#HRHorrorStories – Day 1 – Your Employees & The Internet

fashion-week-etiquette-horror-storiesThis week on Drive Thru HR (#DTHR), the topic is HR horror stories…those incidents and events that not only left us speechless but also spurred changes and policies in the workplace.

On Day 1, the topic of discussion centered around employees use of the Internet at work – more specifically, visiting inappropriate sites while on company time.  Not really a shock there with use of the Internet part of many employees’ daily duties.

Many companies have put policies into place in an attempt to “monitor and control” usage on company computers and while on company time:

”The Internet is intended for business use only.  Use of the Internet for any non-business purpose, including but not limited to, personal communication or solicitation, purchasing personal goods or services, gambling and downloading files for personal use, is strictly prohibited.

Consistent with applicable federal and state law, the time you spend on the Internet may be tracked through activity logs for business purposes.  All abnormal usage will be investigated thoroughly.  Employees learning of any misuse of the Internet shall notify a member of management.

Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”

Some companies have recognized the potential for harassment in the workplace as a result of inappropriate Internet usage and have added additional comments to their Internet Usage Policy:

“Our company’s policies against sexual and other types of harassment apply fully to Internet usage.  Violations of those policies are not permitted and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.  Therefore, employees are also prohibited from displaying, transmitting and/or downloading sexually explicit images, messages, ethnic slurs, racial epithets or anything that could be construed as harassment or disparaging to others.”

But, with use of the Internet such a part of each employee’s daily routine, how effective is it to have such a policy?  In a story shared, it was an IT Manager who had violated the policy – the person responsible for monitoring all other employees’ usage.

This comes back to a company needing to be “proactive” rather than simply “reactive.”  Remember: policies are put in place to guide the employees, make them aware of limits and for use in disciplinary cases.  But, a company cannot simply think setting a policy and reviewing it with employees if enough to monitor such things.

There will be “signs” before the misuse of the Internet begins to occur.

What are the two main reasons why an employee will pull back from their job duties and start surfing the Internet while on company time?

1) The Employee is dissatisfied with their job so it’s a form of rebellion, and

2) The Employee truly doesn’t have enough work to keep them busy so they turn to the Internet to fill their time.

And both of those come back to interacting with and managers your employees.  Don’t be so wrapped up in carrying out your own duties that you stop paying attention to your employees.  You don’t need to micro-manage them, but by simply having open communication lines between you and them allows you to know when they are looking for work to do, may be ready to tackle a new and more challenging project, have hit burn-out or have frustrations brewing that if not addressed will escalate and potentially cause damage to the co-workers around them as well.

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