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So I've been working full-time for the past year and a half approximately as a software engineer. And I was working part-time for them about a year and a half before that, including some full-time as summer internship. Now this seems like a silly question to me, but I've only had maybe one review out of 4 or 5 that I believe was fair and that was the first one I received as an intern, which was a satisfactory. All others have been overly generous to the point of wondering if my company is blind, basically at excellent performer level. More recently however, my reviews have even been more overly positive and included a promotion that increased my salary by around 10% or so. Even going so far to say that according to other managers, I'm close to the top employee in my level, which I clearly think is bullshit. Should I be suspicious about anything?

Now for some context on me, for the past year my work has DEFINITELY not been the best, in fact probably some of the worst and I would've fired me. I've been slacking off more due to lack of motivation and trying to find a new job. My worst offenses include leaving early fairly regularly, falling asleep at work for 1-4 hours at a time fairly regularly, and browsing the internet for the majority of the remaining time of my work day. Sometimes even filling out job applications, while at work. This has been going on for over a year, yet I'm still receiving a surprising amount of glowing praise. None of this has ever been directly seen by one of my managers, but it has to have had a noticeable affect on my performance that would be able to be seen instantly because I don't work at an insane pace.

Now for some context on my workplace, things do move slowly here for sure in a lot of ways. For example and one of the major reasons my work ethic is so screwed right now, for my first year plus here and even for about 3 months last year I had nothing assigned to me about 80% of the time due to most work being classified and needing to wait on clearance. Due to being in a classified environment, documentation is thin where available and code may be documented poorly to prevent classifying it and adding additional red tape to keeping it. This place also happens to have a relatively high turnover, like during the past month we had at least 3 early - mid-level employees leave during everything going on. Out of all the interns that I came in with, which was about 7-10 people, only me and one other still remain and even most of the full-time employees I was around at the time are gone too.

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    What aren't you getting done that you're supposed to be? You say that you haven't had any actual work 80% of the time, so what was your manager expecting to do with that time? – BSMP Jun 25 at 2:21
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    It’s unusual for the security clearance process (even at the highest levels) to take a year and a half. If you had a complicated background check you might want to check on the status. – Donald Jun 25 at 3:52
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    @BSMP Certain coding assignment, I have a bad habit of sitting on for a bit when I get stuck. I have gotten assignments recently that wound up being much more difficult, mostly due to poor coding practices in my opinion, than expected or just stupidly tedious from miscommunication. – Shirohige6969 Jun 25 at 12:12
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    @Donald The actual security clearance took almost a full year, but in addition to that I needed a special program access which took another 3 months. By that point, I was only coming in part-time and with no guidance, I never really got anything done until I started full-time. Sorry for the misunderstanding. – Shirohige6969 Jun 25 at 12:13
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    @Shirohige6969 If you choose to work in the government / military milieu - you're simply describing how life is in that scene. Nothing surprising. There's a reason we all joke about governments spending $500 on a hammer and governments using money like Niagra uses water. You are literally part of that system. If you don't like it and want out, leave today! (It's totally pointless worrying about building your skill set, etc - all software becomes redundant in months/years, it's a non-issue.) If you choose to stay for the money, do that and accept it's the norm. – Fattie Jun 26 at 12:50
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I wouldn't suggest being "suspicious" in that there isn't a nefarious reason for this that makes sense. In an environment where there is high turnover of skilled positions, continuing to show up everyday may be enough to "exceed expectations". The simplest explanation to me is there is a misalignment in level of expectations between yourself and the company.

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    I've seen this behaviour happen before in situations were they're looking to promote you out in to a position where you will do the least damage, while not risking upsetting you. Sort of a solution for "Peter Principle" situations. – Malisbad Jun 26 at 8:13
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    @Malisbad It was merely a promotion from Engineer 1 to Engineer 2. My job didn't really change, but it came with an ~10% pay increase. – Shirohige6969 Jun 30 at 11:53
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I think your behaviour doesn't sound good... but in the current organisation, if other people are not even turning up at the office - then sleeping for 4hours is certainly better than that.

If you've outlasted all those people, you definitely know more about the work, and the documentation. I think you've got what qualifies as a "cushy job" - professionally boring, but plenty of time for "hobbies" and living life.

