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[There's a TL;DR version at the bottom]

I am currently employed as a Warehouse Colleague for a large distribution centre. My general role is very menial, a low stress job that has very low skill requirements, such as opening cardboard boxes. 5 months into employment my employer became aware of my work history as a software developer (which I left as I wanted programming to remain a hobby rather than a career). They then seconded me into the IT department as an admin role (Again, basic tasks requiring no real skill-set).

I am on £2 an hour less than anyone else in the department (due to the secondment and my official position remaining the same), but I was fine with that because I enjoy the work and the team I was with (and otherwise I'd just be on the same money picking in the warehouse).

Up until the start of this year we had a department manager that handled on-site software development, who has since moved on to a better position. This left several planned projects with nobody with the skill-set to action them. Once again they took note of my development history and came to me, asking if I could take on the projects. I initially saw this as an opportunity to be noticed across the business and (at least) be put on an equal standing as the other members of my department.

6 months and a couple of very successful projects later (for which I've generated a lot of praise for), it's becoming painfully obvious that they have absolutely no intentions of changing anything about my working conditions.

  • I have politely enquired about future prospects and have been flatly told that there won't "really" be any. As soon as they feel I've expired my worth, I will be back in the warehouse picking.
  • I have asked if I can no longer be a part of the projects, I have been told that is not an option that I have.
  • I have offered to train other higher position members of the team how to develop software, and have been told that isn't an option.

My situation is rapidly getting worse, the previous projects were all great to work on and I was included on all the meetings and was able to set my own work-load and deadlines (which I kept in favour of the businesses needs, even when it required me to work late hours).
The next project coming up is significantly more complex (requiring the creation of a networked cross-platform business application for desktops and tablets linked into an Oracle 11g database). I am being refused access to the meetings, I am being refused access to communications regarding the project and being left completely in the dark about deadlines. I have told them that I will only work on a project where I am at least included on meetings regarding major decisions, but they have retorted with "refusing to work is gross misconduct".
Due to the complexity of the proposed functionality (which continues to grow), and a very tight final deadline, I really feel this is much more than a one-man-job. Expectations seem to be running wild as there is nobody with any software development experience at any of these meetings.

I can't leave the company as I doubt I have any other employment prospects. My official position is a warehouse picker (not great for a C.V.) and if I leave, any references will likely be damning or at least not favourable.

  • Do I have any kind of leg to stand on if I refuse to work on this project?
  • Can I be dismissed or disciplined? (In an official capacity, I already know that I'll suffer serious backlash for this).
  • Is there any official body that can help me? (The Union won't get involved).

Any other actions I can take?

TL;DR

I'm a near minimum wage Warehouse worker being asked to handle Software Development Projects that used to be handled by a £42,000+ a year Manager. This is being required from me despite significantly lower wages than even the lowest paid members of the team (all of whom do not have any of these expectations put on them). I need to know how I can deal with this in an official sense, or at least properly communicate my displeasure of this situation to my employer (while minimising back-lash).

A few notes of clarity:

All of my projects have been deemed successful, I have got a lot of praise for them and I've met every deadline. I've been told that my conduct and mannerisms in meetings is exceptional and that I have a strong understanding of the businesses needs. The sole reason for excluding me from meetings is due to my low position and that higher management shouldn't be expected to communicate with me directly.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Mister Positive, Jim G., IDrinkandIKnowThings, Chris E May 18 '17 at 20:51

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions (e.g. "what job should I take?", or "what skills should I learn?"). Questions should get answers explaining why and how to make a decision, not advice on what to do. For more information, click here." – Jim G., Chris E
  • "Questions require a goal that we can address. Rather than explaining the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, see this meta post." – gnat, Mister Positive
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. For extended discussions, Get a Room (a chat room). – jmac Jul 10 '14 at 13:38
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    "I can't leave the company as I doubt I have any other employment prospects" -- to clarify, do you now want to work as a software developer, which you didn't want when you took this job? If so, then good advice how to present your work history when applying for jobs as a software developer would open the possibility of leaving. If not, then applying for jobs as a warehouse picker elsewhere would open the possibility of leaving. Not that I'm saying you need to leave, but you do absolutely need the option of leaving since that gives you the power to make demands of your current employer. – Steve Jessop Aug 24 '14 at 12:20
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    It is not common practise to ask for a reference form the employer you are currently leaving, so do not worry about that. – Mawg Aug 11 '16 at 10:39
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    Hello, Andrew. No, nothing to do with Brexit. This was posted nearly three years ago. I couldn't realistically look for new work at the time because public transport where I lived was incredibly limited and I didn't drive. The only industrial estate in our area was seeing the majority of its businesses closing, other than the one I worked at. – Darryl_Holmes May 12 '17 at 5:33
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    For anyone curious on the outcome: I left and started working for myself as a freelancer. After just over a year, I saw some success in that, but found I didn't have the business knowledge to take it further. I then went back to this employer (which is now owned by a different company) and have gotten a much more favourable, fair deal, working in a different department on a semi-technical role. – Darryl_Holmes May 12 '17 at 5:40
37

