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workplace

Dear Employee,

I just got off the phone with Kate at bigcompany.com and she asked for our specs for the upcoming event – can you email them to me ASAP so I can get them to her? I just tried calling you but couldn’t reach you. We’re competing against other vendors so time is of the essence.

[Thirty minutes later…]

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Dear Boss,

I can get them to you in an hour?

[Translation: I’m not at home because I met an old friend for lunch; after we reminisced about the old days I ran some errands and then bought a shirt I saw in a window that I think may be the beginning of my “new look.”]

———

Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire

It’s a privilege to work remotely. Thus, any perceived abuse of the situation hits home hard. The remote working arrangement is predicated on trust that you’ll be available and ready when something is needed, that you have whatever you need for work on your person during work hours – whether it is a computer or a phone. Also, it is so easy to respond and be in touch these days that any delayed response – without a reason like you were giving birth, in a high speed car chase, or inadvertently saving the world Jack Bauer style – is hard to explain and/or tolerate.

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Maybe Try this Instead?

If you haven’t taken an official vacation day and you are unreachable you have essentially taken a vacation day. So if you know you are going to be unavailable on a given day be honest and mention it to see if there are any potential conflicts. If you have a solid track record for working remotely a good boss will grant the personal time. You should also have your computer and phone on you in case of an emergency. Wi-fi and hotspotting are so easy that both will undermine any excuse for disappearing.

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Dear Boss,

 

We, the employees of your company, hope you will reconsider the tracking spyware you’ve installed on every computer to ensure that you can see every email we write and every website we visit. We’re curious why you started a company if you weren’t going to trust anyone to do the job you hired them to do. Ironically you taking the time to spy on us is just as work-avoidant as what you’re trying to catch us at! The Cold war is over. It’s 2016 not 1984. This isn’t wiki leaks, we’re not Edward Snowden, and you’re not in The Manchurian Candidate. The Hunt for Red October is over.

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Dear Employee,

I saw you writing that letter on your computer. You’re not supposed to be writing letters at work, unless it’s on letterhead to one of our clients. I also saw you click the like button on Facebook for a video showing dogs who are scared of staircases. Watch your step.

— - 

Why your torture plan will surely backfire

Using spyware on your employees is actually a form of mental torture. It’s a modification on the panopticon, a structure developed in the 18th century by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham to replace physical torture in prisons. The panopticon is a structure that allows inmates (employees) of an institution to be observed by a single watchman (boss) without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. The mere threat that someone could be watching you is what keeps you in your place. Benthem described the panopticon as “a mill for grinding rogues honest.”

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Maybe Try This Instead?

There’s another concept called “trust” that has shown to be useful when creating successful work atmospheres. Rather than create a prisoner mentality in your employees, foster a self-leadership mentality so they feel they have the space to get their work done. If you need proof of concept look to Netflix, one of the fastest growing companies in the last ten years, who nurture an autonomous atmosphere where quality over quantity is rewarded. If that doesn’t do it for you, research has shown that little breaks in the workday actually promote productivity. At the 90-minute mark on a single task our brains tend to lose focus. Little breaks spent checking Facebook or watching a funny YouTube video – as well as anything else that doesn’t have to do with work – serves as a mental reboot.

Side note: It is understandable, for the security of your company, if you need to use blocking software and block certain websites. That’s different than spying. If you feel like you need to spy on someone, you probably made a bad hiring decision.

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Dear Boss,

 

It’s just ridiculous, the amount of traffic I’m sitting through to get here by 9am. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this.

I have been stuck in traffic every day this week for over two hours. First I hit the rush hour traffic to get out of my state and then I have to sit through all the rush hour traffic to get into the city. And if I take the train it’s over $40! But then I don’t have my car with me, and I may need it when I leave work. I mean, this is crazy!

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Dear Employee,

I’m sorry that I didn’t force you to move far away?

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Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire

Nobody asked you to move far away. It was a choice you made, which leaves the commute in your hands, to suffer through … quietly. Don’t complain to your boss.

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Maybe Try this Instead?

Here’s what you can do if you choose to take a job that has a long commute or you choose to move far away:

  1. If you have demonstrated that you are a reliable, independent worker and this is something that is negotiable at your company, have a conversation about telecommuting. The most recent Gallup Organization engagement survey found that telecommuters had the highest levels of engagement when in-office and home-office work schedules were combined.
  2. If you have demonstrated that you are a rockstar and it’s time to have a talk about raises, factor your travel costs into your calculations. It doesn’t hurt to ask in the context of a raise. It does hurt to ask in the context of a move.
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Dear Employee,

I’m just checking in to see if you finished that project I asked you to finish by this Friday. It’s now Monday afternoon and I still haven’t heard anything from you but didn’t want to breathe down your neck because I figured you would let me know when it was done. As you know, this project is pretty important.

 — -

Dear Boss,

Oh yeah. I finished that last week.

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Why Your Torture Plan Will Surely Backfire

Your boss probably has 3x what you have on your plate. They may seem like they are picking their noses and watching youtube on a daily basis, but in addition to their own nose picking, they are responsible for everyone else’s nose picking who they manage or oversee. When your boss has to follow up with you it gives the impression that you aren’t on top of your workload, which in turn triggers micromanaging behavior.

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Maybe Try this Instead?

Throw your boss a bone here and there and type a simple sentence that says, “project completed!” It’s a nice thing to do in this world of overwhelm and ultimately reduces unnecessary contempt.

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the_books

Nicole Lipkin, Psy.D., MBA is a business psychologist and the CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting. She is a speaker, consultant, and coach and has shared her expertise on NPR, NBC, Forbes, Entrepreneur, CBS, Fox Business News, and other media outlets. She is the author of “What Keeps Leaders Up At Night” and the co-author of “Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation.” Check out the award winning book trailer for What Keeps Leaders Up At Night.

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I once had a boss I really disliked. After leaving the organization, I learned that he got demoted after a major mistake. As a shiver of delight worked its way up my spine I consciously fought the urge to smile as my colleague, who liked the guy, shared the news. The difficult-to-translate German word schadenfreude, combining schaden (damage) and freude (joy), describes a universal human emotion: taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. It’s what keeps us glued to reality TV and those star bashing magazines, with the endless, fabulous mess-ups of the Snookies or Kardashians of the world.

Continue to AMA Playbook for the full blog…
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