I work as a Software Developer, and have been with my company for about 7 months. I would describe myself as a Java developer. The company employs around 2000 staff, and has quite a few software products.

For the first 5 months, they had me working on a Java project. The lead in time was about a couple of weeks. That project ran out of money, so I had to be moved to a new project.

About 2 months ago, I was moved to another Java based project. It took me about a month before I felt I had learnt enough to be productive. Last week, I found that this project too had to let go of staff (as the client had stopped paying us money). I am now "on the bench" and have been told to concentrate on training.

I find it quite disruptive to be moved to new projects every few months. It takes me time to get settled and to fully understand the work I'm doing.

I've now been approached by an internal manager, asking me to work on a C++ project until Xmas (i.e. about 6 weeks). I've not worked with this language for 7 years, and then only as part of my degree, so (admittedly, without knowing much about the work in question) I suspect it would take me quite a while to get up to speed.

My question is, when you are "on the bench", should you take any reasonable job offer that comes along?

Some more background. I feel I am socially anxious, and I worry about what is expected of me in certain situations. If an internal manager is "offering" me a role, is he or she really giving me an instruction, or is it reasonable to turn things down. I am a good, mid-level Java developer, and I prefer working on projects where Java is a core component. I usually feel anxious when I join a new project, and I feel there is an expectation on me to be productive from day one, which I realise is unrealistic.

I realise that if the company doesn't place me in a new project within a reasonable timescale, that there is a reasonable chance I will be made redundant. I'd prefer that didn't happen right now, but if it happens I could live with it.

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    I doubt you will realistically have a choice of whether you want to take an offer or continue to sit "on the bench" even if it appears that way. Companies don't want people sitting on the bench as they are contributing to cost without contributing to revenue. Still, if you believe you are really free to decline an "offer" then do so if you are uncomfortable with what is being offered. You will either be deployed where the company want you to be deployed, or you will be allowed to remain on the bench (highly unlikely in my view), but questions about what you should do are off-topic here. – Marv Mills Nov 13 '15 at 10:10
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    "My question is, when you are "on the bench", should you take any reasonable job offer that comes along?" This is going to depend entirely on your company, your profile (and corresponding hourly rate), how long you've been on the bench and what you define as a "reasonable" job offer. (Voted to close.) – Lilienthal Nov 13 '15 at 12:19
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    Purely from a programming standpoint: Java and C++ aren't so different and the attitude that you are tied to one programming language is a ridiculous devaluation of skills you have. It will count towards your 'programming experience', come back if they ask you to do something like manual testing. – Nathan Cooper Nov 13 '15 at 12:36

I'd say you don't have a choice. The best you can do is make it clear to your manager that you haven't worked with C++ in X years and that it will take a long time to get used to it. Then, it's up to him to decide if you're a good fit for the project.

About being on the bench, I very often am on it too. And i receive the same instruction you received. Read stuff until something comes along. If you're already good enough with Java and, if you already didn't know, now you know there are C++ projects in your company. Then why not study C++ (or any other language used in your company)? This way, maybe you won't be put on the bench so often.

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Most software developers who are "on the bench" without being paid (aka as temporarily unemployed) work their ass off to get as many CVs out as possible, to get as much training as they can do, and to produce code that they can show to people.

You are getting paid. You should work your ass off to get as much training as you possibly can to improve your value to your company or to any other company. You should see this short term C++ job as an opportunity to improve your apparently rusty knowledge of the language. Not being willing to work and learn will likely be seen as a huge negative.

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I am not a doctor and do not intend to play one here. And anxiety is no joke.

That said, it seems that controlled exposure could be a way to overcome it. As it has been already suggested, set the reasonable expectation level with your manager. (If you attempt to set it too low, it could backfire.) Then work real hard to exceed it. It will not be comfortable but it won't kill you either.

With each experience of branching into unknown territory you will build your confidence and gradually reduce your anxiety level.

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It is not necessary that you accept just any offer that comes along just because you are on the bench. However you should have a very good reason for not accepting the position.

Some acceptable reasons:

  • Will require relocating away from my family.
  • Is a completely different field of work (IE manual labor instead of programming)
  • Introduces an element of physical risk you are unwilling to take (temporary work in a war zone or very dangerous area)
  • Violates some portion of a standing contract, non compete, or other legal restriction.
  • Would require an extended commitment to a project that is outside of my preferred field of study.

In your case you have a request to work on a short term assignment for a related field. If I were a manager in your company, I would view refusing the assignment as saying you do not want to work for the company any more. If you are being paid then this becomes less of a request for you to do this, and more of a we need you to work over here for the next 6 weeks, if you want to continue being paid you will work here.

If your reasons for not wanting to accept an assignment are not in the above list, you need to decide if you want to risk being terminated by turning it down. If you have a reason that equates to I would rather be fired than accept this role then you might even ask if you can refuse. They might say yes and still find future work for you.

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