You’re Hired—To Do My Job

More employees are quietly outsourcing all or parts of their jobs to other workers. Why leaders should be concerned. 

Too busy with other tasks to get to that one project? Backed up on filing expense reports? Or just too burned out or too unmotivated to finish a job? 

Why not hire someone to do your work for you?

In the latest trend to upend traditional workplace norms, people are hiring stand-ins to do parts or all of their own jobs, often without their employer’s knowledge. Born from the shift to remote work and aided by job-networking marketplaces for independent contractors, the practice is viewed by many employees as a legitimate response to ever-increasing workloads resulting from layoffs, hiring freezes, and reduced resources. But experts say outsourcing or sub-contracting job responsibilities can violate policy, not to mention reinforce the notion that people are interchangeable and replaceable. “What’s to stop an employer from going to those people themselves?” asks Kate Shattuck, global co-leader of the Impact Investing, ESG and Sustainability practice at Korn Ferry. “Why do they need you if other people are doing your work?”

To be sure, the rise of this kind of outsourcing creates many ethical and practical challenges for leaders. Some companies may not mind if an employee, in order to free themselves from more pressing responsibilities, hires someone to handle administrative tasks, like expense reporting. Automating routine tasks and thus freeing employees to focus on the bigger-picture aspects of their roles is part of why companies are investing billions of dollars in artificial intelligence and other technology. A major problem arises, however, if you outsource aspects of a role that a client specifically hired you to do or, alternately, if you do it to cover for having misrepresented your skills to your employer.

Korn Ferry senior client partner Maria Amato likens these situations to the difference between a parent helping their kid with homework and actually doing it for them. “Where’s the line between reasonable and unreasonable?” she asks. For her part, Tracy Bosch, a senior client partner and leader of work measurement in North America for Korn Ferry, questions whether the practice violates employee contracts. "Pay gets determined based on the work an employee is expected to do," she says.

As a practical matter, outsourcing can expose a company and its customers to data and privacy threats, says Deepali Vyas, global head of the FinTech, Payments, and Crypto practice at Korn Ferry. The practice is particularly prevalent, she says, among digital- and information-technology professionals: in the pandemic’s aftermath, the demand for talent across industries enabled them to take on multiple full-time roles—without fear of being exposed, because they were working remotely. But, as Vyas notes, outsourcing tasks for these roles likely involves sharing intellectual property or other proprietary data, possibly with an unvetted contractor in another country. “It’s a security nightmare for companies,” says Vyas. 

Alma Derricks, a senior client partner in the Culture, Change, and Communications practice at Korn Ferry, sees the rise of outsourcing job responsibilities as a symptom of the disillusionment many people have about work. Since the pandemic, employees have become increasingly disengaged, many of them believing their leaders lack loyalty and aren’t concerned with their overall health and well-being. After watching companies outsource many of their jobs over the last few decades, says Derricks, they don’t see anything wrong with doing it themselves. “At many companies, the culture and job conditions have degraded to the point where this kind of outsourcing among employees is possible,” says Derricks. 


Learn more about Korn Ferry’s Talent Acquisition capabilities.