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I was hired 3 months ago as a web developer at a company to work on a project and 2 months ago that project was killed.

Ever since then I'm given all sorts of tasks, like testing and cleaning printers, but nothing that fits my actual job description.

As I finish whatever I was given to do, they leave me alone for days straight.

In normal situation I would resign right away but I can't find another job and I need employment continuity since we have a lot of expenses at home.

So I'm stuck here.

My lead has been working with the company for 15+ years - is very comfortable and doesn't care about what I think or say.

I was thinking to approach his immediate superior to let him know of my situation and maybe propose some web development projects I could work on, to show him that I have skills that are being wasted on lichess.org, but I'm afraid of being overpowered by my lead's seniority and the possible repercussions.

If I'd have at least 1 year experience at this company I'd be more outspoken but I feel like I'm in a fragile position that I don't want to break.

How would you suggest I improve my situation at this company?


Update 25/07
I had an interview with HR at another company and was invited to a technical interview.
Meanwhile at this job I was given yet another QA task which I finished the next day. Since then, I'm contributing to StackOverflow and counting the hours till my technical interview

Update 30/07
I had the technical interview, was given an offer, I accepted it and will soon leave this job. Thanks to anyone who contributed to this.

Once again, due to the lack of interest from the company side, the right approach was to change jobs as soon as possible.
However, if there are signs that the lack of work is temporary, then the right thing to do would be, indeed, to take the time to learn something new, get familiar with code bases, technologies used at the company, write documentation etc.

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    If you go to your boss's boss to explain that you think you're redundant, it's very (very) likely that he'll agree with you. – Richard Jul 17 '18 at 22:54
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    This is not a dupe after the how can I kill... question because that question is for people who are fine with having time to kill, while I'm looking to fix that asap. – user90357 Jul 23 '18 at 6:55
  • @user90357 The OP in the duplicate question is not fine with having time to kill -- that person tried to find work but did not succeed. – mcknz Jul 24 '18 at 16:31
  • Unlike most people, you seem to have a really good reason for quitting your job after less than a year--you were hired as a web developer and they're making you clean printers. Start looking for another job and don't quit until you find one. – AffableAmbler Jul 24 '18 at 18:25
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+1000

Having been in this position myself, my answer to you is that you're probably on your way out the door. You can try the suggestions here like "learn something" or something like that, but if your boss won't give you any hand-on way to apply what you've learned and you don't know anything about the project roadmap so you don't know what's useful or not, it's hard to build something yourself, especially for a company that's already old/established and may have established tools and so on that they use.

My recommendation would be:

1) Talk to your manager and strenuously mention that you would like to do something for the team. Your manager already knows what you're doing (presumably) so he knows you're not being productive. Show that you want to be productive.

2) If your manager doesn't have anything to give you, it's time to start looking for a new job. Once you've been benched, it's super hard to get unbenched. The company is effectively OK with paying you for doing effectively nothing (because they haven't fired you yet), so use those paycheques to keep you afloat until you do find something else. But you should start looking ASAP because things are not going to get better.

In my case, my manager continually promised me new projects or new tasks, but they never materialized; don't make the same mistake I did. If I was to do it over again, I would have a 1:1 meeting with my manager, let him know that I felt like I was being benched and I wanted to contribute, and then immediately go back to my deck and change my LinkedIn settings on the spot, without waiting for my manager's response (this was my mistake; I trusted my manager and he betrayed my trust, which led me into a bad situation). You can always cancel your job search if you feel the current situation is getting better, but starting a new job search after you've been fired (or when you're close to being fired) is hard.

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    you're probably on your way out the door It feels like that. I can sense you were in the same position yourself because you touched the right points. I need to double my efforts of getting hired some place else. Thanks! – user90357 Jul 18 '18 at 7:43
  • @user90357 Best of luck to you! I'm sorry to hear that someone else has been put in that similar position to what happened to me. – Ertai87 Jul 18 '18 at 13:34
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    As a side note, start banking as much of your salary as you possibly can, just in case. Quit eating out, going to the movies, etc. If you manage to find a job before being shown the door here, you'll have a nice little chunk of change to pay down an existing debt or be able to pat yourself on the back with a new "toy" for your forward thinking. If not, it might just keep a roof over your head until something new comes along. – FreeMan Jul 18 '18 at 20:31
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So you've been benched and you're awaiting another project to start on.

What do you do in the meantime - learn.

Take some time to learn the systems and processes that are in place at the site. If any of them use technologies that you're not familiar with, learn them. Look at the work you've done before - be critical of it and see if there's any way you could have done it better. However, don't do this if it impacts current projects and bear in mind that changes you make will need to be signed off and tested before being released. It's better to analyse and test these changes in isolation before proposing them to be included in the formal codebase.

You really don't want boredom to lead to you being branded a loose cannon.

Use this slack time for self-improvement as much as you can do.

You can, of course, propose working on things, but make sure that they'll be relevant to future project work (same technologies being used).

You can also see if any of your colleagues need help with anything (without badgering them too much)

Or you can YouTube cat videos.

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    I wish I could give another +1 for cat videos. – Nacorid Jul 18 '18 at 11:25
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    +1 If I could be paid for watching cat videos, I'd be a happy man. – Pharap Jul 19 '18 at 7:55
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    I wish I didn't have to say this exact thing to employees who come to me with the statement "I finished and I don't know what to do." – Allan Jul 19 '18 at 13:59
  • Old post, but the OP is only 3 months in with the new company. I suspect at that point you'd either know something is coming up or there is a serious problem. If after doing a major project or sprint, it's expected to have down time before the next sprint. The OP never did anything at all for 3 months into a new job after the project he was supposed to work on was killed. – Dan Jul 31 '18 at 12:27
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In the same vein as the other answer; you should be experimenting, writing tools, learning the codebase, asking questions, interfacing with other teams, etc..

