In the papers a few days ago there was the announcement that a government department sacked 11 staff for looking at pornography on their work computers and another 14 had resigned for abusing the department's internet use policy. The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) also noted that all staff were now banned from storing non-work-related photos and videos on their work computers. This department has just over 4000 employees and because less than half a per cent were stupid (and rightly deserved to be sacked) the remaining employees now also have to suffer.

If SMH are correct in the finding that all non-work related photos and videos on computers are banned, then I find this approach paternalistic. I wonder what impact this is having on those remaining employees who have been doing the right thing? In the places I have worked, some of my colleagues have screen savers which were pictures of their family, pets, favourite car, etc. This creates a personalised space for them in their work environment.

All Government Departments have acceptable use policies in place, as they should - use of these things at work should have appropriate limits. All Australian Public Service employees are bound by the APS Code of Conduct and the APS Values so they are aware of what they can and cannot do. I agree on the sacking and I think that is enough to send a message that the behaviour of abusing the department's resources is not acceptable; particularly in the case of pornography.

However I think the message to the rest of the honest remaining employees should have been one of thanking them for not abusing the system and that the organisation still trusts them. By banning the use of all non-work related photos, etc. it sends a message of mistrust. DDI has a whitepaper on Trust in the Workplace and how trust or lack of it can impact on business results.

If this happened in your organisation what do you think would occur?

TRUST! by Allison Denny-Collins, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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