Rebirth of Reason


Not in my Contract
by Matthew Graybosch

When I first accepted a position with my current employer, he clearly outlined his expectations of me and the responsibilities I would have to shoulder as a programmer in his employ. I knew from the outset that I was expected to learn as much as I could about the software I would be developing and maintaining. I knew that I was being paid to write clean, maintainable code and write it quickly, whether an explicit deadline existed or not. I knew that it was my responsibility to improve my knowledge and find new techniques.

A written contract does not bind me to my employer, or my employer to me. However, my employer made it clear to me that I would earn both his money and a measure of his loyalty in exchange for my work. To my knowledge, I have kept my end of the bargain, and my employer has held up his end. He has always paid me on time. He gives clear instructions. He tolerates occasional mistakes on my part, knowing that I will take full responsibility and correct the problem as soon as possible. And he has always made sure to get my side of the story on the few occasions when there is a disagreement between myself and a coworker.

However, some of my coworkers hold a different opinion concerning my responsibilities to my employer. According to them, I should do more than write clean code, deal politely with clients and coworkers, meet deadlines, and increase my knowledge so that I can both keep up with changing technology and help create better software. According to them, I am expected to do more than put up with their asinine opinions, their invasive questions, and their unsolicited advice. According to them, it is my job to socialise with them outside the office.

At least, that is the impression I got this afternoon as the others discussed plans for a dinner party to bid farewell to a longtime coworker who was leaving the company for another job. For the sake of manners, I asked one of my coworkers if they were planning to collect money for a parting gift; if so I was willing to contribute a small sum.

My coworker asked if I planned to come to the dinner; a tone of disappointment crept into her voice when I told her that I would not. When asked why, I explained that was uncomfortable with the idea of socialising with coworkers after hours, and since I was not a personal friend of the departing coworker I would prove to be poor company.

Poor company or not, it appears that I am still expected to waste my time with people who are essentially strangers to me. One of my coworkers, who overheard my saying that I would not be attending the dinner, said, "You have a responsibility" before displaying intelligence enough to back off and grace enough to mutter, "Never mind."

Not that this coworker had or intelligence enough to refrain from talking behind my back about how I wasn't "fulfilling my responsibilities" to my coworkers. As far as I am concerned, my coworkers are my equals. They contribute to the company as do I, under the terms they negotiated with our employer, and have their own responsibilities. I do not presume to order them about; it would be rude of me to usurp my employer's authority.

To my equals I owe nothing. My sole responsibility is to myself, to earn my living by my own effort. My sole obligation is to my employer, and that obligation is to uphold my end of the unwritten contract to which we both agreed. I agreed to work for him to the best of my ability, and he agreed to pay me for my work. I was hired to write software, not to tolerate the presumption of my equals.

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