Prior to getting my degree and becoming a programmer, I was the head tutor of my college. When I was hired, part of my expectations were to help teach programming concepts to the team when they needed to learn a concept.

One of our team members, who is more of our hardware help desk, has been taking some classes through the local CC to learn programming. At first, I didn't mind helping her because she did the work herself and I helped review it and make sure it made sense. With this next class she is taking, it has gradually gone from her having an assignment ready for review to her not wanting to even start it without me. I have to sit next to her for most of the day to guide her through basics that honestly at this point should be known by now. It's slowly getting to the point that she is asking me to "show her an example" and I am slowly doing more and more of her projects for her. Most of her grade is due to my help and not of her own merit. I don't feel like this is morally or ethically okay. Fast forward to this week: I spent pretty much my whole Monday and Thursday on her latest assignment that ended up being so poorly done I had to redo pretty much it all. I left her with a few segments left to do on her own and today she has it off. But she ended up emailing me her assignment with the teacher feedback so I can help her finish it and she also tried to call my work desk while I was away for a moment.

I don't mind helping her but I feel like she really needs to figure this out on her own or get the grade she deserves. I don't want to be rude about it either but at the same time, I am losing time on my own work to spend the whole day with her. I thought about talking to my manager so he knows what is going on but what would be the best solution to still provide her help to review assignments while telling her that she needs to start doing this on her own? When I was in college, I would just straight up tell students they need to do the work themselves but I feel in this situation, I need more tact.

EDIT: To clarify, I am helping her during work hours

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 11 '17 at 12:32

Is helping this person complete her studies part of your job description? I doubt it. You have to learn how to say no, she's using you as a very strong safety net and that's not going to help her after her studies.

In the end, this is impacting your work as you're losing time to work on someone else's problems that are not work related. If she can't do the coursework, she has plenty of other resources to rely on at her place of study.

If you are having a hard time saying no, try speaking to your boss. Though they may not be happy to learn you have been helping this person with non company related work during company time!

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    Well luckily for me my boss is pretty cool. They encourage people to show and teach fellow co workers new concepts that we find, but people tend to come to me more due to my tutoring background.... I do have an issue saying no though as I like to help everyone that I can :/ So while it may not be a part of my job description, it's still encouraged. I just feel like this is getting a little out of hand now. – ggiaquin16 Mar 10 '17 at 16:22
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    This is the problem, I'm afraid you need to start drawing the line and refusing to help. Teaching concepts to other people can be fine, as long as they relate to the work. But when it's to help someone pass a degree, that's just a little too much. If she asks you for help again, find out how this will help her complete her work commitments, if she can't come up with an answer, refuse. – Draken Mar 10 '17 at 16:24
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    It may relate to the department, but it doesn't mean the techniques you are showing her will allow her to complete her duties better. Computer science as a degree tends to work on programming and less so hardware help desk. As I said, you need to confirm how the task you are helping her complete will help her work commitments. If she can't come up with a reason, do not help. – Draken Mar 10 '17 at 16:28
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    Completing a degree is part of their professional development - not part of their professional duties. You are under no obligation or required in any way to help them. Worse still, if you continue to help them in areas they are unable or unwilling to help themselves, you will be stifling their development as a programmer, and directly undermine their ability to contribute. Not to mention, the school would probably take exception to you providing this much 'help' with their coursework. – Zibbobz Mar 10 '17 at 17:05
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    In the good old bad old days before degrees for dumb people they had exams at college that you had to get 50% in .In the past you could say to your self that she has to get 50% in the exam to pass and you are not in the exam room and you do not know what will be in the exam .The possible horrible thing about this is that you could be accused of cheating .I know this seems crazy but it has happened .To avoid being roped in to help with college I crack jokes about the courses I repeated and shut up about As that I got .This is sad you are only trying to be helpful. – Autistic Mar 11 '17 at 11:38

If you are helping you colleague with academic efforts during work hours, stop immediately. You are not being paid to help them pass a class, and you could get in trouble for doing so, even if you are participating in a minimal fashion.

While offering your colleague help off-hours is more acceptable, and entirely up to you whether or not you do so, doing so on-hours is not part of your job description (and I'd be extremely suspect of any job where it was part of your job description).

All other parts of your issue aside, you should explain this to your co-worker and stop immediately if you are giving them academic help during work hours.

