The Ultimate in Outsourcing, or HR’s Ultimate Nightmare?

I read a story the other day that made me shake my head and think “there is no limit to human creativity.”

The story is about “Bob” — a (nameless) software developer at a U.S.-based critical (nameless) infrastructure company — who outsourced all his work to China for 20 percent of his salary so he could play around on the Internet all day while getting paid.

“Bob” had lots of time on his hands. In a typical day he surfed Redditt, LinkedIn, Facebook, eBay and watched a lot of cat videos.

Outsourcing his “job” to China

His company (actually, one of his companies — he worked for several and pulled this stunt on all of them) discovered “Bob’s” scam accidentally. They contacted Verizon, their wireless provider, asking for help in understanding unexplainable activity on their VPN logs: an open and active connection from Shenyang, China. Somehow the logs showed that it was “Bob” and that he was logged in from China. But there he was sitting in the office.

Gradually the full details of “Bob’s” scam came to light and he was fired. What’s surprising is that “Bob” got away with it for several years, and may never have been detected had he set up his VPN properly to make it look like the connection was coming from his home.

For the last several years in a row his performance reviews were excellent, and he seemed to be doing a good job. As one news report said: 

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Verizon, the company who ultimately discovered what was happening (not the employer) said on their blog: ‘Investigators had the opportunity to read through (Bob’s) performance reviews while working alongside HR. For the last several years in a row he received excellent remarks. His code was clean, well written, and submitted in a timely fashion. Quarter after quarter, his performance review noted him as the best developer in the building.’ “

Where was his manager?

What I’d like to know is where his manager was during all of this? Did he not ask for status updates? Did he not notice that “Bob” never mentioned any problems or snags in the programming process nor did he go into any details? Did he not see “Bob” watching videos? Assuming that “Bob” worked in a cubicle, didn’t his neighbors notice anything?

Like the whole Enron/Jeff Skilling mess, I keep thinking that if people just worked as hard and creatively at the “good stuff” as they sometimes work at the “bad stuff,” what a wonderful world this would be!

Two questions:

  1. What do you think the company did with his job? Outsource it? Keep it internal?
  2. What job do you think “Bob” should try now? Something on Wall Street, perhaps?

But most importantly, where on earth was his manager?

Jacque Vilet, president of Vilet International, has more than 20 years’ experience in international human resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor, and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. She has also been a speaker in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications. Contact her at


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