Tag Archives: Workplace

How to Deal with an Employee with a Tech Abuse Problem

In a previous post, I have discussed the effects of the fight or flight response and instant rewards that our gadgets trigger in us. The results are shortening of our attention spans, reduced concentration, and with that, reduction of our cognitive capabilities.

In another post, I have introduced a Pomodoro technique variant that would make your tasks more exciting than the apps and websites on your phone and laptop.

In both posts, I promised that I’ll write about how to deal with the effects of the technology on others, such as your colleagues, customers, family, and friends. In this post, I’ll discuss what can be done about an employee with tech abuse problem.

First of all, addressing the issue directly doesn’t add much value. Telling the employee “Look, you’re abusing tech for private purposes on company time and you should stop that.” won’t make much of a positive impact. Everybody knows that they shouldn’t do that, but they are doing it anyway. Pointing this fact out doesn’t do any good anyway.

Another thing that wouldn’t add much value is to impose company-wide rules about this. If you ban private tech use in your company, just because a single employee is abusing it, you are punishing the rest of the staff, who send a single text message a day about something really important. That way you create a lot of disgruntled employees who would otherwise be OK with their job.

If you create unnecessary friction with your employees, their performance will drop and at the end, you will lose as well. Company-wide rules about private tech use is difficult to enforce anyway, unless you want to install cameras in the toilet and hire someone to monitor those cameras.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether the employee is abusing tech or not. What matters is whether they perform or not. Coming up with dozens of policies only annoys employees. A few basic guiding principles is more than sufficient to manage a group of grown-up people. Of course, ethics is the ultimate principle. Another relevant principle is the 20-70-10 rule of Jack Welch.

The 20-70-10 Rule

The 20-70-10 rule involves rewarding the top 20% of your workforce, coaching the middle 70%, and firing the bottom 10% every year. A consequence of this rule is that you hire and train new employees every year, if you want to maintain or grow the size of your staff.

The reward and punishment principle of the 20-70-10 rule will already motivate your employee to increase their performance. On top of that, you will need to coach them to increase their performance. Coaching doesn’t mean to tell a person what to do and what not to do. It is a conversation between two parties to find out how their performance can be increased.

Asking questions like “What can we do to increase your performance? What can you do to increase your performance? What keeps you from performing?” one by one, and letting them come up with the answers is much better than telling them “we believe you underperform because of your tech abuse.”

Why is that? Because humans have this thing called ego and they want to be autonomous. They want to come up with their own solutions and they want to be in control. That’s the best way to motivate them and to make them perform at higher levels. By letting the employee find their own answers, you are actually achieving a much higher motivation than telling them what to do, which at the end has little to none impact other than causing friction and annoying them.

If your employee still doesn’t get it, you can provide resources about the impact of tech abuse in the personal development program of your company. If this still doesn’t help and they insist in staying in the bottom 10%, you can’t afford to keep that employee in your workforce or at least, in their current position. Keeping the underperformers will not only hurt your business, it will also demotivate the rest of your staff and bring them down too.

How to Beat the Technology

The working day of the average office staff consists of one big chat and social media session with brief interruptions of actual work. If that sounds like you, let me tell you one thing: “you’re doomed.” You’re also bringing down your colleagues, family, and community with yourself.

In my previous post, I explained how technology is ruining our cognitive capabilities such as a healthy attention span, through an endless cycle of fight or flight responses and instant rewards. The destruction of our mental capabilities affects our individual and collective experience. This post will be about how to deal with the effects of the technology in our individual experience. I will address the second part, our experience with others, in a separate blog post.

Eliminate Distractions with Micro-Challenges

I’m using a variant of the Pomodoro technique to deal with the distractions in my professional and private life and to improve my time management skills. This variant involves an A5 notepad and a pen. It’s meant to improve my awareness and focus. I have a separate notepad for work and for home.

My goal is to improve my time management by improving it in different segments of my daily life. For example, the time that passes from waking up until getting ready for work. As you may know, if you don’t watch out, that time might take hours, especially if you’re self-employed and working from home.

Let’s say my morning routine consists of getting out of the bed, bathroom visit, taking a shower, eating a breakfast, and getting dressed up. Sounds simple, right? But we all know that waking up and getting out of the bed is not the same thing, especially when there is a smartphone next to your bed. Preparing and eating a breakfast can also take much longer than necessary, if you are surfing the Internet at the same time.

To avoid all the unnecessary delays, I set a time limit to complete my morning routine. It shouldn’t take me more than an hour from waking up until being ready for work. So, when I wake up, the first thing I write down is the time that I woke up, the target time to complete the routine, and the steps that I need to do. Then, it is a race against time to complete the morning routine within the set time. Now, I have created something more interesting than all the distractions that the technology provides me.

At the end of the morning routine, I make a quick evaluation. How long did it take me to get ready? More than an hour? Why? Did I waste time? If so, I better watch out tomorrow not to repeat that mistake again. Did I do my best and still not hit the target time? Then maybe my estimation wasn’t correct to start with. So, I better give myself more time tomorrow. Did it take me less than an hour, but I was still able to waste time on Facebook? Then I better give myself 15 minutes less to complete my morning routine tomorrow.

Once a certain timing is established for a routine, there’s no need to evaluate that part of the day and we can simply use the same timing every day. After a while, it becomes a habit and we complete our morning routine within the determined time.

Morning routine is just an example. Not every part of our day has an established routine. We also have non-repeating tasks. For example, I have completed my morning routine and now I’m in front of my computer with a fresh brewed coffee. Now my goal is to write this blog post. Normally, I don’t set a time goal to finish my blog posts, because this is a rather pleasant activity for me. But I have a rule to not surf the Internet for distraction until I complete my blog post. However, it is allowed to do some small research such as looking up for the synonyms of a word that I want to use.

Setting tiny goals throughout the day and trying to beat the time to complete them is a great motivator. It is more exciting than the instant rewards that tech gives me. Using a physical notepad and pen makes it more real. It becomes a game that I enjoy playing. It is fun and has great benefits as well. As a result, I save at least one hour from mindless tech use. What can I do with that extra time? I can go to gym. I can go out with my friends. I can read a book. All of which is more beneficial and more fun than looking at a phone screen.

Optimization Mindset

The method I described above helps you develop an optimization mindset. Now, as you go throughout your day, you look for time, attention, and energy leaks. When you find them, you eliminate them. If you look carefully, there are a lot of leaks throughout your day.

You even improve your productivity by using better tools. For example, I’m using LibreOffice when typing this blog post. It is suggesting me words as I type them. If the suggestion is correct, I just hit enter instead of writing the rest of the word.

When you eliminate distractions from your daily life, you not only improve your time management skills, you also improve your cognitive skills. You will be amazed with the quality of ideas, solutions, and insights you come up with, when you stay focused on a single problem at hand, for a prolonged period of time. The benefits of the latter one is at least ten times greater than the extra hour you win per day. Luckily, the method described above helps you with both. So, give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Let me also know, if you have other techniques to eliminate distraction from your life and to improve your time management skills.