RESEARCH PAPER ON: ETHICS AND COMMUNICATION Abstract It’s obvious that technology has played a huge role in the way we conduct business today. Have these technological advances created a new breed of easily distracted, inefficient employees? Are employees cheating their own corporations out of time, money, and overall productivity? Many agree that the advent of email, instant messaging, and the world-wide-web have created an easy way for employees to take unnoticed and unregulated personal breaks throughout the work day.
Beyond the lack of productivity created by these employees, this type of behavior also has the potential to create other serious problems for the organization. For these reasons, many employers must decide whether or not to implement internet usage policies. Many of these policies may even use monitoring devices for email, IM, and website history. We will examine the ethics and the consequences of employees taking personal time on the company dime. Ethics and Communication: Personal Time on the Company Dime
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In the workplace, there are numerous ways for employees to communicate with co-workers, friends, and family. Traditional communication channels were limited to phone, mail, and face-to-face interaction. Technological advances over the last twenty years have given employees a surplus of new ways to communicate. Employees now have the ability to use e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, face-to-face video-conferencing, and networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. All of these new electronic capabilities have enabled employees to contact friends and family within seconds.
There is no question that these technological advancements have improved our quality of life. In contrast, they have also decreased the overall productivity of many employees. Employees across the globe are taking advantage of these available resources and using them for personal time at work. According to a survey taken in 2005 by Salary. com and AOL, more than 10,000 employees admitted to wasting an average of 2. 09 hours per day (Sahadi, 2005). This study showed that the time wasted by employees in 2005 totaled around $759 billion (Sahadi, 2005).
These figures illustrate the economic severity of allowing employees to use their work time for personal reasons. Studies have shown that e-mail is the most widely abused way of stealing company time. According to a survey by Harris Interactive, “55% of the 1,711 respondents said that they send and receive personal??e-mail??on their work accounts. ” (Schweitzer, 2007). This clearly lowers productivity. However, there are many other negatives associated with using personal e-mail in the workplace. Many viruses are spread through e-mail attachments.
Viruses can destroy important files, hardware, and entire networks. Also many personal e-mail accounts are highly vulnerable to hackers who gain unauthorized access in order to steal financial data or critical trade secrets. An electronic disaster like this could cost a corporation millions of dollars. An additional nuisance caused by using work accounts for personal use is excessive “spam”, or junk e-mail. According to a study by Nucleus Research Inc. in 2003, the average employee receives 13. 3 spam e-mail messages per day (NRI, 2003). N. R. I. lso found that in 2003 “spam” will cost the average organization 1. 4% in productivity, or $874 per employee per year (NRI, 2003). As the research confirms, the use of personal e-mail at work has the potential to be devastating for corporations and its employees. The ethical option for all employees is to resist using work e-mail accounts for personal matters. Additionally, they should avoid using their personal e-mail accounts at work. Instant messaging is a different tool that many employees utilize to chat with co-workers, family, and friends while at their desks.
Instant messaging services such as AIM or Yahoo! Messenger offer free instant messaging by simply downloading the software. It enables employees to chat in real time with people all over the world. Unfortunately, these instant messaging services are highly unsecured. They are easy targets for hackers looking to steal important corporate information. These programs also allow the transfer of files from one user to another with ease. This makes the transfer of viruses just as easy. Also, IM’s are an easy way for disgruntled employees to spread confidential information to competitors (Gaudin, 2002).
Many co-workers like to use instant messaging for its ease and speed when working on projects. However, some of these employees also use the technology as an electronic “water cooler” to gossip and chit-chat. They are now able to talk without having to keep an eye out for the boss; thus sacrificing productivity. Generally, instant messaging should be used very carefully by employees to avoid any of the headaches it can create. Many people in the U. S. spend a large amount of their free time surfing the web. This habit tends to transfer over to their work time.
According to the 2005 [email protected] survey, “93% of all employees in the U. S. spend at least some of their time at work accessing the Web, up from 86% a year ago” (CNN, 2005). Of that 93%, they spend an average of 3. 4 hours per week surfing the internet for non-work related reasons (CNN, 2005). The survey also asked a very interesting question; “Which would you rather give up, your morning coffee or your internet connection at work? ” (CNN, 2005). Over half of the respondents chose to give up their caffeine addiction; perhaps these employees are also “addicted” to surfing the net.
The most popular sites to visit among employees are news sites, online banking sites, and online shopping sites. Some employees even admitted to visiting pornographic websites while at work. Pornographic websites are breeding grounds for viruses, spyware, adware, and many other programs that can destroy company computers and networks. There are also legal issues that can arise from inappropriate “surfing”. If any other employees are exposed to these pornographic images, a sexual harassment complaint could be filed. The corporation can then be held liable.
As an employee, it’s important to be ethical in the manner you use the internet. All employees need to understand that the websites they visit at work not only reflect themselves, but the company as a whole. All of the various problems associated with personal e-mailing, instant messaging, and surfing the web need to be addressed by management. First, it is important that the corporation has a strong code of ethics. Many of these issues could be avoided by implementing and enforcing a strong code of ethics throughout every level of the organization.
The next step is to create an internet usage policy. There are many disagreements between managers regarding how strict these policies should be. For example, many employers advise a “zero tolerance” policy. This type of policy restricts any and all use of company resources for personal use. Some managers feel this type of policy is even more harmful to overall productivity than no policy at all. Geoff Haggart of WebSense comments; “The solution lies in balancing employees’ needs for personal use of the Web at work without draining overall productivity, morale of the company’s bottom line. (CNN, 2005). I agree with this rationale. I think the key is making sure that there is a limited amount of free time that employees receive in order to take care of appropriate personal matters while at work. Additionally, it is important that management is very clear in their definition of what is appropriate and what is not. There is no room for a gray area in a usage policy. After the guidelines are set, a monitoring system should be set up to enforce the policies. Many employees complain about the lack of privacy in monitoring employees.
I agree that employers should try to keep employees happy; however, I feel this is a sacrifice that management should be willing to make. Either way, corporations have the right to monitor any employee’s e-mail and internet use. In my opinion, employee monitoring is necessary in order to protect the corporation from the many dangers of irresponsible internet usage. In conclusion, it’s important that employees and employers are on the same page when it comes to the responsible use of electronic resources. Employees should be ethical and monitor their own use of company resources for personal matters.
Likewise, employers need to recognize that some employees need short breaks throughout the work day to stay productive. Like many things in life, a compromise between the two is necessary to ensure a pleasant and productive work environment. References Sahadi, Jeanne. (2005). Power Slacking On The Job. CNN. com. Retrieved September 17, 2009, from http://money. cnn. com/2005/07/08/pf/wastedtime_job/ Schweitzer, Tamara. (2007). Seven Out of 10 Employees Admit to Abusing Office Computers, Phones. INC. com. Retrieved September 22, 2009, from http://www. nc. com/news/articles/200701/workers. html Gaudin, Sharon. (2002). IM Security Risks Spark Workplace Monitoring Debate. Datamation. Retrieved September 25, 2009, from http://itmanagement. earthweb. com/secu/article. php/1458241 Spam: The Silent ROI Killer. (2003) Nuclear Research Inc. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from http://www. spamhelp. org/articles/d59. pdf Web surfing ‘as addictive as coffee’. (2005, March 19). CNN. Retrieved September 26, 2009, from http://edition. cnn. com/2005/BUSINESS/05/19/web. work/index. html