When you do this and learn enough about the company you will find problems that need to be solved. Maybe you can refactor a chunk of the codebase nicely and do a proof-of-concept to show it has positive performance and readability gains. Maybe by chatting with other teams and getting an idea of the workflow and what everyone is doing you'll find contradictions between the teams and attempt to solve the problem.

If you want to get yourself in a real bind, go over your lead's head and try to tattle. You'll not only be disrespecting your lead (warranted or not) but you'll look like someone who isn't busy and can't figure how to make himself worth it.

So, as the other answer suggested; you have two real options:

  • be lazy and see how long you can coast. You won't see raises but you may see continued employment.

  • inject yourself into the company and look for problems. FIND things to fix. Look for inefficiencies, look for dead code, look for problems. Adopt someone unofficially as your mentor and start having morning conversations about concepts you need to grasp, why something was done a certain way, etc etc.


I was originally hired at a company in a skunksworks position for which the manager who hired me and the mentor I was put under were both gone within a year or so. I was left to work different codebases using different technologies and with different expectations. I ended up doing both of the above solutions at different points of that job and I can say that the first one is much less satisfying. If you find yourself falling into that, you need to look for a thing to do and do it. Not just for your sake, but it means that you're sort of "Checking out" of your job.

Right now you still give a damn, use that as a driver. Become good at something there through interfacing with others and once someone is asking you a question on how something works; you'll find you'll have created value. It takes awhile to get there; but you're one amazing idea away from being a recognizable and valued part of the team. Find that hole, plug it, and look/feel great for doing it.

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    "[...] you're one amazing idea away from being a recognizable and valued part of the team." <-- if needed, frame this or make a simple image and use it as your screensaver on your pc or a background image on your phone. Everytime you're doing nothing, you will see this. – Ismael Miguel Jul 18 '18 at 9:15
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Write documentation

Most places have lots of things that everyone knows but are never written down, which makes the lives of new hires more difficult. Assuming you stay, you'll need to learn these things anyway; if you have free time, start recording your knowledge in a wiki (or other linkable format) for the next guy.

3

Have you tried to get a 1-on-1 meeting with your boss? Don't say you're doing nothing, and that you aren't doing what you were hired to do. Instead ask what sort of projects you can work on.

At 3 months in, it's simply too short of time to just be "sitting around doing nothing." You should have some sort of idea what is going on and what is going to happen. If you worked there for over a year, downtime is expected and you can do constructive things. But this is 3 months into a job and unless you're getting up to speed or know of something coming, you should definitely consult with your boss on what to do or what's going to be happening.

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Don't "confront" your boss. If and when he can make good use of you, he will be there to tell you, for sure.

If you wish to talk with him, talk to him in a level way. Maybe view him as coach or guide, if you believe he can fulfill this role. Then set out to acquire more knowledge about whatever you fancy. You seem to be having a lot of spare time on your hand. Do whatever you feel like! Learn a new programming language or a new library. Learn Angular if you don't know it yet. Find a way to branch out into testing, devops, CI/CD or whatever (as far as it interests you and supports your role as web developer). Find an internal application that needs an overhaul, and do it. And so on and so forth.

Above all, try to be positive about that. I know that some people need constant outside pressure to function; don't try to wilt just because you're missing that. Treat it as an opportunity.

2

Here comes a little tough love intended to be taken constructively.

Asking how to “confront” your lead and casually considering going over his head after having been with the company a whopping three months comes across as startlingly arrogant — particularly for someone who admittedly does not have other job options.

Why “doesn't [he] care about what [you] think or say”? That’s a big red flag that your relationship with your lead isn’t what it should be. You don’t owe us an answer, but think hard about it and look at the situation from his perspective. Do not stop at “he’s just an idiot.” He’s been there 15+ years and is trusted enough to have a leadership role, so he’s been doing something right. Go privately to people whom you trust to give you frank feedback and ask habits or mannerisms you have that may rub people the wrong way at work. Listen with an open mind, listen rather than arguing or getting defensive, and then fix any negatives they have the courage to bring to your attention.

You haven’t told us your career goals, but if you’d like to be in his role, a great way to do that is to help your current lead get promoted, leaving you as the best candidate with his recommendation for you to be promoted into his old spot. What pressures does he face? What problems or frustrations of his can you take off his plate so he can worry about issues that are more important but not as urgent? How can you help him be more effective in his role? You’re in a lull, so look for ways to use your increased availability to help him with whatever keeps him up at night.

On the flip side, a near-guaranteed way to destroy the relationship forever is to embarrass him in front of his superiors. Absolutely do not go over his head about this. Work with your lead to build the relationship and trust. You do not want the reputation of a loose cannon who runs around stirring up trouble over minor issues.

If you realize mistakes you may have made with your lead or things you’ve said or done that may have come across the wrong way where he avoids you or gives you grunt tasks hoping you’ll quit, go to your lead to clear the air and let him know that even though you started off on the wrong foot with each other, you’d like to put it behind you. Be sincere. Be patient because it may take time for your efforts to bear fruit. Don’t be pushy. Don’t turn him off by trying too hard.

You have an opportunity to turn this negative situation into multiple positives: by actively working on your relationship with your lead, you will improve your day-to-day work life and also grow as a professional.

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