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Gini Dietrich

Treat People Like Adults and You’ll Have High Productivity

By: Gini Dietrich | March 28, 2013 | 
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Treat People Like Adults and You'll Have High ProductivityMy dad forwarded me an email yesterday. It was from one of his colleagues who talked about the fact that external websites – including sites they need to access to do their jobs – had been shut down in an effort to “control non-work related web visits.”

If a site is pertinent to one’s job, they have to request an order with the IT department to have it unblocked. Each is considered on a case-by-case basis.

My dad is a 60-year-old man. He’s a grown-up. He has two degrees. He has 40 years of experience. He works with other grown-ups. They do serious work in the healthcare field that is changing modern medicine as we know it.

Sure, there might be some people in the organization who take advantage and spend all day on Facebook (though, if they’re like my team, it might be open all day, but they’re not actually on it), but to punish everyone?

I often run into this same situation when I spend time on the road speaking with business leaders. They think, if no one can access anything online, productivity will increase.

When someone tells me that, especially if I’m in their offices, I’ll pull out my phone and get on a “forbidden” site with them watching, just to prove employees will find a way around their stupid rule.

And it is a stupid rule. It makes me glad my boss doesn’t care where we spend time online as long as we get our work done.

Facebook During the Day

But I am reminded of a time, about five years ago, that I was walking to the ladies room in our office. The energy center – or the group of cubicles where all the interns sat – was on the way so I said hello to them all as I walked by.

As I walked back to my office, I noticed one of the interns was on Facebook – just blatantly out there in the open – at 10:00 in the morning.

I was furious!

How dare she play on Facebook in the middle of the day?

But our managing director said something really important to me. She said, “Gini, she is one of our very best interns. She easily does the job of two people. Are you really going to get mad at her for checking Facebook for 10 minutes during the day?”

Of course she was right and I never said anything to that intern. In fact, it totally changed the way I think.

Treat People Like Adults

If people are spending too much time on non-work related sites, you have a human resources issue. But if productivity is high and people are getting their work done, who the heck cares where they spend time online?

So they check the balance on their checking account or take a brain break on the social networks or grab a quick gift for their nephew while they’re thinking about it. So what?

If people are going to game the system, they’re going to do it no matter what you do to their work computers, just like I demonstrate with my phone in someone’s office.

But most people? Most just want to come to work, do their very best work, have the support and resources they need to do a good job, and go home feeling like they accomplished something.

As it turns out, when treated like adults, most will act that way. But, treat them like children and lo and behold! They act like children.

Would you rather have an office full of adults or one full of children?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

178 comments
i7Chris
i7Chris

Outstanding commentary Gini. I couldn't agree more. And as the landscape continues to change -- more digital natives entering the workplace, IT departments embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to cut budgets, and company need to increase communications across silos... curtailing access to the internet (no matter how good the intentions) is going to be more and more difficult. 

REMedina
REMedina

 @ginidietrich First of all, I love your posts and read them religiously. But this post got me fired up enough to comment- first time commenter too! I completely agree that companies should treat employees as adults and not monitor or block social sites. However, as a social media employee at a large healthcare company, I also see the risks and understand why things are blocked. It's not because we think our employees will be unproductive, but it simply comes down to risk and security. We handle extremely important information for our members and one little mistake could easily wreak havoc across the enterprise. As a millenial, I had a hard time understanding this at first, but have learned very quickly why certain business decisions were made and have actually come to support said decisions. Just had to add my two cents for the other side of the table :)

SandeeJackson
SandeeJackson

Classic conflict avoidance workplace behavior. Problem with a few, clamped down on many...and often those "few" don't even realize that the so-called punishment is aimed at them (in fact, they assume it's aimed at everyone BUT them). My guess is any one who is sitting at work abusing the internet use policy is likely skirting their responsibilities in other ways too, so places like this should focus on the real issue. 

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

So, the majority of people on here today are in favor of having social media access in a work setting. This is because we feel strongly about online networking. We use these tools very much to our professional advantage. This notion needs to be transfered into other industries!

