Technology Changes Workplace Ethics

Comments at both the GUARDIAN and the Daily paper about the moonlighting poop plant personnel tell us technology has changed the face of the USA workplace in ways we never envisioned just a few years ago.

If Boise officials do a sincere investigation and review of the case, they will probably come up with more questions than answers.

There was a time when one had to take vacation time just to visit the doctor’s office. Tardiness could result in dismissal and using the office phones for personal calls–especially long distance–would have you standing before the boss.

The workplace–whether private or public–used to be quite regimented, but things have changed for employers and employees alike.

Consider the following:
–Cell phones have allowed workers to take calls and text messages from kids in school (which opens another can of worms) and make their own calls while not using the office phone. That could be the reason you get automated voice messages so often.
–Flex time has blurred the normal office hours. Combine that with split shifts and comp time to avoid overtime and there is no telling if a worker should be on duty or not.
–There is also a different “trust factor” in the boss-worker relationship. While many people still work for hourly pay, there is little or no monitoring and seldom does anyone “punch a clock.”
–Use of the office copier, tools, e-mail, and computer software seem minor on the face, but when the hourly wage is factored into the equation, it can get spendy.

As we write this in a Texas hotel, a fellow traveler from England tells us no cell phones are allowed at his workplace following a “time and motion” study which showed the company was losing a ton of money to non-work related activity.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Interesting post particularly regarding the cell phone usage.

    I see police officers driving around while talking on cell phones all the time. One wonders if they are personal phones or city issued cell phones. I guess even if they are city issue they could be having a personal call.

    Regardless, they should probably not talk and drive but I don’t see that ever being a no no unless there’s a huge accident involving a cop on a cell phone – and even then….

  2. The English fellow’s workplace probably did a “time and motion” study because “time” is in short supply in the UK: work is generally limited to 48h per week, workers are entitled to ~5 weeks of paid vacation per year, and there is right to breaks, during which I’m sure people in the UK reach out just as they do in Idaho. Source: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/index.htm

  3. I think the work place has had to migrate to a better balance of work and life. With the demise of the pension, there is rarely a long-term benefit to staying place, rather the benefit is in playing the market for a promotion every few years. Some firms have realized employee retention is improved when they offer programs such as flex schedules.

    In some aspects it is more effecient for a firm to allow more work-life balance in the work place. Feeling a little more free, employees may be more loyal, creative and even harder working. There are always some who will abuse the balance and when times get tough, they are usually the first to go, if not before then.

    Be careful of work place studies, they always assume “unproductive” activities can be immediatly replaced with revenue generating activities. A good example are the studies based on March Madness Basketball Brakets, a study I saw a few years ago said it costs about $1B in producitivty during March, if these employees were not looking at basketball brakets, what makes the studies authors think these employees are not at the water cooler chatting, smoking outside, or some other non-productive activity?

  4. Hold the phone
    Apr 14, 2008, 4:07 pm

    For years after the steam train engines were gone, because of union labor rules the railroad companies still had Firemen as employees riding on their electric engines. They put in the time, but didn’t have much to do.

    Times do change and if your saying these two managers have the time to be employed full time by the tax payers at one job while doing another job of their own, maybe their time has come too.

  5. Warren Chan
    Apr 14, 2008, 7:15 pm

    I guess if the Guardian would have it, it would be “the beatings will continue until Morale improves”. The point is that technology HAS changed the workplace and managers/leaders must change the way they manage employees rather than just the “punch a clock” strategy. The knowledge and information age we live in requires a company culture that promotes information sharing at all levels and not creating artificial silos between staff and managers.

    Slow news day?

    EDITOR NOTE–Don’t think we disagree on anything other than the buzz words…for non-library types can you explain either a genuine or artificial “silo between staff and managers?”

  6. The Guardian loves to trot up this topic periodically, State or City workers double dipping etc. I think the point is if it is flagrant abuse of taxpayer dollars need to be aired. I always bring up the fact that I provide personal tools and expertise in my job that my public employer is unwilling to pay for. I could outsource the work for $80.00 / hour but since I can do it myself and save money for my institution and taxpayers, I don’t mind. It also makes my tedious job a bit more interesting. I guess that makes me stupid.

