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Etiquette at work

Limit what you do on the Internet at work

Q. Two of my co-workers (in my department of five) spend a lot of time surfing the Web. Their monitors face the hallway, and frankly it is embarrassing how often the screens show websites that are not at all job related. (Nothing inappropriate, but obviously they are not working.) We all report to the same boss, and we’ve all been working together for many years. I believe our group could be much more productive if these particular co-workers were more focused. While I prefer not to alienate these co-workers, I wish I could tactfully motivate them somehow.

Any ideas? - ANONYMOUS

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A. Work computers should be used for work, not for personal agendas. Surfing the Internet on company time is unprofessional. The fact these employees are so brazenly surfing the Internet for personal reasons indicates that your company doesn’t see it as an issue.

Thus far, doing nothing has been your course of action, and it may be your only good option. As this has been going on for a while and it’s being done out in the open, it’s likely your boss knows what is going on. Putting your boss on the spot about the situation may actually boomerang: Rather than dealing with the perpetrators he or she may resent your interference.

I agree with you that if you address the issue with these employees directly, they will deny it or pay lip service to changing their ways and then return to personal surfing in the near future.

I think the real issue here is: What does this situation say about your boss? Is this really someone to whom you want to attach your potential to grow? The fact he has not dealt with the situation in all this time is indicative that he won’t deal with it. So, you can choose to stay where you are and put up with the situation. Or you could investigate making a lateral move to a boss whose management style is more in line with yours. A more drastic alternative is for you to keep your eyes open for a position with a company that supports higher professional standards.

Good luck.

E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquetteatwork@emilypost.com.
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