Feb 18, 2013

How rigid should companies be with employees' use of time?

At my office, we have two people with management oversight, and they have very different approaches. One is pretty easy-going, assigns tasks and expects them done on time. The other, and I am not exaggerating, has screamed "Shut up!" at the top of her lungs when she felt people were talking too much, has thrown things across the office, kicked a trash can across the office, and docked multiple employees' pay without telling them for checking Facebook (including the person in charge of social media). We are not talking about a factory, assembly line environment here, we are talking about people who code, writers, visual artists, basically a range of creative class individuals. I have my own feelings about which approach is more effective, but I wonder what other people think is the best approach. How much latitude should employees be allowed in how they use their time at work?

It depends on the employee. Some folks respond well to the laid back approach, they are responsible people and don't require a heavy hand. Other people are lazy or otherwise unreliable. They require a firmer hand and more oversight.

I think the first question that should be asked is whether work is getting done appropriately. Are people meeting their deadlines? Is their work product of good quality? If the answer is no, then you have to address it, establish performance expectations, and hold people to them. If the answers are yes, then yelling at people, acting like a bully and stealing from them (and that is what it is when they aren't paid for their time) is the worst possible way to manage a business. THE WORST. This is especially true with jobs that require creative thought like the ones you mentioned. The danger from the company's perspective is that when you treat people poorly, you are going to build resentment and it is going to come back and bite you when you need people to go beyond a minimum effort.

It's like the movie Office Space, when the Bobs are talking to Peter Gibbons, he tells them that, "...my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired."

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