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nikipedia's avatar

How do you tell your boss you're not willing to use your personal stuff for work?

Asked by nikipedia (27531points) September 7th, 2010

There are four girls who work in my lab (two grad students, two postdocs). We all have computers at our desks, but they are old, slow, and I suspect riddled with trojans and viruses.

Three of us regularly bring our personal laptops to work because they are so much better than the awful computers at our desks. During a meeting today, we discussed replacing the computers at our desks.

My boss is a total Luddite, extremely oblivious, and not exactly an overly considerate person. He is of the opinion that since we already own personal computers that are better than the computers at work, the perfect solution is for us to simply continue using our laptops at work.

I think this is ridiculous and completely unacceptable. Using my personal laptop at work should be an option, not something that I’m forced to do because the equipment I have at work is virtually useless.

I tried to gently suggest this during the meeting and was regaled with a tale of the Old Days, when all of the students in the department had to schedule time around one another to use the one computer at the end of the hall.

So (1) I am right, right? I shouldn’t have to bring my laptop to work? And (2) How do I communicate this to this guy?

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13 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

There has to be some kind of legal paperwork to establish that it is yours so you are at liberty to take it out of there when you leave.

But that’s only the beginning. Who owns the contents of the computer? How do you establish rights, privacy, liability in case of loss, potential violations of copyright or patent, etc.? Who is responsible for maintaining integrity of data and safeguarding against corruption, viruses, etc.? Who is liable if security is compromised? Whose insurance policy covers it?

Oh, dear, it looks to me as if it’s going to involve an awfully long and complex legal document that will take extensive research to prepare. Fine with you if the school wants to go to all that trouble, and then you can decide if it’s in your best interests to agree to it. But it would probably be cheaper, and certainly quicker, just to buy a new laptop.

wundayatta's avatar

Of course you are right. Your boss can make owning a computer a condition of employment, but that has to come before being hired, not after. If he does make that requirement, then the computer is tax deductible, if you itemize.

Then there are all the issues @Jeruba mentions.

As to taking it up with the boss, well, you got to make an appointment, marshal your arguments, and meet with him and tell him. If you have trouble, get help from the HR person. They can explain it to your boss.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I agree with the others. I don’t think you should have to use your own computer. I think some of the problem may be that you guys have already been doing it. I’m guessing your boss doesn’t see a reason why he should replace the computers when you have been bringing in your own up to this point. If you are really against bringing your personal computer to work, don’t do it.

ftp901's avatar

I think you should stop bringing in your computer and then keep reporting the issues you are having over the next few weeks/months about all the trouble you are having getting things done due to the “professional” equipment.
– I can’t get X done because the computer isn’t working
– it will take me 4 hours to do X because the computer is so slow (and it would only take 15 minutes with a new computer)
– is it possible to upgrade the computer to increase efficiency
– I’m no longer willing to use my personal equipment at work.

If you talk about efficiency alot, he will eventually realize that buying a new computer is more cost-effective than paying someone to do things that take four time as long

Disc2021's avatar

Although I agree with you 100% (totally support the idea of trying to “show em who’s boss”), sometimes that’s just life. I mean, what can be done if the person in charge is a cheapskate? You could report it to the authorities and what not, but that may place you in a compromising position at work or take too much time – maybe more time than the big stink is worth.

For the program I’m in at school, I’m expected to drive 30 minutes off-campus every day to a hospital for classes and for clinical during the summer I’ll be expected to drive out to various different sites in the region as well as pay for my own gas and parking expenses. I think it’s ridiculous, that they should find a way to shuttle us or at least compensate for gas expenses. They say, that’s life. I’ve confided in the idea that in a couple of years it’ll all pay off.

john65pennington's avatar

Personal property is personal and should stay at home. my police department supplied everything for us. bringing your personal computer to work may do more harm than good for your computer. if you suspect the work computers are full of viruses, do you think the Trojan cares which computer he attacks? i would not do this. tell your boss that you are concerned that viruses may attack your personal computer and that his company would be responsible for either cleaning it or replacing it. this should get his attention.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I can see it from your boss’s perspective – since you’re already using these laptops, why go the extra mile to make anything work – ze doesn’t care how you feel about the principle, just how much time and money this will take out of the day’s work. You can see how the others feel and make up some kind of a shared document for a meeting with your boss about this issue.

nikipedia's avatar

@john65pennington: Thanks for your input, but I actually am fully confident in my ability to protect my computer from malware and so far have been entirely successful. The computers at work have been damaged beyond repair; however, if we had new machines I am sure I could secure them appropriately.

jerv's avatar

First off, you did screw up by using your own computers for work. If nothing else, you took away any reason he may have had to fix/update their system.

Unfortunately, that is Pandora’s box so you pretty much hamstrung yourself. While they can’t force you to use your laptop for their work, they can find an excuse to fire your ass.

woodcutter's avatar

Just tell him that your PC went tits up and will have to start using the company dog to get work done and it will take a long, long, time. You will need back up from all the others on your team, although if all of your ‘puters fail at the same time it will look suspicious. Cell phones are another point of contention if the daily use on company time is making your bill higher you have room to complain. Since just about everyone has cell phones these days it would be impossible to use the out of order angle. A bit off your topic but in the South, it seems in construction, hourly workers are expected to use their own equipment on the job. If they get worn or broken or pawned by someone who walks off with them you are pretty much screwed. I can see it if the worker is a sub contractor but to make hourly people do that is just plain wrong. If you bring in your personal tools then decide to keep them home, the boss might take that as an attitude problem. The trick is to get all on board so mgmt will have to do something. If you have some holdouts it might get ugly. Mgmt. seems to forget that you are doing THEM a favor by using your personal things to help out. Your personal stuff might well be absorbed into the company and before long you will be forced to pretty much allow other workers to use it as if it belonged to the company. At least that’s how I was done before I washed my hands of being the “good team player” and went out on my own. Good luck

Zaku's avatar

Seems to me it would be fair if they created a technology budget per month, which could either go to a fund to buy new computers, to fix the existing computers, or to a bonus given to employees who bring in their own working computers. Each employee could use a different option, as appropriate.

I agree is seems slimy to take advantage of workers’ computers, when that wasn’t a condition of employment. Compare to jobs where workers are required to have and use their own cars. Has to be spelled out up front. Seems like you should be in a position to negotiate. You might do well as an employee body if you had a discussion of this with your boss not present, so some dopes or sycophants don’t mess it up for everyone by not standing up.

Trillian's avatar

Is writing a point paper an option? If he’s the type to cut you off when you’re speaking, you couldwrite your paper with all the above mentioned items laid out and CC a copy to HR and whomever else. The proprietary issues alone, one would think, would be enough to wake someone up.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Find out how much the local computer time rents for at Kinkos. Rent your Laptop to the company for the same amount.

Tell your boss you will use your personal computer for work if he will agree in writing to replace your laptop at least once every 2 years.

Make him sign a waiver so if someone steals your computer, you are not liable for any proprietary information that may be stolen or misused.

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