Apply the judo/jiu-jitsu principle, using your opponent's strength against him. Refusing to do software projects is counterproductive and shortsighted in the extreme. Because every software project that you complete successfully is one more argument to your next employer as to why they should hire you. If you keep refusing to do software projects, just WHAT arguments do you expect to make to your next employer to hire you? Put yourself in the shoes of your next employer who does not know you from Adam and who needs to have a way to differentiate you from Adam, and THINK!

You're going to make your money and you're going to have your promotion. Just not with this employer, who is out to bilk you for every bit of developer skill you've got, as they've made it abundantly clear from the way they treat you. The software development experience that you are acquiring is your key out of this jail cell. If you refuse to do the software development, you're throwing that key away. And you have no one but yourself to blame for being stuck in that jail cell.

No, they are not going to fire you, at least not right away, as long as they can take advantage of you. But they are going to treat you like dirt and make you suffer. That's hardly a good situation, though.

If you are into pain minimization, get the kind of experience that will be valuable to your next employer and use it as leverage to get out of here.

And please, the next time you read advice including mine, think about how sound it is before you apply it. Don't ever apply anything uncritically because some of us, including myself, are not always as smart as we think we are.

  • *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. For extended discussions, Get a Room (a chat room). – jmac Jul 10 '14 at 13:39
  • Well said and should be read by anyone who is feeling trapped and underpaid. Do the best job you can now, since it will only resonant more when you make the leap to greener pastures. – It'sPete Jul 10 '14 at 20:19
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    @It'sPete Not at all.In this case, it's a bad situation, and the question to ask is not either "How do I minimize the pain?"or "How do I get out of it?" but "How do I take advantage of it?". In this case, theadice I gave was"Take advantage of it so that you can get out of it and get into something better - Something that you deserve"I do not usually advise people to do the best they can if their situation is a dead end. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 11 '14 at 3:00
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Write up your resume, and start looking for other jobs. The company has what it wants - your expertise, at bargain-basement prices. They are not going to bend, because there's no benefit in it to them to work with you or otherwise accomodate you in any way. Time to take care of you. Look for other roles that utilize some of your skillset, pay better, but don't put you squarely back into a programming / developing career role.

Do not refuse to work on this upcoming project. It will only generate bad blood, get you deeply negative reviews, and will end up making your remaining time there miserable if not having them terminate your employment for cause. But plan to get out, and plan it now.

Your official title is warehouse picker...but you've done more than that. Change your job title to match what you did, not what they called you. Or make it a hybrid title. Listing out what you did, not just your title, will also catch employers' / recruiters' eyes.

Your recommendations don't HAVE to come from your supervisors; they can come from co-workers. (Ideally you should have supervisors' references, but when not possible, you work with what you have.)

You might also want to talk to your local labor board, explain your situation, and ask how you can best describe your situation to get your next roles. Know what roles you want to go for, versus the ones that you don't. There is a middle ground between "programmer" and "minimum-wage warehouse floorperson."

  • *comments removed* Remember what comments are for. For extended discussions, Get a Room (a chat room). – jmac Jul 10 '14 at 13:39
  • They are not going to bend, because there's no benefit in it If that were the case, nobody would ever get a raise. The benefit to the company is that it gets to keep a valuable employee. The only reasons not to work with the OP are that they don't value his/her contribution, or they don't believe the OP will leave. – Caleb May 16 '17 at 20:23
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Since you mention £ I guess you are in the UK.

What your employer is doing may be illegal; see this from the UK government. EDIT but you may not have been in employment with them long enough for this to apply.

Constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal is when you’re forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer’s conduct.

