Snooping Bosses? Get Real.

And the corporate award for “Still Doesn’t Get It” (SDGI) goes to….maybe your organization? (self-nominations accepted and encouraged, applications in multiple categories are allowed)

An interesting article titled, “Snooping Bosses” in Time magazine discussed how it is every increasingly likely that your boss, anyone’s boss, was checking your email, and monitoring your web searching and voice mail. For example, according to a study conducted by American Management Association and ePolicy Institute found that:

76% of employers watch you surf the web and 36% track content” and “38% hire staff to sift through your email.

Wait, before you comment, there’s more! They also suggested that those bosses then “act on that knowledge.”

Now I don’t know about you, but frankly I am amazed. No wait, I’m stunned. Amazed doesn’t do it justice, but stunned fits rather nicely.

“Act on that knowledge?”

This from the same bosses out there who:

- Are unable to effectively produce a strategy to “fix” the corporate knowledge-base so that these same monitored workers can actually find what they’re searching for
- That think a “taxonomy” is something that their CFO has to provide to the IRS once per year
- Say that it is too hard to analyze email for the purposes of keyword indexing, or for matching and connecting employees that may need to be networked because they’re tackling the same issues
- Will hire staff to monitor email, but won’t budget for knowledge management
- Bemoan the lack of creativity and innovation within their workplace, all while ensuring that employees never leave their cube farm and never ever interact with another fellow employee

To which I say, “Wake up.”

No, not you — if you’re reading this, you’re already awake. I’m talking about them. Just roll their hi-back leather executive chairs over here to the screen…a little closer, closer….now gently, carefully lean their head forward just so that it rests against the screen right about… –H-E-R-E–….now cover your ears….

W-A-K-E  U-P!!!

[Repeat process as necessary, rinse completely when desired consistency has been achieved.]

See why I said stunned?

There’s good news and bad news related to all of the above.

First the good news — these same bosses who aren’t able to effectively implement a knowledge management system, who can’t develop a knowledge management strategy even if their jobs depended upon it, who aren’t able to create a knowledge/innovation sustaining culture…are of course the same ones that will “act on that knowledge” gained from monitoring and tracking email, web surfing, and voice mail. So….what that means — knowing that it is these same bosses — is that the smart workers will easily get around all of this.

Now for the bad news — these ARE the same bosses and you work for them. And that pretty much sums it up.

In the typical workplace, we have search failure rates as high as 95%. We also have inability to find previously created documents, which are then some 50% of the time simply recreated rather than waste time searching for the original document. And there are knowledge-bases with no taxonomy whatsoever. No ontology. Documents entering the knowledge-base with absolutely no keyword meta tag inclusion (even MS Word and Adobe Acrobat which make it extremely easy to do so). And that’s just the “techie” side of things.

What about the culture in those organizations? (Remember, you are allowed to submit your organization for multiple award categories!) Perhaps they’ve “missed it” these poor SDGI’s….but somewhere along the line between the dawn of time and 3M corporation we’ve discovered that if you want your workers to think outside the box, they need to actually get outside of their boxes. Best practice KM implementors realize that the more that they monitor their employees, the more that they try to regulate each moment within the workplace and enforce the failed concept that every moment at work “must be productive” (or else!)…(drum roll please) that the level of creativity and innovation actually goes down. Yes, I know there are limits…but I think you get the point.

Take 3M as a “poster child” kind of example — they assume that within every hour their employees will spend some time not directly related to assigned work tasks. And they get what for that? Tons and tons of innovative, creative ideas, solutions and new products.

And when you walk around an organization where workers have flattened foreheads from banging those foreheads against the desk top over and over…as they struggle to come up with the solution to a complex issue…remember to nominate those who deserve it the most, for the SDGI award! Because I know that it would be a shock to those bosses to learn that in other organizations workers actually get up from their cube farms and go talk to other co-workers…often discovering that another co-worker has already solved that same problem or at least has a unique perspective or suggestion on how to solve it or who else to go to for help. At minimum everyone needs a break to refresh the ‘noggin.

Anyway, enough rambling…let’s get busy for the award nominations….and I’ve made it easy by streamlining the process for you….just print out the following (or use your glass cutter if you need “hard” copy and when they ask tell them that the firewall must have been acting up again and you had a hot spot)….

For the SDGI “Acting on Knowledge” Award, I nominate my boss because he/she:

  1. Monitors my web surfing even though they don’t seem to understand the term Enterprise Search
  2. Scans all email even though they only recently learned to actually use it themselves
  3. Tracks voice mail even though theirs typically consists of, “ah, I just sent you an email, did you get that yet?”
  4. Monitors keystrokes and time spent at keyboard, because they make great metrics, much like hit counts on the portal
  5. Restricts searching and closely monitors keywords searched on even though they haven’t made it to understanding meta keyword inclusion on MS Word and their documents look like –space–, –space–,–space–,–space–,–space– because they don’t like that diet drink — so why bother pressing that key (TAB) when that nice long space key is so easy to find
  6. Thinks taxonomy is submitted annually by the CFO to the IRS (yeah, I really liked that one!)
  7. Other (this is your time to shine, let it out, we’re here for you):

And don’t forget, multiple category awards may be given!

Dr. Dan's Daily Dose:
To be able to “act on that knowledge” you must first have and understand knowledge. Time spent perfecting employee monitoring should be equalled by time and resources spent improving the organization’s usage of knowledge and the ability of knowledge workers to interact and share knowledge within a culture which enables and supports that.


Originally published at ITtoolbox on 9/20/2006


About Dr. Dan Kirsch