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.

Your Personality

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 ( is an 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.

Coworkers And Your Time

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
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.