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‘I’ll Be Fired Instantly’-Company Policies and Results

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Robby SlaughterThe other day, I was chatting with a group of people at a networking group. These are almost all small business owners who are scratching out a living by pounding the pavement, chasing opportunities, and working hard to generate results. Most of them work from home, from coffeeshops, or from small offices. The monthly networking group is a chance to discuss issues and connect with others since these people are truly focused on results all the time.

Except for one woman, who works at a bank. More on her later.

Anyway, the discussion turned to listening to music. Several people noted how much they love listening to music for certain kinds of tasks. They explained how particular songs would motivate them. They mentioned how much they enjoy the chance to work in private and not run the risk of distracting other co-workers with their musical tastes. And then someone in the group suggested a brilliant idea:

“Why don’t we all do a weekly song share? We can each send out a piece of music we’re listening to at that moment. It will be a great way to motivate and support each other. In fact, we can just email a link to a music video on YouTube!”

Everyone loved the idea. It was a great way that results-only people could help each other stay motivated. It was fun and social, but didn’t dominate people’s time. And if you were too busy to listen, you could just delete the email without looking at it.

All except the banker. She muttered, Don’t include me. I can’t click on YouTube at work. I’ll be fired, instantly.”

I am not kidding. She actually told a few of us that she would lose her job by trying to watch a video at work.

There might be all kinds of explanations for this story. Maybe somebody was watching videos excessively, and a rumor developed at her bank about being “instantly fired” for watching one video. Maybe the IT folks have identified a security issue with YouTube, although that seems unlikely. Maybe there are legal issues about accidentally accessing content not licensed to the bank.

But ultimately, no one should work for a company that has either a written policy or an established culture that explains what you cannot do. Work should be about working. It shouldn’t be about trying to identify all of the possible ways in which someone could be at their desk and not be working.

If your policy is that people aren’t allowed to use their work computers for non-work activities that’s like measuring the success of a chef in the kitchen by monitoring other rooms in the building. It’s crazy.

Listen to what people say. Listen to what you are saying. If it’s not about results, it’s not about work.

And, if you want to increase your productivity by 40%, listen to Journey.

This blog originally appeared in ROWE on November 28, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Robby Slaughter is a guest contributor at ROWE. He runs a process improvement consulting company in Indiana called Slaughter Development, LLC.

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