    I do not condone what the city employees are doing at all, especially working both sides of the fence.

    A good excercise would be for the Guardian to figure out how much productivity is lost due to smoking. When public employees smoke, it is a direct subsidy to the tobacco industry at taxpayer expense. Not to mention the taxpayer subsidized smoking benefit in most public employee health insurance. If the Guardian does the math, 18% of population in Idaho smokes X # of public wokers X hours /day on smoke breaks X cost of smoking benefit to taxpayers for health insurance = Why politicians love the tobacco industry and will do anything for that re-election tobacco lobby coin.

    EDITOR NOTE–Dog, who is trotting out what? I agree with your views–even if you have trotted them out before.

  7. Mike "Scourge of the Earth" Murphy
    Apr 15, 2008, 12:39 pm

    I’m gittin me a guvment job…

    Skroo this werkin fer a livin!

  8. Dave – Your comments don’t set well with me.

    We’re are suppose to be out of the slave business, although I have to admit there are companies that haven’t gotten that clue yet.

    Being judged and rewarded by results goes a lot further towards obtaining company goals than punching time clocks and being whipped all the time ever did. Most professional employees would not put up with working in the environment you so long for and most professional environments are not run that way.

    Employers that have the kind of work environment know they are going to have a high turn over and don’t care. However, they are also quit to complain about getting and/or keeping good employees.

    I question what any of this has to do with the actions of these two poop managers — Am I missing something here? Help me out Dave..

    I will repeat. I agree with all you have said in this comment. 35 years ago when I got canned at the Daily PAper my attitude was, “You can rent me, but you don’t own me.”

    In no way do I advocate slavery–even wrote postings about it on the GUARDIAN. This post is about how technology has changed the workplace and it is nearly impossible to tell when someone is working, not working, reading personal e-mail, surfing the web, talking to friends on a personal cell phone…or running a side business on the company nickel. The expectations of management have changed and a whole new set of rules will evolve.

    We seem to be in agreement as far as I can tell.

  9. Hmmm … I dunno about all this here new stuff. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t.
    I’m thinkin’ we may never get a chance to find out. At the rate business, companies, whatever, are collapsing, closing, folding, merging, etc. seems like by the time things settle down, ‘most all the current ones will be history and we’ll have a whole new crop.

    Seems to be for about a zillion reasons, too. Not just the Enrons, but all the bright bankers who lent money to people they knew couldn’t pay it back, to outfits like Mc-Latchkey (Owner of The Idaho Mistakesman and other papers) going millions of dollars into debt, to airlines either pricing low to keep customers and then not having enough money to buy fuel, or raising prices to pay for fuel and then not having enough customers …. well, you get the idea.

    Does the *new* business model y’all are talking about help or hinder this whole mess I’m talking about?

    I have no idea (so am waiting to read yours).

  10. Guardian, my point is that white collar/executive crime is killing this country and the work ethic.
    I think it is the trickle down idea that St.Ronald Reagan touted about economics. Support the rich and powerful with tax cuts, subsidies, and special treatment and Joe hourly wage will prosper. We got Wal-mart and the rich and powerful got exponentially more wealthy in our entire history. Oh yeah, they also brought us illegal labor to do the work they couldn’t outsource to China.
    Seems like you get concerned about (trot out)
    the dimes we loose when a couple of jamokes moonlight. What about the highly paid officials who moonlight doing “consulting” work? What we have here is a lack of public and corporate leadership and ethics.

    Why don’t you check out the fact that ADA County pays BFI $25.00 to get rid of each computer screen and TV that ends up in the landfill? Why don’t people pay for disposal at the time of purchase? Who is benefiting from this arrangement

  11. Is this the last we’ll hear of this?

    Has the laws and policy benders of the city once again come out on top?

    It would appear that once you’re in government management the sky is the limit. There are no effective check and balances to keep them in line nor a method to control their actions when caught with dirty hands. Just spins and excuses.

    Even the poop farm and all that went on there, it was allowed to continue long after it had been reported. I am willing to bet that if it hadn’t been for both the Guardian and investigations that were carried out by other then the city that it would still be going on.

    Unlike with employees, there appears to be a special catch and release policy in place for the poop managers.

    Stay tuned. Youn ain’t seen nothing yet.

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