“Model’ employee outsource his software job to China

Description: Bob was his company’s best software developer, got glowing performance reviews and earned more than $250,000 a year.

Source: www.theglobeandmail.com

Date: Jan 17, 2013future-IT17sr1

Bob was paying a Chinese firm about $50,000 a year to do his work, then spent the day surfing the web, watching cat videos and updating his Facebook page.

“This particular case was pretty unique,” computer security investigator Andrew Valentine, who helped uncover Bob’s scheme, said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “We thought it was actually pretty clever.”

Mr. Valentine made Bob’s tale public in a blog post on Monday and it has since been the talk of tech websites.    Read Rest of Story 

 Questions for discussion:

1. Is there an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing at his place of work?  Why or Why Not??

2.  What benefits can you see with outsourcing as a company?

3.  What pitfalls can you see a company risking by outsourcing?


16 thoughts on ““Model’ employee outsource his software job to China

  1. Tom

    I believe what Bob is doing is totally ethical. Here is why i believe this, because Bob is still “doing his job” without any mistake then why is he doing anything wrong. Sure there is some security issue like what if the subcontractor is revealing or worst selling this information to someone else but if Bob knows is safe then i dont believe he is doing anything wrong. Plus, Bob is paying this subcontractor $50000 dollars to do his work and thats lot of money that Bob is willing to risk for his job.

    The benefit of a company outsourcing is because is just that much cheaper in the other part of the country. And there is no human right laws so you can take advantage of these developing/undeveloped countries and manipulate the laws. That is why many companies outsource today.

    The risk of outsourcing is privacy and security because who knows what the people on the other side of the world is doing with your information. They can selling your information to another countries that is considered an enemy or just copying your information for the benefit of its own country. I believe outsourcing the way of the future because why pay more for less when you can pay less for more.

  2. Dan Wilde

    What Bob was doing was certainly unethical in the way that he was taking credit for work that wasn’t his own. This is shown in the fact that he kept the invoices hidden and accepted the label as the best programmer. Also when you are involving third parties in coding you are exposing the company to increased vulnerability. There certainly are benefits to outsourcing such as the cost benefits that companies can take advantage of. With that however there are other areas that you forfeit such as when areas like customer service are outsourced the level of service and the level of customer satisfaction will certainly go down.

  3. Sheldon

    While there is most definitely an ethical dilemma present in this instance, Bob seems like my kind of guy. He looked for a more effective and efficient method of completing his duties, and actually followed through with it. Outsourcing this type of work is something thousands of companies do across the globe, albeit, they are typically more open about it. Bob was simply plagiarizing, and quite frankly, I hope they offered the individual in China Bob’s job. As the article reveals, this outsourcing at the individual employee level is certainly creative and cost effective, however, the fact that its an ethical dilemma is what takes away any level of admiration of Bob’s “efficient” system. Surely the company as a whole could utilize this outsourcing model, however, potential issues with the quality of work, reliability, and even public scrutiny for moving jobs could be a potential downfall. Overall, Bob should not have outsourced his job. If he were acting as a consultant and outsourcing the coding, then the whole story sounds more realistic. But forfeiting his security access to a stranger across the world sounds like a truly reckless idea, particularly when one’s employing firm is involved with Internet security. To conclude, Bob should’ve spent a little less time on his social networks, and a little more time actually performing the duties he was hired, and paid to do.

  4. Austin Smith

    I believe that Bob outsourcing his job created an ethical dilemma. He was hired to do that job and instead he lied and took credit for a subcontractors work. His employers also did not know this was going on even with all the high tech security that was in place. The amount of money he made a year, all the reviews he got, and his company position was all based on a lie. With a company this big and technologically advanced, being ethical about everything should be a must. Bobs example shows a negative aspect towards outsourcing. There are also many privacy and security issues with outsourcing because it is unknown who has access to certain types of information. If that information were to be leaked, many more problems would occur. On the plus side though in Bobs example, Bob outsourcing his job gave a man in china a job to whom which may not have been able to attain by himself. Also outsourcing reduces costs and improves productivity because the work can be delegated to highly skilled laborers. My personal belief is that the benefits of outsourcing outweigh the negatives because the major positive is saving money and with that money that can give people jobs, charities, new equipment. The opportunities are endless.

