Friday, June 06, 2008

Accountability (Part 3)

The past couple of weeks I presented two examples of accountability in the workplace (Accountability Part 1 and Part 2). This week I’ll cover a polemic topic. IM at the office.

Bottom line, I think Messenger and other IM platforms should be allowed at work.

Here in Colombia, the general rule in companies is that you’re not permitted to IM while at work. As with anything that’s prohibited, you want it more! And this creates the need to find a way to get around this rule. And believe me, people will always find a way to get around it.

So it becomes this clandestine activity and you end up using valuable time trying not to get caught.

The idea behind this rule is that you don’t waste working hours chatting to your friends online; computers are set up so that you won’t be able to access any chatting software.

Now let’s go back to the title of this article, accountability.

I used to work for a company where IM was not only allowed but encouraged! So I concluded:

• When IM is allowed, most people tend to use it more and more sparingly as time passes. They end up getting tired of it.

• Performance should be evaluated based on results, goals and expectations, not on how many hours your backside is on the chair.

• IM can even be used as a working tool, you can easily share files, video-conference… and you can save time by not having to go to the 10th floor to ask something from someone.

So the idea I want to leave you with is this:

The issue is not breathing down the necks of each of your employees to see what they do every hour of every day and try to ensure that they do their work. The approach should be to set clear goals and expectations from the beginning and follow them up regularly. I’ve found that most people will step up to the plate and deliver.

Caveat: There are indeed people who are addicted to IMing and who don’t deliver results. If this is the case, IM allows you to tell those who do deliver from those who will find any excuse to procrastinate.

All the best!


Patrick said...

I worked for a "design" company that used IM internally but made a big point of telling everyone (via tersely-worded emails) how they read every single message that was sent/received.

They also monitored our network usage and blocked sites they considered "non-work-related." These included social media and networking sites that could have actually benefited the company's image.

I SO agree with you regarding what this policy did to our productivity. We all shared technology and hacks that would circumvent the firewall and leave no log entries.

We laughed at how much energy we put into beating the IT guys at their own game. And guess what? If the company would have just recognized the usefulness of open communication, so much more efficiency would be realized.

P.S. The company went out of business in June. They were so worried that an employee might watch a YouTube video that they forgot to watch their own bank statements.

Very good piece. Enjoyed!

Carolina Ayerbe said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Patrick! Yeah, it's amazing what companies focus on, huh?