I work for a large tech company on an engineering team. This particular team is one of five responsible for building a product. Our particular responsibility is the lowest priority feature set of the product.

The dev lead on this project is approaching retirement and pretty obviously isn't invested in the success of this asset, nor the success of his peers.

Both he and the "manager" of the team - the person who's responsible for gathering requirements - have a very lackadaisical demeanor about their roles on this project. This means the two people who should be providing guidance to the rest of the team are not doing so, leaving us to "guess" and fend for ourselves, inventing requirements to have something to show for the months we've been on this project.

Several engineers have left the team via internal transfers as a result of this.

I, however, see it as an opportunity to focus on the technical areas that I'm passionate about: front-end development, WebRTC, Azure, AWS, etc. These areas have zero overlap with the project I'm working on, but they're interesting to me and I think they make me more valuable to the company than some half-assed contributions to an unimportant feature led by folks who seem to have checked out.

I've done my CYA due-diligence - lots of emails requesting meetings, requirements, with clearly nonexistent or noncommittal responses.

What I'm wondering is - is it unethical of me to not escalate further and just use this time for my personal gain (as both an employee and wantrepreneur)? Because at the end of the day, version control tracks history and my name barely shows up under commits. Part of me wants to take the calculated risk of not escalating for the reward of focused technical development doing exactly what I want (never happens), while the other part knows that seeing company resources misused and folks clearly not doing their jobs automatically puts me in a position of responsibility that I should act upon with professionalism - tactful escalation with supporting evidence. But then I'd likely be pulled onto stressful work, given more responsibility, or fired for some BS political reasons due to the fact that I'm nonconforming at best or combative at worst.

I have a fairly high risk tolerance - mortgage paid off, no debts, plenty savings. I'm honestly at a point where being forced to coast is A-OK with me, but my biggest fear is a legal one - using company time and resources to develop skills of my choosing.

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    Is your manager aware of how you are choosing to spend company time and resources? If so, then you should have no problem. – Greg Edelston Jul 7 '17 at 13:43
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    I am unable to answer anything right now, I am still digesting lackadaisical and wantrepreneur. Will be back when I am done. – skymningen Jul 7 '17 at 13:44
  • I'm learning new words from this question! @ForcedToCoast If you consider yourself an employee entrepreneur, you could call yourself an intrapreneur – Robert Dundon Jul 7 '17 at 13:57
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    Keep in mind that a lot of software dev contracts (in my experience) have a clause stating something to the effect of "anything you do on company time belongs to the company." This may be relevant, especially if any of these "wantrapeneur" projects of yours have a possibility of generating revenue. – Steve-O Jul 7 '17 at 18:10

It seems like it may be time to escalate. Just a friendly chat with your next higher up the chain about your concerns. Ensure them you are not trying to get your direct manager in trouble, but you have exhausted all means with that individual to get what you need to do your job and want some additional guidance on how to proceed. Re-iterate you want the success of the project and company.

It is not a good sign that the team is abandoning ship.


Doing what your doing in the meantime is likely fine as it's still in your job field and you are brushing up on skill sets to maintain current industry skills...(i.e. you aren't studying gardening when you're a programmer).

I would definitely write more strongly worded emails though, rather than just requesting assistance. Use key phrases like, "There will be a poor quality product or there will be a delay in release without x information, what would you like me to do?". Make it extremely clear you are doing all you can to push the product forward, and they are literally preventing you from being successful. Also store these correspondences in a folder for quick reference and to ensure they won't be deleted from the email system (not likely, but stranger things have happened).

If there is another manager that is interested, you may want to talk to them about it. That often will help prod things along just fine. Directly going above their heads to an executive in a big corporation will likely only backfire on your head as well as get them in trouble. Smaller company absolutely, but if it's your manager and then the executive...that will likely go badly for you. Best to let it play the course and the management will take the heat from the executive for the quarter statements of failure or poor quality which is what they are responsible for.

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