by Jeff Langr

January 24, 2008

Jerry told me about frustrations at his new company. Here’s a possible conversation from my next interview (if there ever is one):

Jeff: Do you block web sites or other things like IM?
Interviewer: We filter on naughty words, we block web mail, and we also disallow use of instant messaging.
Jeff: Interesting. Why do you block web mail and IM?
Interviewer: Because we’ve found that some people tend to abuse it at the office. They also raise some concerns with respect to security.
Jeff: So you also block phone calls, then?
Interviewer: Of course not.
Jeff: Why not?
Interviewer: Well, people have legitimate business reasons to make phone calls.
Jeff: OK, first, there are legitimate business reasons to use IM. Second, you could block calls to individuals’ homes if you really wanted to.
Interviewer: Sometimes employees have legitimate need for personal calls. We find that’s ok if they don’t abuse the “privilege.”
Jeff: So, if talking on the phone all the time was a problem, a manager might intervene and have a discussion with the employee. That seems reasonable. It also seems reasonable that an employee might have a similar, legitimate need for personal emails from time to time.
Interviewer: But we block webmail.
Jeff: Thank you, and have a nice day.

Let’s face it, companies rarely change abusive policies like these. Sometimes, the best we can do is voice our disapproval and vote with our feet.

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Jeff Langr

About the Author

Jeff Langr has been building software for 40 years and writing about it heavily for 20. You can find out more about Jeff, learn from the many helpful articles and books he's written, or read one of his 1000+ combined blog (including Agile in a Flash) and public posts.