Cyberslacking and the Psychological Contract

HR departments have been working
overtime this last few years to carve out a policy on internet use at
work, from zero tolerance to pop ups (reminding the employee how long
they had been on line) to blocking certain sites, to setting up
cyberslacking space with time-controlled access, etc etc. Employment
lawyers have been having a field day too with what you can and can’t do
within the employment contract. The essence seems to be that you must
have a policy, you must promulgate it fully and it must be clear what
the consequences are for being naughty.

The interesting thing for me is what employees do about the policy
because there are so many ways of being naughty. But I don’t want to go
there, not just now anyway. The answer anyway is that what employees do
will lie somewhere between what they think they can get away with and
how much in their heart of hearts they believe they owe their
employer/their colleagues. Not that different from you and me then, in
case any reader was feeling virtuous. It’s the same with duvet (“think
I’ll turn over and go back to sleep”) days. How come the number of days
in Company A will be much higher than in Company B, because it will?
Same answer: depends on what they can get away with against what they
feel they owe to the business.

We’re miles away from the employment contract here, we’re in the
realm of the psychological contract, that mysterious reality that is
created in any organisation, mostly from the top, that helps employees
feel energised versus demotivated if not demoralised. We’re way outside
anything that can be counted here like days off or hours on the net, we
are in qualitative territory not quantitative. We are somewhere in that
indefinable spectrum of work environments that lies between stimulating
and toxic.

Many organisations these days have an “engagement meter” to keep
them on top of the market. They may do well to have a disengagement
measure to go with it – like the ones that Human Potential Accounting
does.

It’s probably not relevant but when I retire I’m going to run
followership training to go alongside leadership training, though Seth
Godin may have got there before me, and I already have a course of
unassertiveness training mapped out in case readers know of someone who
needs it.

Written by Michael Reddy

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