The reasons you leave your job must be serious, for example, they:

  • don’t pay you or suddenly demote you for no reason
  • force you to accept unreasonable changes to how you work (emphasis mine) - eg tell you to work night shifts when your contract is only for day work
  • let other employees harass or bully you

Your employer’s breach of contract may be one serious incident or a series of incidents that are serious when taken together.

You should try and sort any issues out by speaking to your employer to solve the dispute.

I'd second the suggestion of Citizens Advice.

The prospect of getting a new job with after tribunal hearing is probably a whole other can of worms.

EDIT

I had thought that the change of legislation on 2012-04-06 to require 2 years service applied only to unfair dismissal. However, it seems (e.g.) that the change in law also applies to constructive dismissal too; I feel the .gov.uk website could be clearer on this.

I'd reiterate my suggestion of seeking the help of Citizens Advice.

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    Could the downvoters please leave comments so I can understand what might be wrong with this answer. – Laurence Billingham Jul 9 '14 at 12:16
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They "became aware of your previous experience". To clarify, you have showed them your C.V. or resume directly? Discussed your previous knowledge and/or training in this area? If the culture were different and the time schedule reasonable do you have the skills to complete this project?

As soon as you have enough details about the project and deadlines, be sure to explain to them this project has a significantly higher risk of failure due to complexity, etc. Be specific. I agree with the others, work on the new project, but make sure to keep management informed in writing what you think are reasonable time scales and scope, perhaps even your manager's boss.

Have they asked you to be a part of the new project? Perhaps they already realize they need someone with a higher skill set and are planning on outsourcing it, hiring someone else or asking the software development department? How much of the new project have they asked you to do? Is it possible you're stressing out over something which they will only ask you to play a small role in?

Regarding the pay difference, are the tasks you've been doing in IT the same skill level as the better paid employees?

Also, you need to make some decisions for the longer term. Do you prefer manual labor and the career options they lead to? Would you prefer a low stress job in IT? As your skills and experience grow, more complex tasks will become less stressful. Perhaps find out ways of handling stress better. Keep in mind, simply resetting accounts and doing first level tech support has much better long term career options than being a warehouse picker.

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My official position is a warehouse picker (not great for a C.V.) and if I leave, any references will likely be damning or at least not favourable.

Put an entry on your CV saying 'Software Developer (secondment)' and list the projects you've delivered and your personal contribution to them.

When you're interviewed by other employers, make it clear to them that the company didn't update your official title; if they ask why, tell them whatever your boss told you.

They won't take up references until after you've got the job.

Due to the complexity of the proposed functionality (which continues to grow), and a very tight final deadline, I really feel this is much more than a one-man-job. Expectations seem to be running wild as there is nobody with any software development experience at any of these meetings.

Figure out who your boss is - if you got a raise, who would have signed the letter?

Talk to them and present the problems in a way that make the problems bad for them and the company. Don't talk about the impact on yourself, or the possibility of you working more than your contracted hours. Do not say "this is 20% more work than I can do so I'll have to work 20% extra every day" - instead say "this will take 20% longer than planned, is the company prepared for it to be late?"

Rather than saying no outright, present a selection of trade-offs. Offer to deliver it late, then offer to deliver on time but with non-vital features missing, then suggest taking on extra staff, then offer to lie to them now and disappoint them later.

Of course, some bosses are assholes. If your boss says "you'll work overtime and deliver it on time with all features and no help or you're fired" you're going to need to switch to another job.

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You are a picker, legally they can't fire you for not doing something that isn't your job I would think.

You commented about picker being non-ideal on the CV. But isn't that what you agreed to when you took this position you wanted to be a manual laborer, not a software developer.

You need to decide which you want and then go find a company that is going to give that to you. If you want to remain in manual labor, don't put the software work on the CV.

  • Why has this been downvoted? Please leave criticism/an explanation if you're going to downvote an answer. This advice is far from poor - unrelated experience shouldn't be on your CV for many reasons, and this is one of them. – Korthalion Nov 2 '17 at 11:36
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Check your contract, it probably details your expected responsibilities or at least a job title. Most likely, changing you from warehouse worker to software developer is not allowable under the contract, so renegotiate the contract! Consult legal advice if your employer isn't willing to renegotiate.

And lastly, brush up your CV, include a "personal statement" stating your unwillingness to work in IT/software development, and get that CV into the hands of potential employers. The best way out of a bad workplace is to leave for a better one.

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