So I work in a small, two-person company (in America, Seattle if that helps anyone). Just myself and my boss. We are both (web - full stack) software developers. We share office space with a couple other companies, but don't work with them. I'd say at this point we're at about similar skill levels, though when I started 3 years ago he was substantially more experienced than me.

The other day I looked at our commit history and noticed something curious - out of all of the recent commits, I had made about 95% of the recent commits. I decided to dig further today before posting here - for the past 3 or so months, as far as I can tell, my boss has made only a handful of commits. Less than ten separate functions (most of them maybe 3-4 lines of code), a handful of configuration or cosmetic (label changes, or tiny CSS changes). Now, I know that coding isn't necessarily about the number of lines of code you write, but this seems fundamentally different.

Now, I don't want to immediately assume anything negative about my boss. He does most of the client-facing interactions and handles the admin aspects of the company (except for payroll and accounting, which he outsources to other companies/individuals). But we only have 2-3 clients right now, and I feel like the admin burden on a two person company has to be fairly low, especially when you've been operating the company for years. I'm not saying he does no work, it just seems like he might be doing very, very little.

How do I know if he is contributing his fair share of the labor? How much time does project management for 2-3 long-term clients take?

This wouldn't even probably be a problem, except for the fact that he has demanded a good deal of overtime at points from me (60 hours some weeks). To the point of being a work-life balance issue. That, and the cost of the office space - if we're glorified freelancers, then paying for a nice office in a trendy downtown area has to be incredibly expensive relative to the profit the company is making. We haven't had clients to our office in the entire time I've worked there - most of them are from other states.

If he isn't contributing any real work, how can I know it? I'm not his boss - I can't just walk up to him and be like, "Hey, I see you haven't made very many commits lately - what the hell are you doing?"

Is there some other aspect of a business that might be eating up his time that I'm simply unaware of? What could it possibly be?

The real question I want answered is - how do you know if your boss is slacking off?

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    If you only have 2-3 clients, your boss is probably spending his time trying to get new clients, not managing the admin load of the existing ones. – Carson63000 May 21 '16 at 22:28
  • But nearly 40 hours a week, for 12 weeks worth? I'm not saying you're wrong, but that just seems high to me. – Ryan Schafer May 21 '16 at 23:07
  • You feel overworked and under-compensated but want to stay around for loyalty? – paparazzo May 22 '16 at 7:39
  • I mean, my expectations are important if my continued employment is a thing he wants to have. I've been working a ton of overtime with the expectation that he was likewise slammed, with no additional compensation, and I was helping a guy out personally. If I'm finding out I'm being used, that shifts my interests in staying in this company heavily. Hiring someone in my field is tough, and jobs are plentiful, so yes, I can be quite choosy here. – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 13:50
  • @RyanSchafer - do you talk to this boss? Rather than trying to find a sleuthy way to determine if he is "slacking off", wouldn't you be better off having a conversation about the work you are both doing? If you can't trust the other party in a two-person company, you probably should be working somewhere else. – WorkerDrone May 23 '16 at 12:29

I think there are multiple issues, and you are paying too much attention to the wrong one. If your working hours and pay were appropriate, it would not matter how much or little your boss was doing.

Instead, raise the issues of excessive overtime and insufficient pay for your current experience and productivity. Both would be issues even if your boss was doing more development than you. Too much overtime might be solved, for example, by hiring another developer, just as well as by your boss doing more development.


Unless your boss is out of the office most of the time looking for clients, then I would say you are definitely doing all the work and he's living off your sweat. This isn't uncommon even in small companies. It's also quite likely that he is doing other work which isn't part of the company and therefore you don't get a look at and keeping all that revenue himself.

The main worry as I see it isn't that you're being used, that's what employees are for. The problem is that your boss is cruising along, so you're not likely to expand, grow, and make a fortune as a company and therefore you won't benefit from being on ground level before it hit the big time..