If you're at the top of your level, I'd be angling for a promotion and pay rise. Maybe even 2 levels. I mean let's look at the facts, you know more than anyone, you should have minions reporting to you (cue megalomaniac laughing)

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  • I'm actually just an Engineer 2. In other words, my promotion was from a level 1 to a level 2 engineer. Most people are turning up at the office for the required time, to my knowledge, and I feel like most people are doing the work required. As much as I would like to ride that notoriety to the top, I don't feel like I'd be in a position to take on more responsibility to that extent. Pretty sure that would blow up in my face, but it's just a guess. If I managed to push myself to an Engineer 3 or 4 or a manager, then there would be a lot more eyes on me which is what I'd be worried about. – Shirohige6969 Jun 25 at 12:16
  • Also, I agree that my behavior is not good at best and absolutely detestable at worst. Trying to change it, as I don't want it to bleed into a new job if I do find one. Still, I kinda resent my current company for leaving me with an empty plate for so long. In college, my work ethic was pretty solid. Almost never a late assignment and I could be comfortable working for hours on something with no breaks. After sitting at a desk for hours bored for weeks or months straight, I lost a lot of that work ethic and became more easily distracted. Not an excuse, just what happened. – Shirohige6969 Jun 25 at 12:30
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point of wondering if my company is blind

They often look at things narrowly. All that matters is what your managers/reviewers see.

My managers interact with me directly maybe 20 minutes a week directly now that we are remote. There are weeks where I don’t speak to either of them at all. I then sit in on a 4 hour sprint meeting with everyone where I barely speak, but they see the tickets I have done in sprint. That’s it. I am mostly evaluated based on that ticket board and those two minimal meetings. I can’t see how anything else factors into how I am judged as nobody is around to know how I spend that time.

Is there a similar narrow window for you?

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  • My manager makes time for me to talk to him at least every other week for 20-30 minutes. We also have scrum, but my manager doesn't really attend that and in worst case scenario, you can make crap up or just say you're still working on the task from yesterday. It's kinda funny because we have a lot of peer feedback and my manager took the feedback on me and summarized it. Basically no negatives, which seems wrong to me. We usually keep sprint meetings to approximately an hour max. We work on a lot of hard stuff here, so maybe that's why nobody is worried about work being done slowly. – Shirohige6969 Jun 25 at 12:25
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Others may be right, but from my experience what matters most in the workplace is whether your bosses simply like you on a personal level.

This is normally just to some degree influenced by your performance. Mostly this has to do with the "chemistry" between you.

If they like you, you can slack off and be a jerk to others and you will still get excellent reviews and progress in your career. If they don't, you can be the most productive, diligent employee and be still bullied by them and let go.

It's not fair but it's true. There are rational factors that could have influenced your perf. reviews but the intangible ones shouldn't be neglected.

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Should I be suspicious about anything?

I don't see anything in you post to be suspicious about sounds like a standard government job.

There is a problem here though. Eventually (maybe even now) you'll be paid a handsome wage for doing virtually no work and when you look at other jobs you'll have to take a pay cut to do more work. There will be the odd job that pops up that will pay more but if you continue to fall asleep and do little to no work your skill set will be left behind.

This will trap you in your current job which is sounds like you hate so I would be careful. What often happens is that time rolls by and you just fall into this comfort trap until. You dept will be made redundant. Someone somewhere is keeping you all around and justifying the little amount of work you do but that will not last forever. Maybe that person will leave or maybe the government will change and whatever it is you do will get replaced but I guarantee that time will come. If you do nothing you'll find yourself out a job and needing to re-train to be hire-able.

There are ways around this:

  • Get another job but that is more 'normal' i.e. that you have to do real work and get things done on time
  • Work on your skills in your spare time. Given that you aren't doing anything for days on end you can up-skill yourself. Learn that new framework, programming language ...etc and post publicly about it
  • Try to get more involved in other departments in your org and get yourself noticed by another department and move

My advice is you have to do something you can't let this continue on.

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    I appreciate the advice. I'm actually working on a coding boot camp to try and get my work ethic back and build up a new skill set to leave this establishment before all hope is lost. I'm definitely not happy here and my main fear is that I get stuck only being able to find employment at similar places, which I'm not satisfied with. And yeah, I'm avoiding government jobs like the plague if and when I escape. – Shirohige6969 Jun 30 at 11:56

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