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I have started a small software company with one new hire and a remote worker that is supposed to grow over the next few months.

Right now, it’s only two of us in the office and I know that sitting opposite your boss all day must be intense. We get along really well, and in the past month he’s worked hard to get through a build we thought would take us months longer.

He’s worked after hours, worked at home, worked on weekends and he’s made suggestions for new features he’s wanted to add as a surprise. He’s a good guy.

The only issue I have is that lately, since the work doesn’t have the same tinge of urgency as it did before — and since he’s done a lot of the major stuff already — within four weeks of working here is on Facebook.

I would say he’s on Facebook for easily half the day. He gets through everything he needs to quickly, but then doesn’t hand in the work (delays it by a few hours) so he can spend time on Facebook and make it seem like he’s working through that time.

I can see that he’s talking to his girlfriend who moved over for the job with him, but doesn’t have a job yet. He’s a young guy and I’m guessing he wants to keep her happy.

I could have maybe looked past it, but the other day we bought a temp worker into the office and he was doing this in full view of a new employee. He works hard out of hours but not everyone can see this, and I don’t want this to become the norm for everyone else.

And, I can’t help but also think that I’m paying him for his hours at work — but this seems a hugely unfair line of thought given the fact that he puts in work out of hours too.

How should I best handle this situation, if at all? The last thing I want to do is demotivate and demoralize.

  • 3
    Is there more work to do after he hands in what he's supposed to work on? It seems odd for someone to work outside of normal hours, but then intentionally delay during the day. As if something else is going on. – Erik Jul 27 at 19:09
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    @Erik Yeah, there’s plenty more to get on with. – illuminatedtype Jul 27 at 19:14
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    @Erik It seems odd for someone to work outside of normal hours, but then intentionally delay during the day. For some people it's the other way round: procrastinating during the day, being aware of it & feeling guilty, and then working extra hours at night or weekend to compensate. This seems to work for short periods if time, but slowly drains them out because there is too little real rest. – Arsak Jul 27 at 20:00
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    @Arsak: There might also be an element of finding it easier to work after hours when nobody else is around. (That's assuming the employee is staying after the OP has left.) – Keith Thompson Jul 27 at 20:10
  • @Arsak - it seems that in that case it would be better to directly address it. – illuminatedtype Jul 27 at 20:25
19

Nip it in the bud. Don't let it go on longer or he will think it's accepted. You need to have a 1-1 meeting with him and tell him that it's not acceptable. If possible, catch him when he's doing it.

That's part of management. Not always pleasant, but it's what needs to be done.

If it were me, I'd maybe emphasize that I was happy with his work overall, but during business hours, please keep it to a minimum. See where that goes.

In time as the business grows, you will likely need to draft an "Internet usage policy" to define that, and a company handbook for new employees.

  • 3
    An alternative to the internet usage policy could be a "no-policy policy" where you explicitly rely on people's common sense and good judgement (and hold them accountable for that), instead of trying to put down on paper how many minutes of Facebook are acceptable. – JonathanS Jul 28 at 19:49
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    “See where that goes”...? I’d be prepared for him to immediately stop putting in the evenings and weekends. Trust goes both ways - either he’s an adult and you trust him to get done what needs doing, or he’s an hourly paid office worker, you can’t have it both ways. – Matt Jul 29 at 6:53
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    From what OP says he goofs off because he has finished all his work. I think management here would be addressing what can he do instead of staying and goofing off, which may include handing stuff earlier and just letting them go home with jira hours in the bank. If you want to retain talent, you'll want to give your staff tools and options to work with, not stifle them with restrictions. – lucasgcb Jul 29 at 9:32
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    Of course, chances are that as soon as the employee is forced to obey the rules regarding Facebook, he'll have a huge incentive to also obey the rules regading his working hours, so he'll probably work less (unpaid?) overtime than he did before. – Niko1978 Jul 29 at 9:46
  • @JohnathanS Or an “only during lunch breaks” policy. – nick012000 Jul 30 at 0:48
22

"He puts in work after hours."

  1. He's not an hourly employee so you get the pros and cons of that. Pros: you don't have to pay overtime. Cons: You shouldn't micromanage. Some states actually have labor board rules that say this. It sounds like the guy is delivering productivity at a good rate. You just don't like seeing him on Facebook...

  2. Most of the industry runs on Agile methodology which says you need to trust the employee. Not micromanage/worry about whether they look at Facebook or not. Delivering his work within reasonable time frames is all that matters. I get it, you feel like you own his soul during the 8 hours of the business day. I bet from his POV he's delivering work equal to or greater in value than what you pay him. And you think so to or you would have fired him long before you saw him on Facebook, right?

  3. Your competitors have perks like full arcade game rooms, free kitchens with chefs, open bars and here you are telling a guy he can't look at Facebook. Think about it. You think your competitors are going into those game rooms and telling people they can only be in there after business hours? Nope. If you terminate him for it he's going to run to job boards and post reviews that talk about your 'perks'. Then good luck on finding the quality hires.

You could let him work remote full time or maybe you hired a guy who is too high level for the kind of work you're doing? Or you did not motivate the guy sufficiently. Profit share/stock option/compelling story about why your company will be the next big thing are great motivators. They might motivate a guy to forget he has a girlfriend (ha ha) and forget about Facebook. Maybe.