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

 I think this goes back to the earlier discussion about the illusion of being in control. Just as companies can't control the conversation about their brands, they can't control employees. Employees are either going to be honest, productive and valuable or they will game the system, steal pens and waste resources. You can't control their behavior, just your reaction, which means promoting the good ones and sending the bad ones out to "seek new opportunities."

Heidi Ketroser Massey
Heidi Ketroser Massey

I worked with kids most of my career. Sometimes, I am much more comfortable with a room full of children than a room full of adults. I have an elementary teaching degree. I brought groups of 100+ to Great America. And rode the rides with them...including the big roller coasters. So yeah, that doesn't scare me. Not nearly as much as all you adult people.

Karen_C_Wilson
Karen_C_Wilson

I just spent two days speaking to an audience of youth agencies about social media this week. You wouldn't believe how many times I heard the sites are blocked. It prompted us to write a post about it on our blog yesterday. One huge fear was the possibility of stumbling on inappropriate content. I've yet to hear of a web filtering software that perfectly blocks all inappropriate content. That is an arms race you're setting out to lose.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

The 10 minutes that I spend 'liking', connecting, commenting on my social networks is a mental reprieve.  Do I consider it a waste of time? No. Do I have to limit myself to get back to the task at hand...yes. But, hey,...I'm a big girl and I know how to do that! It's a shame there are such old school thinkers out there - that run businesses and affect people lives no less....

Heidi Ketroser Massey
Heidi Ketroser Massey

So, before I read this, my first reaction was that I would much rather have an office full of children. Context matters once again...

mdbarber
mdbarber

Not supporting this, as you know, but there are plenty of dinosaurs out there who still don't understand social media has a rubies in life, business and especially as a communications tool. Take, for example, the Alaska House who spent the good art of an afternoon discussing opening access to Facebook: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Should-AK-legislative-employees-access-Facebook-4379375.php. Amazing but true...and we elected them!

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

I'm trying to remember how I wasted time before the Internet. I don't recall it exactly, but I'm pretty sure I did. The Internet did not invent time wasting.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @i7Chris Really good point about BYOD and not being able to control that. I'm going to watch that trend...and thanks for the article. I'll check that out, too.

Latest blog post: Failure In Entrepreneurship

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @REMedina I agree with that...and understand why it happens (still don't like it). But I'm talking about more than social networks here. My dad works for a research hospital. The work they're doing is changing modern medicine. And now they don't have access to simple things such as Google. How can a research hospital do research without the use of search engines? They aren't doing it because of security reasons; they're doing it because they want to control "non-work related Internet use." That's where I have a problem. If you want people to act like adults, you must treat them as such.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @mdbarber It's not just the social networks. In my dad's case, they can't even get to Google. I don't know how a research department can do research without the Internet.

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

 @ginidietrich Would. Be. Impossible. Really is insane to think about no internet. But I think the social media aspect is worth talking about more. Companies restricting it is a bit more common.

Keena Lykins
Keena Lykins

 @ginidietrich I stole toilet paper from the college conference center when I was in college. But then I was so poor I couldn't afford it otherwise.

 

mdbarber
mdbarber

 @ginidietrich Oh, I agree. It's archaic. Did you read at least the first few paragraphs of the article? Embarrassing to think there are still people who believe it but there are. I don't understand, and then they wonder why people sneak around doing all this work on phones and iPads that get around their systems.

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

 @ginidietrich I actually remember sometime in the very early 90s when they gave us brand new desktop computers and they had this thing on them. It was life-changing. It was ... solitaire! My productivity did dip there for a couple of weeks ...

CrosspointMkt
CrosspointMkt

@ginidietrich Tell them you had a previous engagement! ;) Well, we both need to plan our calendars more carefully next year...

CrosspointMkt
CrosspointMkt

@ginidietrich I may be able to make it. Have a client schedule conflict in the early afternoon that I am trying to work around. Hope so! :)

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

 @TaraGeissinger  Heh. Mindsweeper. Pretty sure that was its chief function -- sweeping your mind right up. That and Centipede!

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