"Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents."
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
In Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, the young hero of the story manages to convince his friends to paint his Aunt Polly's fence for him, and what's more, to pay for the privilege.
A programmer at an as-yet-unnamed company apparently took a tip from Mr. Twain's juvenile delinquent and outsourced his own job to contractors in China, paying the contractors a fraction of his six-figure salary while he spent his day surfing the Web. This fellow's typical work schedule looked something like this:
- 9:00 a.m.: Arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos.
- 11:30 a.m.: Take lunch
- 1:00 p.m.: Ebay time.
- 2:00 – ish p.m.: Social media time. Facebook and LinkedIn.
- 4:30 p.m.: End of day update e-mail to management.
- 5:00 p.m.: Go home
While he was certainly clever, he was also incredibly, dangerously irresponsible, as his yet-unnamed employer is described as an "U.S. critical infrastructure company". In order to outsource his work he provided access to his employer's VPN, even mailing his RSA key to the contractors via FedEx.
Considering that the developer's activity (or non-activity) spanned several months, it shows a surprising lack of oversight on the part of the company, particularly since it assessed him as one of their leading employees for the quality of his work.
Part of what allowed him to pull this off may have been a lack of direct supervision, if all his management asked from him was an end-of-day email recap. A more organic approach of having management touch base directly with the developer on an occasional, impromptu basis for brief explanations of his work, its status and progress, would have made it much harder for him to maintain his façade.
As well as helping managers stay on top of their teams, and keeping team members focused, this organic approach compels employees to describe their personal expectations for their work and deadlines, which they will be more invested in meeting.
As we’ve discussed before, tools can only go so far. Our own HR module offers a Web based employee directory and vacation tracking functions, but it can’t automate managers to personalize their communication with their employees. But while developing and maintaining an organic management culture isn’t easy, it can pay dividends in increased efficiencies and work quality.
Tom Sawyer's schemes led him into some perilous situations, including being stalked by a crazed murderer. The developer may have followed in the footsteps of his role model here as well. He was fired from his job, and considering the nature of his employer's services, his blithe provisioning of access to its network and databases to the Chinese contractors could have authorities breathing down his neck as well.