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June 26, 2009

Blocking Social Media from Your Employees, Eh? Good Luck With That!


If you’ve been in the professional world for very long, you probably remember a time when it was very controversial for employers to allow their employees access to a web browser from their office computers.


“I can’t have my employees surfing the net!” exclaimed the panicky boss. “When they’re supposed to be completing their reports, they’ll be looking up some nonsense on that World Wide Web!”


OK, first of all, on the odd chance that you still use these terms, I want to follow you around for a day just to watch everyone laughing at you. I bet you’re also worried about the rise of these blasted newsgroups, but lest anyone call you computer-illiterate, you’ll remind the world how well you recall your B-minus in Fortran.


But back to the matter at hand, your worry over potential distractions from productivity – all installed on the machines you provided for the purpose of the proper conduct of work, ironically enough – is nothing new. Before the Internet, you worried that the dunderheads you hired were sitting there playing solitaire. Before computers, you were sure they were drawing unflattering cartoons of you. (Now they use Microsoft Paint to do that.)


And now that we’re almost to the end of the first decade of the first century in the first millennium that starts with a 2, you’re worried about Facebook, Twitter and MySpace – to the point where you’re listening to these dimwits who are trying to sell you blocking software.


“I pay these people to work!” you explain with indignation. “How can you complete your sales activity when you’re taking some quiz about which Texas Wheelers character best represents you?”


Hey boss, I’m Truckie.


You are ever-vigilant, aren’t you? The fight against sinister anti-productivity forces, seeping inside your company’s walls via the very tools that are supposed to serve your personal mission of nose-to-the-grindstone work-work-work, is a constant struggle.


Look at Bob! Is he working on that resource assessment? Or watching his niece’s video of going to the beach? Look at Beezus! Is she wrapping up the client contact report? Or commenting on Ahmed’s status update?


Oh you. So very worried.


I don’t know if I can save you from driving yourself over the edge, but I’ll give it a shot. First, try to get your brain around this fact: In today’s world, everyone is connected to everyone and everything at every moment. Remember “personal calls at work”? Ha! You thought that was a problem? The last time you irritated one of your employees, 400 of that employee’s close personal friends knew about it before you made it back down the hall to your office.


In fact, your wife is on that employee’s friend list. She even made a comment: “You should see what a mallethead he is at home.”


This has happened. It is irreversible, unlike your vasectomy. (Your wife has filled in the gang about that too.)


And the longer you insist on viewing all this as a distraction from work, the longer you will remain clueless about what work has become. When your assistant sales director took the quiz titled, “Which Rick Springfield lyric are you?” – with the result being “I’m going out on the town tonight to get as wild as I can be/I’m gonna find out what it’s really like to be loose and wild and free” – she knew full well that one of your most promising prospective customers is a huge Rick fan, even to the point where he enjoys referring to himself as a slick continental dude. This is relationship-building in the 21st Century, bunky. You forbid it at your peril.


Besides, if you block it from their desktops, they’ll do it with their Blackberries and their iPhones. They’ll take longer lunches and do it at the Internet café. You can’t stop it. It will soon consume you! Bwahahahahahaha!


I’m not trying to scare you, although I will be highly entertained if that happens. I’m just suggesting that you might switch your focus to output rather than process. Did you accomplish what I need you to accomplish? Yes? Swell. If you did so with the help of a video titled “You Too Can Lipsynch Like Milli Vanilli,” I don’t understand, but I don’t need to.


Just like that spam-blocker made you miss a lucrative deal because it can’t tell the difference between junk and legitimate e-mail, you can’t tell the difference between yesterday and today. I shudder to think how tomorrow will freak you out.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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