  5. Michelle

    Bob was definitely behaving in an unethical manner at work for not doing the job he was employed to do but also for taking the credit for someone else’s work. The amount of money he was making a year, the reviews he got plus the credentials he was receiving were all based on a lie. The fact that his employers had no idea that he was utilizing the outsourcing approach is very unethical not to mention not very classy either. Anyone who has employment that uses high security and is paid a very high salary a year for their specific job should be ethical at all times with their employers.
    Outsourcing has benefits and potential to build a company up by providing better and efficient quality of services and/or information systems. Some of the benefits include saving money and time especially on developing new or enhanced services and/or systems. Outsourcing can also save the company from not having to hire a whole new set of staff to develop these new services and/or systems. But with every advantage there are also the risks of disadvantages like information being leaked by the third party, dependency issues on the outsourcer and of course the loss of control.

  6. Denaye Corbeil

    I believe that Bob outsourcing his job definitely poses an ethical dilemma. Bob was hired for a certain job position, and instead hired someone else in China to do his job for him. Bob was taking credit for work that was not his, while receiving a very high-pay salary. I think this dilemma also reflects badly on the company because the outsourcing went on for at least six months, while Bob watched cat videos and checked his Facebook and no one realized what was actually going on. Bob’s example shows the many downfalls of outsourcing. There are also issues off privacy and security with outsourcing because it is unknown who has access to the information and there is the chance that confidential information might be leaked or brought into the wrong hands. At the same time, there are some benefits to outsourcing. For instance, Bob outsourcing his job gave the man in China a job, which he may have not been able to obtain on his own. Also, he was receiving a $50,000 salary, which may have been more than he would make in China. Another benefit of outsourcing is it allows companies to hire highly skilled workers to complete a certain job, which may reduce costs and improve productivity.

  7. Samantha

    Bob’s activity at work was definitely unethical. It wasn’t illegal but it went against company policy. The fact that he paid someone $50,000/yr to do a job worth $250,000 alone is unethical. I do think Bob was very clever and clearly making a great business choice but I feel he could have been spending his own time in the office making his work even better or working on multiple projects at once.

    As a company, outsourcing is a great option for saving money. My personal belief however is that the extra $200,000 being saved could be used to employ 3 more people domestically or internationally instead of going into the pockets of CEOs. But that is business.

    As seen here, companies clearly risk security by outsourcing. giving foreign entities access to companies systems can allow for more security breaches and possibly more severe incidences as it is harder to monitor activity outside your own systems if you cannot see and monitor offshore workplaces.

  8. Meghan

    There was an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing as he was taking credit for work that he was not physically completing as well as breaching his contract with the company and getting paid for something he was not doing. Bob was taking credit for someone else’s work, and it was excellent work as the article noted. He wasn’t earning the credit he was being rewarded and on this account, I do believe that there is an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing. However, there were benefits for outsourcing this particular job that reflected well on the company even though they were not aware. Specifically, the work that was being done was outstanding and exceeded the expectations of the company. Bob may not have been as good at the job as the Chinese firm was, and therefore by outsourcing the work, the company received the best work that they possibly could. The company was able to benefit by receiving the best software that they could. However, there are many negatives to outsourcing as security risks are significant. An outside company would be able to access sensitive information; such as internal company secrets which runs the risk of that information being leaked or exposed to outsiders without their permission. If information were to be leaked it could undermine the trust and reputation of the company and affect the company as a whole.

