as bad as being the odd person out.

Finally, your boss manages your department. If he or she cannot do so effectively, either his/her upper management will realize this and replace them. Or you may find that you need to transfer to another department within your agency and advance your career in that manner, leaving your former inefficient workplace in the past.

most businesses are set up to protect those in charge. Your boss will see your suggestion as an implication that he/she isn't doing their job and they might fear that if they don't curtail you immediately that you'll go over their head. While this might get them in trouble briefly, it will definitely target YOU as being a "trouble maker" and you might yourself yearning for the days before you decided to voice your opinion.

  • +1 for "your comments could very easily find their way into an off-work conversation about you" and for "perceived criticism of the boss". Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 13:16

While its annoying to feel that others are not working as hard as you. It is not your responsibility to determine who is wasting time or working hard. Your boss had no issue pointing out wasted supplies, trust her judgement on your co-workers. Your boss has likely noticed you work harder than others, but even if she has not, it is not your place to point it out.

You should either make peace that your co-workers are slower than you, and enjoy that you will likely have a long tenure at this company, or start looking for another job in a faster-paced environment.

Never suggest that a co-worker is slow/wasting time/incompetent unless you are explicitly asked by your boss about that person. This is why your boss is "the boss" - her job is to judge when someone is truly slow or incompetent, and inform them of this fact.


It's really depressing to read so many are outright ok with theft. A job is a contract between the employer and the employee. You both have an obligation to perform to the contract implied and stated. When you get a job, it's directly implied that you will work at an efficient pace. You have a responsibility to do this, its part of your side of the bargain. If you saw a co worker taking materials from the biz and others were also doing it, would you think, hey if I don't steal I am in the ethical zone :).

Turn it around, what would you say if you were a boss and another boss was cheating his/her workers out of pay?

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