Someone had came to me with a job offer that sounded really good. I had high hopes but it turned out to be a train wreck. We worked in a very distributed environment. Our team consisted of about 5 people, all of whom were in different time zones except me and my "boss". (I put boss in quotes because he said he was hired as a contractor because the company wasn't supposed to hire employees from out country)

For example I was tasked with answering questions users posted to our internal forum. A lot of the time I did not know the answer and our platform was missing a lot of documentation. So I started asking my boss what the answer to the questions on the forum was. So it was just him writing the answer, then me effectively copying his answer. Should I have pointed this out and if so, how?

Also I did not get access to the accounts or company supplied laptop I needed for half the length of the contract. (this is total speculation but I think my boss had somehow rigged it so just having hired me made him money or increased his budget)


You can ask your direct supervisor about it.

You do what's asked to the best of your ability, but if there's anything shady, you CYA. If your employer wants to pay you to be a message relay, then that's what you do.

  • "If your employer wants to pay you to be a message relay, then that's what you do." this is really good advice that I have remembered
    – JazzgeMica
    Oct 1 at 0:05

If you're just copy pasting, you're doing it wrong. You should be reading what he wrote and learning the system so you don't need to ask a second time. If the docs are bad, keep a personal list of Q&As so you can answer in the future. It's ok not to know the first time, but you can increase your value to the organization by learning and improving the system for the next person to do your job.


You do contract work my friend. Whatever your contract describes and nothing more. Nothing less either.

Are you employed to audit the business model of the company that signs your paycheques? If not, then don't.

I understand your ethical concerns, I've been in your shoes many times. But what your employer does with your time, skills and their money should not be your concern, as long as you have no stake in the company.

What I did to navigate this kind of situation was to subtly nudge my employer into giving me more complex tasks that were in line with my skills. Avoid making major changes without asking for permission first, as it might be seen as breach of contract.

In this specific situation, without understanding the exact context you are in, what I did is I tried to automate as much of the boring stuff as possible. If your company has stuff like Confluence or some other similar tools, try documenting the most common answers there in an easy to navigate manner and just refer further questions to the pages.

If your coworkers are willing, try to spread this information around, so that if your boss is not around, someone can still answer the questions.

Lack of proper documentation is a common issue in many companies. As a contractor you cannot fix their way of documenting work, but you can raise the fact that this makes the contract a lot harder to fulfil. Make a note of all missing documentation and make sure your manager has it in writing, so you cover your ass in case someone upstairs asks why the contractor is so slow at his job.

Access to company resources is a PITA for most contract works I've done. Either credentials to login, access to onsite resources, code repositories, discussion groups etc. If this is your first contract work, it makes sense you're concerned if they failed to give you credentials to login for a long time. It happens. I've had a colleague that billed a company for 3 months without ever accessing his work laptop because they never provided credentials to login. It took the IT dept of that company that long to generate credentials for him. Without them he could do nothing productive, but he had to be available on phone to get on the team meetings. So he billed them and they paid.

If this is your first contract, I can see why you're so concerned about all this stuff. But know that this kind of things happen. And it's not your fault, or the hiring company's fault. Just fulfil your contract to the best of your abilities and try to help your coworkers if you can. Everything else is out of your control.

  • Some contracts are written in such a way that the "client" can tell you to do just about anything and not much is out of scope of the contract. But agreeing to such a contract is not a mistake I will make again.
    – JazzgeMica
    Jun 10 at 8:21
  • Do you have any resources where I can see example contracts were the work to be done is clearly spelled out and not just "to full fill any requests made by client".
    – JazzgeMica
    Jun 10 at 8:22
  • It's a negotiation, I usually have an annex with all activities outlined. It's like a job description but not a job description otherwise they would not hire a contractor.
    – BoboDarph
    Jun 10 at 9:30
  • @JazzgeMica Typically, the contract is general but refers to "Appendix A" where the project is laid out. Beware of having multiple appendixes listing duties that conflict.
    – David R
    Jun 10 at 21:26

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