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In a company full of slackers, how can we regain productivity?

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in The HR Specialist Forum

Question: “Some of our employees are stealing from us! Not by taking money or supplies, but by stealing time. Some pretend to work through lunch so they can leave work a half hour early. Others conduct personal business on the company phone or play on the Internet. Or they take breaks to socialize and laugh out loud, which disturbs everyone else. What can we do to crack down?”—Louise, PA


1. Define expectations in a memo to all staff regarding breaks and productivity etc. This makes everyone know you are aware that this is an issue, it also gets everyone on an even playing field- no one can say they did not know this was unacceptable. It is also reasonable to define "stealing time" and outline that this is a punishable offense up to and including termination. Enforce the items in the memo or you will never be respected.

2. Make the middle managers accountable for their employees performance- that means keeping an ear out for personal calls, walking around the office glancing at computer screens and into the break areas etc. Let their presence be known. If it is to the point that the manager's presence doesn't matter, then it is time for the managers to speak up. "Bill, I'm sure you've clocked out for your break while you are surfing the internet". If he says no, either get back to work or make him clock out. He'll get the message.
3. If the internet is a major issue, you can block websites like My space. Make mention in the memo that goes out that since the company provides internet access and the computers, there is no expectation of privacy and therefore all emails and web pages are subject to monitoring.
4. You should have internet usage, clocking in and out procedures, breaktimes clearly discussed in your company policies. If these issues are not in there- add them asap and make everyone sign that they have read the policies and have had an opportunity to ask questions.
5. People are not robots, they need to be social to some extent and not be micromanaged, but when the time comes that they are taking advantage, its time to step it up and take your control back.

How much time are we talking about here? How much productivity is lost? People can't work in a vacuum and conflicts can rise when no one knows each other "socially" only their "work persona." We have a fairly relaxed atmosphere around here and the work still gets done, deadlines are met. It sounds like this person may be bothered more than the company is.

You might consider a "pay for performance" system - there are many websites that describe this model.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rita February 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm

If company policy does not already prohibit it, personal computer / phone / fax use should be addressed. Determine what will be tolerated, and what will not. Then, distribute the new policy to all staff members, and have them sign off that they have read and understood the new policy. Then enforce it ! !
You might also consider requiring prior approval for working through the lunch hour in order to leave early. Where I work, that is not allowed, with or without your supervisor’s approval, so the question does not come up. If anyone leaves at 4:30, they have to take vacation or sick leave and follow the appropriate procedures for documenting the leave use.
Basically, it comes down to ‘who’s running the company?’ If production is not affected, and management doesn’t mind, then you should not be bothered by others’ behaviors. But, if production IS affected, then management should be aware of the situation and take steps to protect their bottom line.


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