Wealth Shift: The Decline of Ethics in America
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#1 – Pile New Rules On Top Of Old Ones

Although I tried in the last chapter to create a fairly representative list of Wealth Shift practices, by no means is my list exhaustive. I once told a Gen Y’er who was working with me, “Mario, if you’d put half the energy you spend thinking up ways to cheat this company into thinking up ways to make it money, you’d be the fracking CEO!”

No doubt about it, we Americans are incredibly creative people. When given a problem to solve and the motivation to solve it, we are like monkeys with a maze box containing a banana. The more badly we want something, the more creatively we problem-solve.

We Americans, by our very nature, love a challenge. And so, the last thing any company’s management team should want to do is pit themselves against their employees in an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse. You may very well think you are smarter than your employees. But while you just dabble in your solutions part-time, your employees live their creativity every minute of every day. For that reason, I simply don’t believe that the best way to stop Wealth Shift practices in the workplace is to add another hundred pages to the company Policies and Procedures Manual and then institute even more Gestapo-type policing procedures.

Let me give you an example. One of the best examples of ineffective gamesmanship I have ever seen is the way companies are attempting to deal with the Wealth Shift practice of using downtime at the office to access pornography on the internet. This particular practice has implications far beyond a mere calculation of the employee’s hourly wage rate times the number of hours spent looking at porn instead of doing his/her job, and that’s why it has become such a hot button for managers.

According to the data compiled by LocalTel, 27% of Fortune 500 companies have defended themselves from claims of sexual harassment stemming from inappropriate e-mails and internet use. Some of the various types of porn-related claims that have been filed are as follows:

1) Companies have been sued for allowing their male employees to view porn at work, thereby contributing to a sexually hostile work environment that alienates the company’s female employees.

2) Companies have been sued for indirectly contributing to sexually harassing conduct that stems from employees viewing porn at work.

3) Companies have been sued for allowing sexually explicit material to be transmitted via the company’s e-mail system.

4) Companies have been sued by people who are fired for viewing porn at work who feel they were disciplined too severely, or who feel they should have been allowed to get treatment for their psychological problems instead of being fired.

5) Companies have been sued by “whistle-blowers” who feel they were fired in retaliation for reporting incidents of co-workers viewing porn on the internet.

6) Companies have been sued for illegal downloads of pirated sex videos, etc.

Knowing how potentially explosive and costly it can be for a company to turn a blind eye to workplace pornographic internet usage, companies have been actively working on this issue for at least ten years. Almost every company in America now has an Internet Access Policy (IAP) in place, which outlines in very specific terms the appropriate uses of the internet in the workplace. Most companies require their employees to sign a copy of the IAP, which is retained in the employee’s file in the event it may be needed at some future date to paper up in a court of law just how proactively the company is managing this issue. Many companies are also increasing their use of filters, blockers, and site tracking devices that monitor their networks constantly for questionable usage.

Enter the wireless age, the age of laptops the size of a manila envelope, and the age of the Blackberry, the Treo, and the iPhone - all devices that make the use of corporate networks optional, if not obsolete. To quote Doc Brown in the final scene of the movie Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

Too true. Only the unsophisticated use the company network for personal reasons these days. Now, short of installing hidden cameras or hiring corporate babysitters to physically monitor employees and even follow them to the bathroom if they are carrying an iPhone, any employee who really wants to look at porn on company time is going to look at porn on company time. Unquestionably, in this particular contest of wills, employees are winning by a landslide.

Let’s face it. Policing tactics are simply band-aid fixes. They are temporary. They escalate conflicts rather than resolve them. Do we really need to get to the corporate equivalent of Defcon-1 before we realize that heaping new policies and procedures on top of old ones simply isn’t working, never has worked, and never will work?

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