Nearly every day it seems that yet another large employer is banning employee access to Facebook, which seems to have exploded in popularity in just a few short months.
Currently it is banned for employees of the Ontario Government, the City of Toronto, and at least two major Canadian Banks. The only exception is for city councillers who ‘have’ to use it to keep in touch with their constituents.
Yeah, those lazy government workers and bankers, always slacking off… I’m sure that now facebook is banned they’ll all turn into model employees, as will those at any other workplace that jumps on the ‘banned’-wagon.
See, the thing about banning access to any particular internet site is kinda like playing whack-a-mole. You hammer one down, and before you can react, another one pops up. I’ve worked at places that at one time or another have banned myspace (pre-News Corp. owned days, of course), Friendster and even Hotmail. And there’s always Livejournal, which always seems to fly under the radar when it comes to media-alarmism, but which is the one I’ve seen more 20-somethings spend hours on than any other site.
Banning a single high-profile site from employee access is lazy management. That is it. Enacting such a ban may make a few people look good to their bosses, while accomplishing nothing in reality (something Canadian senior managers at many places I know of seem to specialize in).
For a start, as I pointed out earlier, there’s no shortage of online time-wasters. I joined the working world before the Internet was commonplace and had to make do with minesweeper and solitaire. Ban one site, and the slackers will just turn their attention to something else.
Large, sweeping bans punish every employee, not simply the lazy ones. Diligent, hard-working staff who only check particular sites on their lunch break are treated the same as those who do nothing all day.
But what about the lazy employees that are supposedly internet surfing all day instead of doing their work? In my experience, that sort of person is very rare. Most of the chronic web-surfers I know are underemployed. The few who aren’t are being passive-aggressive – expressing hostility at their employer. Usually they aren’t given enough to do, and their employers aren’t interested in training them, giving them more responsibilities or investing in them so that they can be more productive.
Both of these problems – the angry employee and the underemployed – are signs of poor management. It is up to the manager or the boss to ensure that employees have enough to do, and that what they have to offer is recognised and utilised.
Most slackers that I know of like to be productive – very few like to feel useless. The reality is that many jobs have a fair amount of ‘down-time’ that has to be filled somehow, and not just with meaningless ‘busy-work’, and that many managers – focused on their own careers and pleasing their bosses – are either not interested in or don’t have a vested interest in supervising and being tuned into their employees. The predominate management style, as far as I and my friends can see, consists of boasting to superiors while studiously ignoring everything that doesn’t make them look good.
Being a good manager requires a fair degree of honesty, diligence, and hard work that may not have an immediate, measurable ROI. And it’s so much easier just to ban a website.