The sheltered existence

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BronwenWeeGo.jpgOver the xmas break we were having a general discussion with one of our house guests and somehow ended up talking about how their staff like to use messenger.  To my surprise, but also now my interest, this person went on to say things like…
“Messenger lets gossip spread too quickly in the office”.
“The staff just spend all day talking to their friends”.
“We should monitor how much time they spend in messenger”.

I guess i sometimes forget that i live a sheltered existence, surrounded my other computer geeks who embrace technology and see it’s positive uses for communication and collaboration etc.  I associate that kind of of negative thinking with ppl of my parent’s generation who don’t understand the technology and are out of touch etc.  Though having said that, i am slowing traingin my mum to use messenger rather than call me…it’s a slow process.  But this was someone that was essentially my age (not that i’m a spring chicken anymore), but i’m far from an old fogey yet 🙂

It immediatly brought me back to the opening session of tech ed for 2006 where they talked about digital immigrants and natives and the changing workplace.

We pushed the conversation further, as we were kinda surprised at the attitude, to find a few other things that quickly bundled this person as an immigrant:
– They open their email once or twice a day as they find it distracting.
– They think it’s wrong to use messenger to talk to your friends “while at work”.
– They think messenger allows dissemination of information between workers too quickly.
– Messenger is bad in the work place cause you “can’t see they’re not working”.
– Young people don’t have loyalty anymore.
– You have to talk to people in person or on the phone for the communication to be effective and meaningful.

I just wanted to send them this link which i think you can generalize and probably apply to every business. But after our pushing, they had gotten a bit defensive, saything they had nothing against messenger, etc.

So here come the <rant>

I know there’s many places that ban messenger clients, block internet sites etc so ppl don’t abuse work internet and believe monitoring access and time spent in these activities to be a good management practise. I truly find it amazing that ppl think that doing that is a productive step for a healthy work environment.  Don’t know about others but these actions usually make me act in at least one of these ways:
1. Find a way around the rules
2. Break the rules and suffer the consequences
3. Feel untrusted child that can’t do their job properly
4. Feel “watched”
5. Start looking for a new job

People who still think you need to be at your desk 9-5 just thinking about work have just got it wrong.  I use the internet, msn, and skype all day…

I find if i’m stuck, I’ll surf the internet for 5 mins, sometime totally non-work related, and this gives my brain time to come to the solution on it’s own.
I’ll ask a “friend” a couple of questions, quite often finding the solution in the mere act of explaining what i’m up to
I can ask someone a question without interupting their train of thought or clogging up the email server by sending them an instant message they can address in their own time.
Find it a great way to organise or sort out a problem with say 5 ppl rather than calling a meeting or having a phone conversation.  Ppl can contribute as they have the spare moments and have time to look stuff up or think about it.

At the moment, I rarely receive a work related email, we use wiki pages, shared work spaces, messenger, skype etc wherever possible.  I’m lucky to physically see my collegues once a month.  I work at home, by myself, unattended and “unmonitored” all day.  If i need to go out for an hour to grab something, I do it when it’s convenient and just make up the time some other day.

The best way to know if someone isn’t working…is to look at what they produce…if they produce nothing, say they were at work all day, then they must either have hit a problem they didn’t mention, need some help, or be slacking off.  You don’t need messenger logs to work out someone spent all day talking to their best mate overseas.  If they’re talking to their friends all day instead of working…is it too hard to imagine that messenger isn’t the problem…that if they didn’t have messenger, they’d surf the internet, if they didn’t have that, they’d send emails, without that, they’d use the phone, take longer “coffee breaks”, “look like their working”?  Usually if someone is “slacking off” it’s cause they’re unmotivated.

I know when i’m unmotivated i’m usually bored, under challenged, over worked, feel unappreciated etc.  Usually i’m capable of mixing up my tasks enough and giving myself challenges to overcome these feelings but there gets to a point where even that isn’t enough.  I think managers and companies need to see their people as assets and work out how to get the best out of the person rather than inventing rules and regulations to inhibit their creative energy.

People have no loyalty anymore…well neither do companies…there’s so many restructure, down-sizing etc. ppl don’t feel like they matter.  You get a review that assigns a very impersonal number to all the hard work you did and “doing your job” is only “average”.

Obviously some people have a really bad work ethic and pretty much specialize in acomplishing nothing.  Probably cause they got away with it.

I guess the past does repeat.  With all new technology people try to control and monitor people’s access.  I know many companies used  to, and some still do, monitor use of the photocopier to see who’s been using excessive amounts of paper and ink, go through phone logs to make sure people aren’t spending too long on the phone, set specific times for coffee breaks, lunch etc for jobs where there isn’t a need to stagger lunch and coffee breaks.


So i’m guessing anyone who’s ever had to manage people are going to flame me….but i’d like to hear your comments…and anyone else’s for that matter.