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When the Employer Asks for Help or Personal Favours Outside Work (and Staff Cannot Politely Decline Because of the Salary)

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 8:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There were times I literally stayed at their home because they didn’t want to spend money on suitable accommodation (e.g. hotel)

Sirius CEO - obscured

Summary: At Sirius ‘Open Source’ I was sometimes asked by management to look after personal affairs or help family friends; employers aren’t supposed to leverage their workforce like that

TECHRIGHTS deals with a variety of “Tech” issues and a broad range of “Rights”, including so-called ‘IP’ so-called ‘rights’. There is currently a constitutional crisis brewing in Germany and it relates to patents, but today we focus on labour rights pertaining to workforce outside the workplace.

“Some bosses exploit that, knowing it’s construed as impolite to say “no” to the people who pay the salary.”As readers are aware, my wife and I resigned last month and left our job (after a combined period of 21 years in that employer). Today I’d like to highlight a likely common situation where the employer tries to get workers to do personal favours outside the business or outside the workplace. Many people don’t like to talk about it, as it might come across as “moaning” or a lack of generosity. After all, some colleagues — typically below the pay grade of their bosses — end up picking up post or picking up the kids from school. They may end up like family assistants. They try to “get ahead” by improving the relationship with the boss or, to put it more bluntly, “sucking up” to the boss. It’s unprofessional, but it is still done a lot. Some bosses exploit that, knowing it’s construed as impolite to say “no” to the people who pay the salary.

In practice, bosses should never do this. It’s not like asking for sexual favours, but it’s still bad. It’s better not to even ask or bother with such a request.

Today’s example is old but still relevant. I can finally speak about it. The CEO and his wife asked me to look into a site of a family friend from Spain, in spite of language barriers and the site having nothing whatsoever to do with my job. Like I’m a “home butler” of theirs, serving guests.

It started like this:

Hi xxxxx,

I have cced Roy into this mail as he knows a lot about wordpress so he should be able to help you sort out the problems you are having.
I will leave you to chat between yourselves.

See you in a few weeks :)

xxxxxx xx

The person in question spoke, but with very weak English — to the point where it’s extremely difficult to communicate at all. It was a massive language barrier. I followed up:

Hi xxxxx,

Can you please show me your site and tell me what you are hoping to
achieve, maybe with examples of sites that accomplish what you’re after?


The communication was informal, but I was expected to give technical help to a family friend of the CEO and his wife. Here’s example of communication that I received:

Hi xxxxx!!

Thanks!!! My mum thinks that she is going to pick me up hahaha so you will See her at the AirPort

Hi Roy,

Ill have to give you acces to the blog Cuz its not aviable now, Also Ive got allready a list with the things that I would like to change if its possible of course

Do I give you access with this email?

Thanks a lot for your help

Enviado desde mi iPhone

It didn’t go very far, but the point of the matter is, the manager was asking me to provide support to someone who wasn’t a client but a personal friend.

On another occasion, more recently, the CEO was asking me to speak to a personal friend who had become the target of a patent troll, as if I was some unpaid ‘consultant’ on this matter.

“Next time I’ll phone you,” I said, “assuming you don’t keep an eye on E-mail.” I spent a long time basically advising someone because he was a friend of the CEO. Looking back (in retrospect), it was a waste of time as I was under no obligation to do so. But because I was receiving salaries (for something totally unrelated) I felt compelled to agree.

There should be very strict laws against this sort of thing. Paying someone a salary for job X does not make one a “butler” for job Y. From what my wife has told me, in some occupations and with some agencies there are official avenues for reporting this. Apparently this sort of misuse or workforce became such a big problem that confidential helplines/lifelines were thrown at workers, offering resolution without retribution/reprisal from the employers (threatening/blackmailing workers who report the practice/abuse).

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