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E for Employee

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rajit Nair

Every organization harbors the most specialized and evolved species known as the employees. Bigger the company, wider will be the diversity. On a closer look, you would see that even though the objective of all employees are the same (to work for the employer and get paid), the approach, attitude and commitment of each individual differs. Employee behavior has an impact on the attitude of their direct supervisor and the corporate culture too (please read the article Thy Lead the Ship).

A newly joined employee produces the best of his/her capability during the first few weeks (or maximum up to the probation period). This is basically, because of the demand to impress the boss till the job is confirmed. During this time, he/she will also absorb the entire grapevine, identifies the power centers in the company and try to amend the style of functioning accordingly. Some deviations in employee style of functioning depend on the nature of the job and the job position too. The universal truth is that in almost all cases, the initial enthusiasm of a new ‘joinee’ diminishes after the probation period.

On the contrary to the above doctrine, I was fortunate to have an employee in the support group, who always ‘nag’ me for more work, when her workload declines. Even now, after 3 years in the company, she makes sure that she works minimum nine hours daily, even though the legitimate working hours is eight hours only. At times, if there is nothing assigned, she goes to the Stationery Store and assist in counting or to the records room to ensure that files are well organized. I have to agree that there are few employees who work from their heart and leave an impression in the organization they work for.

In addition, few employees give 100% attention during the allotted working hours. Certain companies, where there is no target or where it is impossible to clock the work, the employees tend to set their own timeline to complete the tasks assigned. In companies where there the work is measured and there are set time bound targets, then the employees are required to finish the tasks at a pre-defined timeframe. In such situations, the employee is required to acquire time management skills.

I know one accountant, who basically is not a go-getter and lazy, lags in his work and always end up spending time in the office during holidays or forced to put extra hours, especially during the closing of accounts. Some employees purposely delay work so that they get benefited from the Overtime policy of the company. This is where the Supervisor’s inability to manage his/her people and time effectively will get exposed. Supervisors should have an idea of the minimum time required to complete a particular task so that while evaluating the employee/work s/he can evaluate the performance of the employee. Overtime (other than in production departments, in manufacturing sector) should be banned in all companies.

The latest diversion accounting for nonproductive hours is due to the fact that the employees are spending too much time on social networking sites like Facebook or Orkut or Twitter. Previously, the menace was the chat programs, followed by free music download websites and now the social networking sites. There is ongoing debate on the positives and negatives of the usage of social networking sites worldwide. Recently, some companies in UK allotted legitimate hour for the employees to browse such sites during working hours.

Occasionally, I have noticed that employees updating their status in such sites with their work details like which project they are working on or what they are preparing etc. This sometimes may infringe the corporate dossier. I recall reading an employee losing her job because she had posted negative comments about her job forgetting that her boss is also in the friend’s list. It is a known fact that nowadays, talent sourcing professionals and HR professionals log on to such sites to map character, attitude and social behavior of their candidates or employees.

The latest menace at work is the Blackberry (BB). Even though BB is a great communication tool, the chat programs (MSN, Yahoo) interfere with the work rhythm. The alert tones related to these programs also bother other employees stationed in the vicinity.

Loyalty is another ‘fancy’ word we hear in the corporate world linked to employees. I would address an employee as loyal, when s/he dedicates her/his time and effort for the work, effective utilization of company’s resources, working hours and keep the work details confidential. I hate those employees who got stuck in a job for many years and the management or the HR department labels them ‘loyal’. This is ridiculous. This is not loyalty, the employee got stuck because s/he has lots of weaknesses or lack of knowledge or has the understanding that s/he may not get hired elsewhere or s/he lacks the attitude to take a stride for the career or has any other ‘vested’ interest to be in the company. This should not be glorified as loyalty and given extra attention.

Coming late to work is another issue, which tarnishes image of even a very good employee as well. In the private sector, HR interventions including installation of biometric based time and attendance systems complemented with policies penalizing tardiness are prevalent. Definitely, this would curb late coming. I still can’t digest the fact that Kerala State employees collectively objected the initiative of implementing time and attendance system (punching system). Such employees should be employed elsewhere, especially in the GCC countries, so that they will learn how to honor the work timings along with other attributes. Among the state employees, I personally feel those who deserve a flexi time (and salary hike too) other than the doctors are those in law enforcement personnel (state police).

Wasting time over the phone is another negative workplace behavior in many companies. This I have seen largely among female employees. Either they call their own spouses (as if they didn’t had time to talk at home) or friends. The topics range from lunch menu to party wear. Any call beyond 3 minutes is a crime in a corporate setting, if it is not related to business. Another atrocious act is to call the colleague sitting in the very next workstation, using the corporate voice network and chatting for hours during work hours. There is the probability of losing business by the company as a potential client’s call was missed during which the phone was engaged or unanswered (if call waiting is active).

There is a limit for the HR, the Supervisor or HR policies to curb and amend employee workplace behaviors. These attitudes should come from the employee himself/herself. Employees should have the attitude and culture to identify and correct such behaviors that tampers with work and productivity.

Awareness through the corporate web portal or newsletters may work to an extent. If it is a small team, such negative behaviors get exposed in quick time, but in big corporate houses, such employees may hide as a drop in the ocean. As the saying goes, ‘Work is Worship’. In that context, is the salary you are taking justifiable? How many employees can say with honesty, that s/he deserves the salary as s/he worked with total dedication and commitment?

You can read this and other thought provoking articles and discussions on Rajit's Blog too.

© stateoftheartconsulting 2009

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