Anyhow, tread carefully because from your employee's POV he's probably giving you a solid average of 40-60 hours worth of productivity per week regardless of what you think from seeing him in the office. Accusing him of theft ain't going to go over well. Neither is basically insisting that he shoe horn all of his work into his time at the office when you already know he's working from home a lot/

  • 3
    I hear what you’re saying. The issue is that the more people we get into this smaller office, the more likely we will have people only appraise the situation on what they see and think it’s totally fine to spend half the day on social media without putting in the hours after work that this guy is. – illuminatedtype Jul 27 at 21:06
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    @illuminatedtype Sounds like you want to hire people who need to be micromanaged. If that's the case then you hired the wrong guy, didn't you? And if it's not the case then you need to be more careful about your next hires so they fit into the culture of 'outcome is all that matters'. If I'm in your shoes I'd be delighted to let the guy work from home and use the office real estate freed up for something else or just let him do his thing and hire more people like him. – HenryM Jul 27 at 21:19
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    @mxyzplk Then why is it that many companies are very successful yet don't care about the amount of time their employees spend doing other things? Yahoo! former CEO thought this was bad but then she ran the company into the ground forcing employees to stare at computer screens in the office for 8 hours/day, didn't she? – HenryM Jul 27 at 23:19
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    @mxyzplk I'd like to see what percentage productive of software developers actually work close to 100% of the time during regular business. The only places where I've worked that were paranoid about time clocks also had a horrible concept of productivity. So you'd have the most productive people producing but the least productive are pretending to be productive and passing just by keeping the seat warm. I bet the company lost more on the fakers than it gained from the producers! I see what you're saying but I've not seen positive examples. – HenryM Jul 27 at 23:45
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    @HenryM I can't. I've tried. I just cannot focus in an open plan office, can't avoid distractions, and always run out of time to get coding work done. I now find a room, close the door, and spend time offline to get work done. The modern office sucks. Maybe this guy in the OP has similar issues. – Underverse Jul 28 at 14:26
3

Before settling on a solution you need to decide what the problem is.

It could be:

  • You want him to work during working hours (in addition to or instead of the additional hours)
  • You don't want other employees to see him wasting work time
  • You don't want you to see him wasting work time
  • You think he isn't productive overall

It could be one of the above, or a combination, or something else. Only you can say for sure which of these is the actual problem.

Think about this carefully because what you absolutely don't want to do is to "fix" a problem that you don't have. e.g. if you care more that he does the work than when he does the work it would be silly to insist on formal working hours when really that doesn't achieve anything which is too important to you.

For what it's worth I think you could fix this with a conversation and perhaps an agreement about flexible working.

  • This is a better response than simply have a meeting and tell him to stop. People can get VERY defensive when they feel they're working hard and being productive. If it's just aesthetics, I'd tell them to be careful not to attract attention, that you don't really mind as long as they're getting work done, but they need to be more subtle about it. – NibblyPig Jul 28 at 22:37
2

Have you considered flexible working hours? If your main concern is the impression that he is projecting, you could have a conversation with him saying that you think he's doing a great job, but you'd prefer that he not use Facebook in the office. Perhaps if he routinely didn't work some of the afternoon, but worked into the evening instead, that would work better for him?

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    This seems like a great suggestion. Flexible hours doesn't mean 100% flexibility, you could for example agree with the employee to fix 30 hours and allow them to flex the other 10 within some agreed framework (e.g. don't carry over hours between weeks). – P. Hopkinson Jul 29 at 16:38
1

You are trying to micromanage the employee. Some employees like micromanagement, others don't. Sounds like this employee prefers less micromanagement, but if you are unsure you can always talk to him about which direction he would like you to go with your management style. However, micromanaging an employee that doesn't want it is a sure way to killing their productivity and making them quit.

You say he's a good worker, so what's the problem? Is he finishing work on time? Then you should stop worrying about how much faster he would work if only he didn't take breaks. If he didn't take breaks, he may start working slower, and he may just decide that the job sucks and quit. Then you will have to spend time and money to replace him, and maybe the next person will be a bad worker and browse Facebook. Don't fix what isn't broken.

He gets through everything he needs to quickly, but then doesn’t hand in the work (delays it by a few hours) so he can spend time on Facebook and make it seem like he’s working through that time.

It's irrelevant how long he takes to finish the work. It only matters if he has finished it in time. If yes, you can stop worrying about it. If no, you can (and should) ask him to do it faster. The facebook problem will disappear on its own, or he will fail to do it on time and you can have a discussion about why. I don't mean asking for work to be done sooner for the sole purpose of "squeezing" him - that would probably have similar consequences to unwelcome micromanagement. But if there is an actual, tangible business benefit to doing it sooner, you should definitely communicate this to him.

the other day we bought a temp worker into the office and he was doing this in full view of a new employee.

If your concern is morale, then the issue is not him being on facebook, but him being on facebook where other employees can see. It will be a lot easier to tell him "just don't let the temp see it". If you are concerned about equal treatment of employees, you can bring that up as well: "I don't let anyone else do it so I think it should be a new policy that you're also subject to". But do keep in mind that too many arbitrary policy changes will do exactly what you want to avoid: Demoralize and demotivate.

0

To get things out of the way first, if my manager came to me and said "I'm really happy with your results and effort, but you should not use Facebook so much" I'd get frustrated and probably start looking for another job. I've already done that, to be honest. Many companies are in a dire need of good developers, that's why we have good salaries and the companies offer dozens of perks.

I see that, to you, the biggest problem is that, as the company grows and more people get hired, the new employees will see this guy on FB half of the day and think he does nothing work related. Therefore, I suggest this:

Standup meetings.

Every single day, without exception, gather the team around, make them standup and go briefly over what they've done during the previous day, what they are currently doing, what they will do right after that. Two minutes for each employee and everyone will know what each other is doing and your problem will be solved.

  • I don't think the issue is that they will think this guy isn't doing any work, but rather that they will think none of them are expected to do any work either. – Phueal Jul 29 at 20:04
  • @Phueal I disagree, but still standup meetings would solve this problem. – undefined Jul 30 at 6:53
  • 1
    Please clarify exactly which problem stand up meetings addresses. – HenryM Jul 30 at 15:53

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