I work in an office with three different companies: a cleaning company, a sales company that approaches customers selling cleanings from the above company, and an insurance company for household appliances. They're seperate, but all run by my boss.

My boss shuffles workers around when he needs to. Someone from the sales company might cover for someone who's off sick on the admin side of the cleaning company every now and then, or if they're understaffed they'll pitch in to do their part. I don't mind that, exactly - it's usually a one-off thing, and because the companies work closely together, it helps to keep the gears turning. I often sit in on the cleaning company towards the end of the day to help with paperwork. It's where I started, so I can do it fast.

I was originally working for the cleaning company but soon enough ended up as a general IT bod for the whole office. I'd fix printers, set up email accounts, fix computers. Eventually my boss asks me to create a website for an associate company. It's not based in the office, but my boss runs it too. I make it, figuring this is a one-time thing.

In the course of doing this he asks me to help automate the process of ordering a cleaning. Before, they'd call up, we'd take their details, write it down and type it into an Excel sheet. It was very time consuming - now, they can just fill out a form on the website, which will add it to an Excel sheet automatically and then print it out. It's nothing fancy - just some taped together pieces of freeware and some batch files - but it's more efficient.

I settle into the role of IT. I fix computers and tinker at a website - it's good work, I'm always occupied, and I'm enjoying it.

I come into work this morning and my computer's not on my desk. It's been moved into the insurance company, where I now work. I know nothing about how the insurance company works - I'm basically having to be retrained from scratch.

On top of this, he's still expecting me to do the IT work. I'm still tinkering at the website, I'm still maintaining the computers, and still scurrying about with all of my other duties, too. My boss says that it's because he wants me to learn new things and find my niche, but that sounds like nonsense to me. My niche is IT because I'm the only one in the office who can do it.

I'm not sure what to do from here. I'm tempted to just quit. I can't deal with the instability that apparently comes with this job, because I don't think it's going to stop.

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    Easy answer: 1) Get used to it. 2) Document your experience and sign on with a big-name consulting company. 3) Profit. – Wesley Long May 16 '16 at 20:43
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    And get a lawyer. In some jurisdictions it may illegal. At the very least it may show bad management, and can derive in fraud (if you are being paying by one company while doing work for another). – SJuan76 May 16 '16 at 21:10
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    What's the process for getting paid? Do you get checks from all three companies, or just the one? That's important because you should be able to show continuity of employment to a future employer. – Nolo Problemo May 16 '16 at 21:35
  • I can't find anything regarding legality of it (I'm in the UK), but I get paid directly into my account by one company - the sales company. I applied and interviewed for a job at the cleaning one. – skldv May 16 '16 at 21:37
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    "I come into work this morning and my computer's not on my desk. It's been moved into the insurance company, where I now work." - that's the real issue for me, and that would be the trigger for looking for a new job. It's not that you're being passed around to plug gaps - it's that the decision seems to be unpredictable and even capricious. – HorusKol May 16 '16 at 23:16

Unfortunately, in the companies owned and run by the boss-man/woman, you do not have much say. Since it is a lean operation, they can not afford to hire an IT person individually for each business entity, so you're IT (pun intended). Legality is something governed by jurisdiction you are in. So no comment on that part but even if it is not legal, your boss can set up a shell company managing all his individual companies and show you working for that entity to make it legal. Of course you can say no to working at this new company, but then you have to go find a new job, get used to that boss, etc. etc. Every career move has its up sides and down sides. You need to figure out if the instability is worth the enjoyment and compensation you are getting from the boss. If yes, get used to the rhythm and stay. No ? Look for a new job.


I can't deal with the instability that apparently comes with this job, because I don't think it's going to stop. How can I handle this?

First, your boss is helping you to gain new skills. It doesn't sound like he will fire you if you don't handle all of your IT duties as well as in the past while you train for the insurance business. Be sure that he knows the cost of this decision - if something slips through the cracks or you run out of time in the day to get to it, it's because of his desire to move you around without notice and without better preparation.

Second, your boss probably values you. He might be moving you around so that you can take on more responsibility (not work - responsibility) in the office. That means finding someone to help you get your current duties done. In a small office arrangement like yours, ask him if you can find someone else to help with lower level IT tasks. Look for someone that can help with fixing a printer - and send them in before you go. Give them some time to troubleshoot and then show up if it doesn't get fixed quickly.

Third, you should be aware that an insurance business usually has a lot of IT needs. Until you know and understand the business, that may not be clear. So you could be in a strong position to help with interesting IT problems - like in the cleaning business example you gave. With that in mind, maybe you should tell your boss that this latest transition has you feeling very stressed, but it is OK if the goal is to have you learn the business to find ways to use your IT skills to improve it. (I'm assuming this appeals to you, of course.) Many IT skills are not nearly as useful to a business until you know the business.

Last, if you find that the shuffling around doesn't stop or you simply can't handle it, you should probably be more blunt to him about how you feel about the changes. Tell him that you like your role in IT and you're not really looking for another niche because that one suits you. Ask if there is a way you can take on more responsibilities that are focused on IT and avoid these changes. It should not bother your boss to tell him this, since you didn't mention a raise or problems that required a change in your old job. If he ignores these direct statements, then you should start looking for another, more stable job. It will have a different set of problems, but if you value stability then you should find it.

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