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    OP stated: "When I was hired, part of my expectations were to help teach programming points to the team." – Woodrow Barlow Mar 10 '17 at 18:42
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    @WoodrowBarlow Teaching your co-workers how to program for their job is one thing, teaching them college course material is another. Mentoring and helping your co-worker learn to code for the job is the expected task when that role is given, giving them college tutoring is above and beyond what is required for that type of expectation. – Zibbobz Mar 10 '17 at 18:53
  • You can help someone on-hours. I don't see what the big deal is. Didn't you write this answer during work hours? Surely you don't believe bosses are terribly strict about these things. – user42272 Mar 10 '17 at 19:45
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    @djechlin It's not the boss I'm worried about - since OP has made it clear that the boss has no problem with this activity. It's the fact that it could be traced back to him at work colluding with his co-worker in academic dishonesty, which then leaves him accountable for doing so during work hours. – Zibbobz Mar 10 '17 at 19:50
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    @djechlin Any party interested, but in particular the school. More importantly though is the fact that he shouldn't be doing this in the first place. – Zibbobz Mar 11 '17 at 0:15

A couple things:

  1. Helping her during work hours is a gigantic NO.
  2. You could help her during your lunch break.
  3. You need to STOP doing the assignments for her as you are doing more harm on her behalf than good.
  4. Introduce her to GOOGLE.
  5. There are tons of free online resources for those who have the nack to learn to Code. Kahn Academy is a good place to start for free, or plural sight is a great deal for the money.
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    Yes, I have tried to encourage her to talk to class mates and the teacher as well. I agree that it is harming her. At first she actually tried to learn it, now she is making mistakes that make me question if it is done on purpose or not. – ggiaquin16 Mar 10 '17 at 16:27
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    @misterpositive - some people need constant positive reinforcement. You become their crutch, and they will never take another "step" without you. In that situation you need to draw clear boundaries, and disengage. Very often that person is very hurt by this behavior, fails at their endeavor, and blames you for it. Very few of them (in my experience) rise to the challenge, and become stronger for it. Such is life. It's the ones who become stronger who come back, shake your hand, and thank you for your help, and it's those people who deserve your time. – AndreiROM Mar 10 '17 at 21:33
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    It’s a shame there isn’t a Q&A site like this one, but for programming. – Paul D. Waite Mar 11 '17 at 10:47
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    @PaulD.Waite yaa maybe we should make one? What about the name stack overflow? – ggiaquin16 Mar 11 '17 at 16:54
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    @ggiaquin: I know naming things is hard, but that’s a terrible idea. However good the site was it’d go nowhere with a name like that. – Paul D. Waite Mar 11 '17 at 22:42

I don't mind helping her but I feel like she really needs to figure this out on her own or get the grade she deserves. I don't want to be rude about it either but at the same time, I am losing time on my own work to spend the whole day with her.

Just be rude about it. You've been rude about things before. Learning to be rude, then be less rude and achieve the same goal, is an important interpersonal skill.

Really your entire problem could be solved by saying what you know you need to say.

For perspective, you're preferring to ruin your work day, and her education, because you don't want to be rude about not doing these things.

  • You are completely correct that by trying to find the nice way out, I am hurting my work and her education. I just wasn't sure if I could be rude due to the fact this is a co worker I have to work with every day and sits very close to me. Unlike students who, I would mostly never see again if they don't come back to the tutoring center and wasn't sure if a different approach should be taken. – ggiaquin16 Mar 10 '17 at 20:17
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    @ggiaquin - no need to be rude, simply firm. "Sorry, but I can't help you during work hours anymore. My productivity has dropped, and management is taking notice." Then later, when she requests more assistance than you'd like to provide: "Sorry, I can't review your homework. Are you fulfilling the standards which the professor has set? Is there anything in particular you want to ask me about? Otherwise I'm afraid I have some personal matters to take care of" She needs to gain confidence in herself, and start earning her own marks. You also need to focus on your own duties. – AndreiROM Mar 10 '17 at 21:17
  • Learning to be rude, then be less rude and achieve the same goal, is an important interpersonal skill. Nice one! – Neolisk Mar 10 '17 at 22:22
  • Its not what you say, but how you say it. – Neo Mar 10 '17 at 22:56
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    @djechlin If you "can't figure out" how to say, "This has turned into something that I'm spending way more time than I can afford to spend on, and it has to stop now," without being rude, then you're incompetent. – jpmc26 Mar 12 '17 at 0:29

You don't need to be rude to get her to realize that by relying on you, she's only hurting herself. You're both only human, so think about the human aspect before getting your manager involved. If you look at this psychologically, she's using you as a crutch and is therefore not putting as much effort into her work as she needs in order to learn the material.

You said yourself that "at first she actually tried to learn it, now she is making mistakes...." This is because she knows that if she ever gets stuck, she can just fall back on you. You helping her subconsciously gives her an excuse to not properly learn the material, and that is hurting her more than not helping her at all.

So explain this to her and hopefully she'll realize that she has to do it by herself. Either way, the result of the conversation is you telling her that you won't be helping her with her homework anymore. It's not either of your faults, but by getting into this cycle, the only thing you've taught her is how to ask for help. You know from past experience that she can do it, she just needs a little push in that direction (and possibly a failure or two) to motivate her to get her act together.

  • Yes good point. I plan to say something similar monday. If it causes issues then... oh well... it's not my grade and i have been more than helpful. I have other things I need to worry about and her class is not one. – ggiaquin16 Mar 11 '17 at 20:48

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