  9. Ashley E.

    Absolutely 100% unethical, you sign a contract with your employer and you are bound to a code of conduct. This is a breach of confidentially and my guess Bob is going to have a hard time finding another job and getting a decent reference. It’s a brilliant idea, who wouldn’t want to get paid 200,000 to sit at a desk and surf the net while someone in China does all your work for a fraction of what your making.

    There is a huge financial benefit for companies to outsource their work. If a company can get away paying a fraction of a normal salary and get the same kind of work produced…why not? It makes sense for the company to move in this direction. It saves money as well as the stress of managing an employee – they don’t call in sick, they don’t complain, they don’t ask for things.

    There are some downfalls to this kind of approach. I would be concerned of confidentiality, and fraud. It’s hard to put your faith in someone that you have never met and never see. There are a lot of job, which require you to be present, and telecommunication doesn’t always necessarily work.

  10. Jingyue Wang

    In my opinion, what Bob has done was unethical and dishonest because he was basically doing nothing but still gets paid. By doing a simply calculate we can know that Bob gets $200,000 a year, that’s a lot of money. I’m not sure if doing so is legal or not. The benefits I can see with outsourcing as a company is that the company could save a barrel of money. In that story, company pays Bob $250,000 a year for what “he” has done, but the company could actually only pay $50,000 to outsource this job, and save $200,000 expense a year. The pitfalls I can see with outsourcing as a company is that the outsourcing companies have a chance to write a backdoor program in the software or even a Trojan horse program. If the employer company uses these softwares or sell these softwares, the company could run into a stone wall like financial loss, reputation risk, or even close down.

  11. Daljot

    1. Is there an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing at his place of work? Why or Why Not??
    I believe there was an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing at his work place because Bob was hired for the job and also getting paid and recognized for the work the “he” was doing. It is unfair to the company that hired Bob because they could have hired someone for China to do there job instead of paying Bob so much to watch cat videos.
    2. What benefits can you see with outsourcing as a company?
    The benefits of outsourcing as a company would be to reduce costs, Bob was not paying the party in China much for doing the job he was doing here. It can also help the company gain a comparative advantage by focusing in on what they do best and getting others to do what they aren’t that great at doing. It could be the best thing your company has ever done because both you and the other company would benefit from this exchange.
    3. What pitfalls can you see a company risking by outsourcing?
    A pitfall of outsourcing can be that you are not very aware and in control of what is happening in the other country because you are operating from a different place therefore if something goes wrong on the other end, it can be hard for your company to understand exactly whats going on.

  12. Danae

    I do believe that what Bob was doing was unethical. He had been hired for a specific position and was being paid to do the work himself. In addition, Bob was claiming the work as his own. If Verizon wanted to outsource the job, they wouldn’t have hired Bob, but would have found an employee overseas to do it. It’s also a little unfair to the Chinese employee to only be paid $50000 when Bob received $250000. The Chinese employee was doing all the work for much less while Bob just spent his days surfing the internet.

    There are benefits to outsourcing. There could be people with better skills who could do a higher-quality job compared to someone within the company. In addition, labor could be cheaper which could allow a company to use the saved money in another area of business.

    There are some risks to outsourcing. There is a potential for a security and privacy breach with company information. The control of that information is in someone else’s hands in another country. You have to trust that this power will not be abused and that the information will remain confidential. In addition, outsourcing means taking away a job that a local person could have.

  13. Ashley S

    Bob’s actions in outsourcing his job to China was completely unethical. Verizon hired Bob based on the talents they saw in both his resume and interview, and instead a separate worker was doing all the work while Bob did virtually nothing. It is unfair to Verizon because they could have been the company to outsource, if necessary, to China. Instead, they hired Bob based on what they thought would be an excellent fit for the company. When Bob took the job at Verizon, he was likely given details on what his job would entail, and rather than performing his tasks, he surfed the internet.