  • No, he's always in the office. I mean he does occasionally do phone calls with clients - as I said, I don't think he's doing -no- work, I just feel he's not doing -much- work. Not enough to justify my loyalty at least. I highly doubt I'll make any money from this company besides my salary. It's mostly freelance for other companies. – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 2:07
  • He's probably freelancing for other companies as well. It's what I do, I run my company, but hardly do anything unless there is an issue, I spend most of my time doing paid work as a consultant. – Kilisi May 22 '16 at 2:07
  • The company basically does development services for other companies – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 2:08

You should just ask him about it.

He's your boss, yes, but clearly you believe you have leverage in this business relationship. If you're not afraid to lose this job, then do not be afraid to ask your boss about his contributions.

After all, what you're describing looks very normal to me. I've seen many competent workers flounder when they became the boss because they had no one else checking their work anymore.

And please, pay no attention to what the others said. By itself, a traditional job title doesn't mean much. What really matters is the amount of leverage you can bring to the table. In one company I worked for, the sales people were actually making more money and considered themselves more important than the CEO himself. Those salespeople had the leverage. The CEO didn't. Those particular salespeople were irreplaceable, but the CEO and his company were replaceable.

If you have leverage, you should ask the tough questions. This kind of discussion is actually very important. Don't let it slide because you dislike confrontations.

  • If I am doing virtually all of the billable line work, yes, I definitely feel I have a hell of a lot of leverage here. Software development is highly in demand. Qualified employees are hard to find, jobs are easy to find. I'm currently paid below the market average so even finding an average paying job would be a huge pay jump. – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 13:54

Your boss determines how much and which part of the work is his versus being delegated. As long as this is not a peer relationship, you don't get a vote on that.

Sorry, but the answer to "how do you know your boss is slacking off" in this situation is that, _ by definition, _ he isn't.

It's also possible that he is doing work --lining up business, for example-- that you aren't seeing. Beware of assuming thsat because he isn't doing your kind of work he isn't working as hard or harder in ways you have no insight into.

  • It's not a peer relationship, but as the company is two essentially equally capable people, and I've mostly stayed for the reason of loyalty with the expectation of shared workload, it might make me consider moving on faster than I would have otherwise. And yes, I am trying to figure out whether or not he's doing an equal work level to me. If not, I'd just do my own thing, or find a company that paid more/didn't require constant overtime. It may very well be that looking for work is a 40 hours a week job, for 12 weeks. I don't know. Based on my experiments it isn't, but I'm not sure. – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 0:16
  • Sounds like you have made up your mind on what you want to do and are just looking for justification. Personally I'd discuss this with the boss before doing anything else, in a "how can we make this sustainable" more rather than a challenging mode, and proceed from there. – keshlam May 22 '16 at 0:24
  • I mean, I just discovered this within the last two days, after working 50-60 hour weeks on and off for months. I've worked 14 hour days, with the expectation that this was a shared burden and we were really under that bad of a crunch. And then to find out that hey, maybe I'm the only one really doing most of the work? I'm mildly angry. – Ryan Schafer May 22 '16 at 0:27
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    @RyanSchafer - unless you are a co-founder and stumped up for an equal share in the business, then what your boss is or isn't doing is not your concern. What is relevant is whether you are being adequately compensated (compared to the market) for the overtime. If the answer to that is no, then move on. Why do you think you deserve partner privilege when (no offence) you're just a salaried employee? – HorusKol May 22 '16 at 2:18
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    @RyanSchafer - I think you need to be reevaluate why you feel there is this "loyality" on your part that you somehow appear to have based upon some invalid assumptions. – Michael Karas May 22 '16 at 4:46

He is your boss and you are his employee because he started a company and you didn't. You do the hours that you do for the money he pays because he tells you and you do it.

There is no reason why this has to be so. You can find a company that pays you more for possibly less work, or you can start your own company, or you can refuse to work more than forty hours a week without being paid overtime.

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