There is much debate
about an employee's privacy, how much should an employer know verses
how much an employee does not have to disclose. This two front war has
many battlefields, the fronts being company time and non company time.
While I feel that you can do almost anything you want on your own time,
I also feel that the employer has a right to ensure that you are really
working on company time.
For workers in jobs which are paid by the hour, like
assembly line workers, company time and personal time is divided by the
punch of a time clock. Such a job is made of many repetitive tasks with
some variation. Some tasks may involve interaction with other
coworkers, while other tasks isolate the employee. On the floor with
the production line employees are the supervisors. This group does not
actually produce anything, but rather they make sure that the workers
are working while collecting data for the bosses. Most supervisors do
much more than what I just said, and a good supervisor looks out for
both the company and worker.
For salaried workers productivity is not measured in
units worked on by the hour, but rather goals met by review / meeting
time (or butts kissed and kicked). Sales people must sell a specified
amount, purchasing must hold costs down and managers must meet a fixed
budget, control costs or have their group meet goal deadlines. This
group of people are not supervised, but rather managed.
Their work is
not easily observed as these people do not perform the exact same
repetitive task or have a daily quota to meet. In today's competitive
market place, it's up to the sales people to maintain contact with the
customer base, rather than just waiting to respond to a customer. The
client contacts want to be treated like people, so a good sales person
needs to be friendly as well as professional. Hearing a good sales
person perform, one may think he / she was talking to his / her friends
all day long. If one really listens, one will realize that this person
is doing their job very well as they have made friends with the
customer base. Salespeople who have many one time customers, like
siding salespeople, (how many home owners have their home resided every
other year) with some repeat customers (landlords with multiple
buildings) will have a different approach than salespeople who depend
on repeat customers. Many one time customers are treated as friends,
while repeat customers are often brought into the family by a good
salesperson. So what ever is up with the client's spouse and children
may affect your business.
Professionals such as programmers and engineers are
not only hard to supervise, but hard to manage. Setting goals is
difficult as results are hard to quantify. Keystrokes done in stupidity
may look productive to a supervisor, but a good manager will know that
a few well thought out lines of code is the real goal. Thus the coder
will be banging away to nowhere, while the programmer takes the time to
study the problem and arrive at a solution. A good manager will try to
ensure that the MIS department consists of programmers, while a bad
boss will turn the most brilliant programmer into a frantic coder.
The Internet - A.K.A. The Web
Sales people and programmers are at different ends
of the professional universe, but in today's ever changing world, share
a need for communication. One of the biggest battles fought today is
about employees' activities on the internet. A supervisor need not
stand over your shoulder for your boss to find out every detail, as
many log files capture every location's name you surf to. My feelings
towards Web access in the office can be paralled to how many offices
handle newspapers, magazines and professional trade journals. Only
someone looking to be terminated (or has a really cool boss) would dare
bring in a porno magazine to read at work, even on break. So don't use
your PC to surf such sites at work.
Bosses should also keep in mind that even the best
search engine queries will produce few to many bad leads. A programmer
looking to find a 32-bit version of a .DLL program extension may get a
few links which may point to an interesting set of 32D's. A bedding
salesperson looking to see what the competition has on the Web may also
come across interesting product application photographs. (OK - for the
10 of you - Porno Pic's)
So how should Web access be viewed by both parties?
Quite like a newspaper. Certain parts may be vital for the job, while
other parts should be looked at during breaks, like the comics. Still
other parts should be ignored, like the bra and panty ads which may be
in the newspaper. If you must oogle, do so in a place other than work.
Most daily newspapers are under a dollar and free public access to the
Web is becoming commonplace.
A good company will realize that for many positions it
takes a person with a certain type of personality to do the job right.
An inspector's job is best filled by someone who has an eye for detail.
Thus some questions at the interview may seem rather personal because
the company is seeking to find the right person for the job, not just
an employee for the position. Supervisors have to be authoritative and
diplomatic as to control situations without looking like dictators.
Inspectors who can let things slide will hurt a company's reputation
for quality, while a supervisor who acts on everything little thing
they see will become a nag to the employees.
Good employees enjoy their
jobs, and some people are fortunate enough that they can make a living
out of something that they enjoy. Many people write programs for their
own use or to show off for others. One can find many examples of such
on the Web (http://www.nibbleandbit.com/lottery/index.html
example of such). I do not know many programmers who'd write an
accounting package for fun, but I do know many who'd do such for money.
Mechanics, welders, electricians, painters, etc... may work at their
job for 40 hours a week, but enjoy career activities for many more
hours after they've punched out. Such people make the effort to stay
current and learn new things on their own, further benefiting the
company. A real good company may also let an employee use company
equipment after hours for the employee's personal use, as some
equipment costs more than what the average hobbyist would want to
spend. Thus a company may let a mechanic fix a rust spot on their car
after hours. Some questions may be personnel, because the company is
interested in finding a person who will enjoy the job.
Unless you commute 100 miles one way, or work alone in a
remote site, you will see your new coworkers during non working hours.
Thus your company (which is made up of people) will find out your
- sexual preferences
- what you eat
- amongst other personnel
Many groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anonn) have a
policy that "what happens at the meeting stays at the meeting". Such
includes attendance. If the personnel manager "just happens" to drive
by when an AA meeting is getting out and "just happens" to notice you,
consult a lawyer. If you feel embarrassed by certain facts, then you
may want to attend an AA meeting 100 miles from your home, increasing
your odds of secrecy. In short become friendly with your coworkers and
don't expect privacy in public places. As long as you work with other
people for other people you will never have complete privacy. The best
advice is to keep your nose where it belongs and avoid doing things
that may put you in a spot light. Your work time belongs to someone
else, that is why you get paid. Though personal time is yours, be
friendly with the people you work with when you are not at work. I did
not say you have to be friends with them, just don't be rude. If
someone at work tries to bring up something personal, you should be
able to shrug it off because it's not work related.