| By Kathleen Atkins |
Accidents, bad ideas, and abuse are possible in any congregation of human beings, and the workplace suffers its share.
For businesses large and small, the best tools for keeping inappropriate behavior to a minimum are company guidelines and policies — and the law of the land.
Businesses need protection from employees
Company employee policies range from none to draconian. For businesses too small to have an HR department, developing a set of policies can be difficult and time-consuming. Since we’re all about efficient and effective computing, we decided to take a look at some current business guidelines and policies for Web and cell-phone use while on company time. (We’re not lawyers, so we passed on the legal aspects of policing workplace behavior.) We learned what sorts of staff behavior small businesses want to prevent and the formal steps they use to enforce business-appropriate practices.
Small-business managers should also consider that, in the absence of formal guidelines, employees are essentially free to interpret what’s ethical at work in their own way. My standards are not necessarily your standards.
Take, for example, Hy-Ko Products, a medium-size manufacturing company and distributor in northeastern Ohio. It publishes common-sense guidelines and policies in its employee manual. As you’d expect, its online systems policy prohibits viewing, posting, downloading, printing, or distributing obscene materials. It prohibits copyright infringement of any software, music, games, or movies. It also prohibits any type of forgery or tampering with the company’s online systems, noting specific types of misrepresentation (such as modifying an e-mail message and forwarding it without identifying changes). Any employee committing any of these infractions is subject to disciplinary action, which can include immediate termination of employment and/or legal action.
Hy-Ko Products emphasizes that the corporate network, its components and contents, and all data stored and transmitted by Hy-Ko belong to Hy-Ko. So no employee should assume that his or her e-mail or voice mail, or data stored on a work computer, is private. It’s all subject to company access without notice. (This type of policy raises concerns among some personal-right advocates.)