Article (November-2021)


A double edged policy - Be or not to be?

Editorial Team

Designation : -   Editorial

Organization : -  Business Manager HR Magazine


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Monkey IT solutions is a web designing and software development company. The technology based company is into the business of app based applications, website development and digital marketing. The only five years old company has earned very good reputation in terms of timely delivery of products and after sales service resulting into capturing the big chunk of mid size segment of clients. The USP of the company has always been to keep lower profit margins and increase sales volume. In some digital marketing campaigns the company has earned good name. During covid, company could visualise the growing need of tech based applications and started developing this vertical especially for Tech HR applications and their solutions.

Company increased hiring in a time when others were laying off their staff. Company HR department policies are very progressive, sensitive and responsive to employee needs. Its headcount reached to around 300 after new hiring. Having its HO in Gurugram, Company has also plans to open new offices in Pune and Bangalore.

Working in a vibrant work culture with high degree of trust, company never thought of putting any restrictions on employees' movement, flexible working hours were in place since inception of company, work from home and remote working was introduced in company much before covid disrupted the business and work life. There were no restrictions on employees for using social networking sites even during working hours. Employees were frequently active and live on networking sites also while working on their projects.

Meher Sen  the newly joined product manager was though excited  to work in such an open work environment, but somehow noticed that employees in his section were consuming much office time in chatting on networking sites and keeping them engaged in digital world which hardly had any connection with company work or benefitting company in any way. Sen concluded of his own that few projects which were delayed was due to this reason and employees were not able to concentrate them fully on the projects and meet the deadline.

Sen also noticed that few employees were freely exchanging their political views on social media sites while on work resulting into mutual conflicts in teams affecting the company work. Employees with differing political ideology got polarised in teams against those who aired different views without assessing its impact on their teamwork. On some occasions during lunch or tea breaks people were noticed getting in heated exchanges of discussions on political issues.

One day Sen was passing through the row of one of his team to take a check on the status of the modules assigned to him. The modules were to be sent to the client after noon of that day and wanted to ensure if the things were on right track. He noticed that team lead was surfing through the networking sites and exchanging messages. Sen looked at team lead computer screen from behind and found him accessing Face book and relaxing with ease, contrary to his expectations of finding team lead working on the module. Two hours back when Sen checked with him on the status of the module work, team lead replied to him that he is working on the same and will send to client well before time. He needs not to worry.

Sen did not interrupt team lead in between and quietly went back getting annoyed. Sen has always been against the use of social media networking sites by employees at workplace. He was of the considered opinion that use of these sites by employees is a double edged weapon which can be used against the company management by any disgruntled employee and has potential to malign the brand image of the company. It was because in his earlier company some employee recorded an official conversation held between him and his manager and posted at social media that brought bad name to the company. After that, company decided to block all the social media/networking sites and prohibited employees for its use during duty hours. Company also brought in new social media use policy for employees where employees were restricted to post any message in official capacity at any networking sites about company affairs or business or any happening. Communication department was created and after their approval only things were allowed to go on air.

Sen wanted same policy here. He initiated this idea earlier also in meetings but HR was not in favour of any such policy. HR Head Malti was of the view that employees should be trusted to complete their work productivity in time and networking on social media is something that helps them to relieve, rejuvenate and de-stress in an otherwise hectic and pressured work schedule. Using networking sites in free moments can serve as a stress buster.

Sen went to Malti's seat and requested her to come to meeting room to discuss some important issue. Malti was taken aback. She was engaged in some other important assignment and was not prepared for non scheduled meeting just before lunch timings.

"Can we meet after lunch?" Asked Malti.

"That would be too late." Replied Sen.

Malti got up and went to meeting room with Sen. Sen started, "What I was suspecting, has now proved. I need your immediate attention and action on the issue. I have just come from the seat of a team lead who was supposed to complete the modules, show me and send to clients today by 2.30 PM. Now It Is 1 PM and he is busy on face book commenting on friends' posts. I wonder when he gets time to work, when he is mentally engaged in these social media chats. I am scared whether he will be able to complete them within the scheduled time?

"Did you enquire with him about the progress on modules?" Malti said.

"Yes, in the morning. He assured me of completing the work in time but nothing heard from him now." Sen was little agitated. He said, "Pl. Malti take a quick decision and block all networking sites and stop employees using during working hours. It is a waste of productive time and costs heavily on company. Don't be so liberal and progressive. We all are here to do business and not to give employees a feel that they are in a mall spending leisure time."

"Well Sen, I appreciate your point of view. You raised this point earlier also. But I am scared that if we decide to block the use of social media sites during office hours it may back fire and there may be serious discontentment among employees." Malti shared her apprehension.

"Malti you are conditioned, it appears. You have to break the status quo. The things which were not harmful in past cannot be a guarantee that will not be in future too. It is time for management to take a call on it and review its policy on social media use during office hours."

"Ok. Sen, thank you for your inputs. Give me time to have a relook." Concluded Malti and she went to take her lunch in cafeteria.

She noticed the team lead also there having lunch. She went to her table and asked her to see her after lunch around 2.30.PM. Malti decided to speak to him on the issue.

Team Lead reached to her cabin around 2.30 PM.

Malti offered her seat and straightway came on point. She asked him about the modules progress which he was to send to top client today by 2.30 PM.

"Yes Mam, Completed and sent to client too. I completed all that even before lunch and kept ready to send after lunch. I have come to you after sending the mail to the client." Team Lead responded.

"Did you inform the completion to your manager?"

"I told him in the morning that he needs not to increase his anxiety level. He will complete before time and send well within timeline. Something Happened?"

"Yes, there is an issue surfacing of increased use of social media sites by employees during working hours thus causing delays to projects and loss of productivity by losing valuable company time. Also there have been instances of members' conflicts because of political ideology differences surfaced on social media posts by employees. Company can't tolerate all this. Why should an employee's personal ideology become a cause of team conflict in the Organisation? If one facility is given to employees that create bad feeling among employees and loss of work productivity, then?"

"I Think Mam you are reading too much in it. We are not at all misusing it. Rather we all use this tool to enhance our knowledge and talk to friends working in other companies for some solutions also when we are not able to solve it. Our professional network helps achieving and completing tasks in time."

"Take care that company does not get a feel that you guys are abusing this facility." Concluded Malti.

Now the ball was in Malti court. She has to take a call.

Questions for discussion :

1. Critically analyse the policy of allowing the employees to use social media sites during working hours?

2. Does consuming office time on networking sites and posting comments and messages on political issues affects the team work and company brand along with cause loss of productivity?

3. How should Malti handle the situation now?