Like my colleague Anthony Bradley, I also speak to a lot of IT departments worried about people wasting time on social networking sites like Facebook. But Anthony is a much nicer guy than I am. Oh sure, I firmly believe there’s a lot of time wasting going on. But it’s not from the employees socializing over Facebook. It’s from the IT departments who are obsessing over it happening.
Let me explain why.
First off, IT has no charter to concern themselves with an individual’s work productivity – either specifically or as a group – unless it is their own. That is the responsibility of those people’s manager. In this regard IT departments would be well advised to heed some advice once provided to me by a sage manager – “organizations do not become more effective when their employees spend their time worrying about what other people need to do – they become more effective when the employees worry about what they themselves need to do.”
Secondly, how can you be certain that pure social interaction doesn’t support a business objective? If Jenny from sales is “friending” her prospect list or posting some videos on the fun wall of her clients are you really, really sure you want to stop this type of activity?
Now I’m guessing that most of you have been on a team building activity. Maybe gone to a company Christmas party. Perhaps you’ve even organized one. These types of activities are a whole lot more expensive and legally dangerous (particularly when a few drinks are involved) than Facebook. But we brave the risks because we understand that humans need a social framework to operate effectively.
But last, and most definitely not least, have you ever stopped to ask yourself exactly whose time you think these people are “wasting?” Hands up – who here puts in a strict 40-hour week? Anyone? Anyone?
I seriously doubt that many people are answering in the affirmative because for the vast majority of knowledge workers the 40-hour work week has gone the way of the employer-funded pension plan. In reality we’re probably logging something closer to 50-60 hours a week. And who helped empower this reality? You did Mr./Ms. IT person!
Funny, but I can’t seem to recall as much angst expressed by IT departments over the appropriation of employees’ personal time when laptops, email systems, Blackberry’s and VPNs were being deployed as I’m now hearing about the potential for Facebook to chew into work time.
Guess what? You have no moral basis to deny people the right to reclaim a semblance of a personal life that today’s professional existence makes so hard to achieve. Banging on about this is the Web 2.0 version of listening across the cube to see if anyone is using the company phone for personal reasons. If you’re so compelled to ban the use of Facebook just make sure you also whiteout any feel good statements about “work-life balance” from those mission statement plaques hanging up in your lobby.
Then again, methinks IT doth protest too much. Maybe, just maybe, you’re really just ticked off because users have gone and started using Facebook without your express permission. Maybe, just maybe, you’re really using this time wasting issue as an excuse to re-exert some authority over what these people can do with IT.
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