Being asked to do a job without being paid for it

I asked this question because I've seen several ethical questions proposed on this site with fairly good responses.

The question got closed because "General workplace issues aren't on-topic here, but what you're describing is a pretty standard internship." My question has nothing to do with an internship as I'm not an intern.

My question was about asking for advice on a beginning programmer if he should give up some of his intellectual property as a way of getting his foot in the door or if he should stand his ground and not participate.

I checked the FAQ's and it says I can ask questions about freelancing jobs and business concerns. Which I consider this to be about.

Can I get some info about this and maybe why this isn't a good fit for this site?

  • Which question was it?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:00
  • @MarkTrapp I really need some clarification here... I edited my question as suggested to me, but you still say that it's off topic? I don't understand. Also, what happened to the voting system? Why aren't questions being given a 5 person vote before they get closed? Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 19:27
  • @OghmaOsiris The question isn't any different from its original formulation: your boss is trying to not pay you for your ideas so he can use an internet/work-study student to do it and you want to know if that's okay. You're just moving words around, but it's the same question. Your questions about your situation are not going to work here: trying to keep asking it is wasting your time. At least this time, Anna was able to find a duplicate for the general issue of giving your work away for free.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 19:36
  • @OghmaOsiris Please see this question for info about when moderators can and should close questions outright.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 19:38
  • @MarkTrapp Ok then when reading through I see Jeff Atwood saying, " I agree with the principle that the determining factor is the type of answers a question is getting, particularly in these borderline cases." Which if going by my question, the answers I received on my second iteration were much better than the first, so why would it still be closed like that? WOuldn't it be better to have a close vote in this case? Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 19:42
  • @OghmaOsiris In this case it's not borderline: you've already been told once that what you're asking is not on-topic here. Asking it again doesn't change that. The issue isn't how you're wording it: it's the actual question itself. The one facet of your situation that's on-topic, whether it's okay to give your work away for free for later gain, has already been asked and answered (the duplicate Anna provided).
    – user8
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


To summarize the background of the question:

  • You work for a guy who's asked you for ideas for a project.
  • You provided those ideas, but your boss wants a work-study student (essentially an intern) to implement it
  • You've done some preliminary work in the form of mockups and designs that your boss wants you to hand over to the other person who's actually implementing the idea
  • Once the other student graduates, you're the one who will have to maintain it
  • You're concerned that because you're not doing the initial implementation you're not going to get credit for your ideas
  • Your ideas were above and beyond the scope of your actual job and you want to be compensated for it.

Your question:

Should you hand over the ideas in hopes you could get hired in the future or should you let the other student fail so they come to you?

That's not a software development question: that's a workplace politics question. Nothing about your situation requires programmers to answer: your beef is with your boss and your current workplace environment.

If your question is about software development, feel free to revise your question to ask specifically about that. But if you just want to know how to deal with your boss potentially not giving you credit for your ideas, you'll probably be more interested in the Professional Matters Area 51 proposal.

  • I've edited my question. Please let me know if it is more/less on topic. Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:37
  • @OghmaOsiris Your edits didn't really change the question. You added a new question "Is it common in development?" which isn't a question that works here (the only two possible answers are "yes" and "no"), while still asking about the same workplace problem. I don't think you're looking for something that'd be on-topic here.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:50
  • Ok. Then can I just have the question deleted please? Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:52
  • @OghmaOsiris Sure thing: just did it. Do keep an eye out for the professional matters proposal: this type of question would definitely work there.
    – user8
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:54
  • 2
    I think one aspect of his situation really would need programmers to answer - taking over a program that someone else has written. And, yes, in other professions people take over tasks for other people, but not all the issues that come up are the same. That's not the main focus of the question, but it's one of the issues. You could also make a case that whether or not giving up ideas/work now will be rewarded later is fairly industry specific.
    – psr
    Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:54
  • It won't be helpful. By the time it would go into beta, my problem won't matter any more. Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:56
  • @psr that's what I was trying to ask... I guess it's too late now. Commented Oct 6, 2011 at 21:57
  • @OghmaOsiris If you edit the question to focus on that, we can reopen it.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 13:32
  • @AnnaLear & MarkTrapp I'm resubmitting my question, so please let me know how I can make it better if it still isn't right. I'm trying to gear it towards what psr was saying about giving up my previous work/ideas in the hopes of it rewarding my later. Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 15:08

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