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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Monday, February 27, 2006

Questions I've been avoiding - Part One

I've not been posting a lot of "Ask Shifra" questions lately.
I've got a few good reasons:

1) I've been busy and blogging less overall
2) Many of the questions I've been receiving and answering have been handled privately via email at the request of the questioner.
3) The questions sent to me are either too broad, too personal, WAY beyond my depth or offensive.

Still I must press on!
This question, posed quite innocently, is both beyond my depth and somewhat offensive but I will do my best with it.

My employer pays me a decent salary to basically do nothing. Is it ethical for me to continue working? Is it ethical to spend my time at work doing something more constructive, for example blogging (or learning)? My employer is not Jewish.

-Anonymous

Before I answer this question I have to speak my mind about the last bit of this question.
While halacha may disagree with me, to my mind who you are working for makes NO difference with regard to the general ethics. While the readership of this blog is primarily Jewish I'm pretty sure there are a few non-Jews who stick with me despite the language barrier and frankly that kind of talk embarrasses me. If you are a moral person you will treat everyone with the same respect and ethics regardless of their religion or ethnicity. If you believe that you are among the chosen people then why not be a light to the nations rather than try to screw everyone who doesn't belong to your tribe.

Ok that was kind of a tirade, and hopefully an undeserved one but that sort of this really gets under my skin and I felt it had to be said.

OK anonymous if you don't hate me by now lets get to the rest of your question - and if you do hate me and have navigated away from this blog never to return, perhaps there are others who might be in a similar situation.

I've written some posts in the past about slacking and blogging at work in the past but your situation is a little different since you don't seem to have any actual work to do!
I suppose it depends why you have no work:

I know there are some people who practically make a career out of avoiding work, like Wally in the comic strip "Dilbert." These Wallys avoid work by passing it off onto other people and that I would say is unethical because you are being paid for work you are shirking.

If things are just "slow" around the office (or wherever it is you work) and your employer is keeping you around in the hopes that things pick up then I suppose you might as well make good use of your time - blogging, learning, reading, and perhaps sending your resume around because this situation never lasts very long - things will either pick up or it will be layoff time before you know it.

Another possibility is that you have a specific talent or skill which makes it work keeping you around for only occasional use. If that's true LUCKY YOU! As long as you do your work when you are asked to do it then why not enjoy your free time. They are lucky that you grace the office with your presence at all.

To sum up: As long as your boss knows what you are up to (ie nothing) and is OK with it I can't see any reason not to use your time as you please as long as it doesn't hurt your employer or cost them money (like running a side business stealing office supplies and selling them out of your car in the parking lot for example.)

I don't think you are required to ADVERTISE that you are doing nothing but as long as you do whatever your boss asks of you and don't try to pretend you are working on things that you aren't you might as well enjoy your days... Situations like this rarely last long.






16 Comments:

At 1:23 AM, Blogger orthomom said...

Many of the questions I've been receiving and answering have been handled privately via email at the request of the questioner.

Guilty as charged! But I will say, that the advice given by Shifra, while it will remain private, was spot on, as always.

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger the sabra said...

"While halacha may disagree with me, to my mind..."

Hmmm

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

Sabra- If this site was called "ask the mishna breurah" it would be another story. Since it well known that I am NOT a halachik authority I assume that people are interested in MY answers to the question. However, because I am an orthodox Jew I feel obligated to mention it when my personal opinions may differ from the straight halacha.

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

I think it's disgusting when people think it's okay to cheat non-Jews or steal from them, just because they're not Jewish. *thumbsup* to Shifra.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"While halacha may disagree with me [Ed note: it does], to my mind who you are working for makes NO difference with regard to the general ethics. [...] If you are a moral person you will treat everyone with the same respect and ethics regardless of their religion or ethnicity."

Inescapable conclusion: halacha is not moral.

 
At 1:50 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...

Halacha would still disagree here because of... chillul Hashem.

Thank you, Shifra, for speaking out.

 
At 2:46 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous:

Inescapable conclusion: halacha is not moral.

Ever heard of Minuval Birshoot haTorah?

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Solid advice.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Elie said...

The discussion of why some otherwise religious Jews erroneously think that it's OK to cheat "goyim" is worthy of a post all its own. I may write about it today.

In terms of your original question, I think this is really just an extreme example of an issue that nearly all of us deal with to some degree. My workplace, like most technology businesses I know of, has a policy which allows some personal use of computer/internet resources, work permitting. Nearly all jobs are non-union and structured so you don't punch a time clock but rather are measured on results. In a busy period you are expected to work off-hours with no overtime pay; conversely in a lull you are not penalized for having more spare time to blog or whatever.

So as long as one is not deceiving their management or explicitly breaking the rules, I don't see that some parallel working/blogging during the business day is a problem.

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Hannah said...

Why not look around and see if there's something you can do? Maybe you can think of a way for your employer to improve business (besides saving money by firing you of course?)

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

I think the best thing to do in that situation is something productive for the company. It may mean stepping outside your specific job description. During a slow time at my workplace, I organized our PC Users Group and taught informal classes on computers. I also blog, of course.

 
At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Timi said...

Hi Shifra,
Found your blog through Chayyei Sarah.

It's just funny that this is the question you chose to answer when I checked in because it is my exact situation. (Except for the whole Jewish part of the moral question, I agree wholeheartedly with your take plus I live in Israel so it's kind of a mute point).

I have a rediculous amount of free time at my office. I often feel guilty about it, but I try to make it clear to my boss when stuff is slow by me. I do my work whenever I get it, and also try to help a bit outside of my job description. I probably won't stay at this job forever because it does get a bit mindnumbing not having work and blogging all day, but I'll appreciate what I have while I have it. Plus, one pitfall is that when you get used to not working it's hard to get the hardworking motivation back.

Thanks for your advice :), makes me feel a little better.

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Timi- welcome to the blog - good timing, glad I could help.

 
At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Granted I don't know the exact situation of this person's job, but a lot of companies hire extra people in order to have "coverage" of the office, not necessarily because there's work to be done. For example, they may hire three people when two would be sufficient, so that in case one person is on the vacation and another one calls in sick, there's still someone around to do the work.

As a worker, trust that the company wants you there even if there is no work for you. If you want to take the initiative to come up with your own work-related projects, then go ahead, but it is not your responsibility to "make work" if there isn't any.

 
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