    Not only is it unfair to Verizon, but it is also unfair that a Chinese worker’s skills were being exploited for a job he could have been receiving much more compensation for, had he been making the same wage as Bob. While outsourcing is excellent for manufacturing and mass production, jobs that mainly require a low skillset, higher-skilled jobs should be paid fully for, as not everyone can perform such tasks like software development, in Bob’s case. If people possess skills that not everyone else has, it is only fair that they be compensated fully, regardless of which country they live in. This scenario is one of the major problems I see with outsourcing, the exploitation of workers in order to maximize a company’s profits.

  14. Blake Willert

    Yes I believe that there is an ethical dilemma in what Bob was doing at work. He was getting paid for work he was not doing by outsourcing it to China. Also he was giving confidential security codes from the company he was working for to an outside source that could have been very bad for the company. In this case nothing bad happened and the person who did the programming for Bob was very good and did very good work. By doing this Bob was getting paid for doing nothing and surfing the web all day, which in itself is unethical. When you work for a company you have an obligation to give your best when you are on work time.

    I think that there are many benefits to outsourcing to other companies. The first benefit to outsourcing is that it is sometimes cheaper for the company then doing it in house. For example this particular company was paying Bob $250,000 for his job and he was outsourcing it for $50,000. So the company could have outsourced to China themselves and saved $200,000. Now when it comes to software and company id numbers it gets a little more grey and you may not want to outsource information that could be used in the wrong way. A second benefit to outsourcing is your company could be using resources more efficiently. By having some part of a product outsourced the company could be using the space or resources that went into making the part that is now outsourced. I think manufacturing is a business that outsourcing has a had a major impact on and will continue to do so.

    With outsourcing there are risks involved. The first risk is security and privacy issues. As with the company that Bob worked for by him sending his changing pin to China so the programmer would have access to the companies server, a huge security risk was present. This programmer could have put a virus or any other malware into the companies system and caused major problems for the company. Confidential information could have been retrieved as well. Another issue with outsourcing is the product may not be as good as if you would have made it yourself. This could result in unhappy customers and warranty costs. Finally trade secrets or what ever you are outsourcing could be found out by competitors. If security is not very tight or the product your are having outsourced is leaked to other companies this would be bad for business.

  15. Stephanie

    My first reaction when I heard of this story was “wow, this guy is brilliant”. He was able to spend his day surfing the Internet while someone in China did all his work and still make over $200,000 a year even after paying the Chinese company. As impressive as Bob’s ingenuity is, it’s not at all ethical. This company had access to his employers network and could have taken whatever information they wanted or even crippled the system with a virus. There could also be a conflict of interest as the article mentioned he was accepting outside work to help boost his income.

    There are many benefits to outsourcing this type of work. It is easily done through telecommuting and does not require someone to be in the office all day. The company could save $200,000 a year just by getting rid of Bob and hiring the Chinese contractor. They also mentioned that the quality of work was exceptional and always done on time. There are however downfalls to outsourcings. Not only do you take away local jobs but you also open yourself up to a lot more risk. Having someone work from China opens up more pathways for malicious software or spyware to make its way onto your companies network.

  16. Jeff Fero

    Bob was definitely acting in an unethical way. It can’t necessarily be considered illegal without knowing the employment contract stipulations, but unethical it most definitely was. Bob had been knowingly outsourcing his work, while taking full credit for it. Considering his reputation as “the best programmer”, as well as hiding the invoices, immediately shows that the act was unethical, and that bob was well aware.

    Had this job been outsourced by the company, there would appear to have been no major downfall. The code that was outsourced was praised, and well written. It also came at a cost that was one fifth of what Bob was paid. Granted you lose some control over your system, and become dependent on a foreign company; but depending on what company you are, it could be the best option. If you do not need a highly responsive system, that requires instant access or updates, then outsourcing would prove to be a benefit in regards to cost and quality, from a business standpoint.

    However, business relationships can be volatile, especially non-personal ones that exist only online. And should the provider go out of business, or should they demand an outrageous price increase, you as a business owner could be completely out of luck. Dealing internationally also means you would have limited to zero legal course to prevent such things from happening.


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