Dear Careernomers: Dilemma With Facebook And Computer Games

Feb 25, 2013 1 Min Read

Leaderonomics has experts on career management, HR and office issues, who will address your questions and doubts. We refer to them as Careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. The questions can range from issues you are facing in the workplace to career advice and questions that you need help on. Panelists will take turns answering your questions on careers.



I am a manager at a rather large MNC. There is a company policy that states we shouldn’t be on Facebook during working hours. My CEO has often repeated this in his emails. But during lunch time (and at different times during the day), I often see my boss playing games on her computer. My colleagues and team have also seen this and because of that, my direct reports are becoming less bothered about the policy and use my boss as the benchmark each time I bring this issue up. How do I enforce this policy on my team when my boss is the issue? Should I complain about my boss to her boss? I am frustrated.

Frustrated Azizi

Responses from our Careernomers


Hui Ming

Hi Frustrated Azizi,

Welcome to the social networking dilemma many managers face in the workplace … the golden question… To allow or disallow the usage of Facebook at the workplace?

Firstly, I would ask you to take a good look at your company policy on this. How serious is your CEO in disallowing the usage of Facebook during working hours besides a couple of emails? Think through this:

a) If your CEO is dead serious about it, then easily, there should be a firewall that prevents employees from accessing Facebook through your workplace server.

b) If your CEO has established a policy on this, what is the punishment or repercussions of people accessing Facebook during working hours? If there is none, it simply means that it’s a suggestion, and not a policy.

So, the issue you have is probably bigger than just your direct boss being on Facebook… it’s a company policy that has not been thought through for it to be enforceable.

Secondly, I would ask you to ask yourself on your stand on this issue. Putting aside the company policy that is not “enforceable”, are you pro-Facebook usage in the workplace or not. Whichever side you stand on, you should come up with a list of reasons or rationale of which you should use to talk to your direct reports.

Instead of just saying it’s a company policy, so suck it in and accept it, it’ll be good for you to engage with your team and let them know why you do not want them on Facebook during work hours or why you think they should be on Facebook during working hours. If they are your direct reports, you set the rules or the culture of your team. At the end of the day, you are the one who assesses them on their performance.

Thirdly, have a chat with your boss. Find out his/her stand on this issue and communicate to him/her your stand with your team. That way, you are able to align with your boss on your decision to abide by the company policy/to deviate from it and still know that your boss is aware of your actions.

What your boss does is up to him/her to be accountable to her direct manager and it would be pretty nasty for you to complain about this to your boss’ boss . So chill out and relax, don’t let what your boss does determine how you run your show with your direct reports. If you can engage your team and help them see your point of view on using/not using Facebook during work hours, you will have greater buy in and nip the practice of them using your boss as the benchmark.

Good luck in leading your team your way.


Ang Hui Ming

Hui Ming was part of GE’s elite group of hi-potential talent. She was a business leader to GE’s Global Business Service division and later led the HR functions for GE at the Asean level before being made Asia HR leader for GE’s Oil and Gas division. She is a co-founder of Leaderonomics and a prominent HR leader in Malaysia.


Johan Mahmood

Dear Frustrated Azizi,

It is never convincing when faced with a “do as I say not as I do” scenario, whether it is parent to child or superior to subordinates. Leadership is always best by example. But let’s consider also looking at this issue from different perspectives.

Putting ourselves in your boss’ shoes – not to get pedantic but is your boss necessarily in violation of the policy? Playing a computer game (not Facebook) during lunchtime (technically not during working hours) may not be in its strict form against the stated policy. The issue perhaps then is that it is also an issue of perception, playing a computer game during lunchtime is seen as comparable to using Facebook during office hours. I would not as a first option complain about your boss to her boss.

Instead, you could start by engaging her and “seeking her advice” on how to enforce the company policy on your team given their perception of double standards. Engaging your boss can potentially help not only in terms of her being more conscious of the impact of her actions on your ability to enforce but also in enlisting her support and assistance in enforcing policy to the team.

Consider your team members perspectives. It may be company policy but especially with Gen Y of today, you will also need for them to understand the rationale for the policy if we are to get compliance. Their non-compliance may have nothing to do with your boss’ behaviour. Especially when it is not a clear-cut issue whether or not to ban Facebook use.

This might interest you: Does Blocking YouTube, Twitter and Facebook Improve Productivity At Work?

I know a large number of organisations that continue to debate over it and a good number of them allow Facebook use albeit with controls. Today, the use of Facebook has become very much a way of life for Gen Y. Probably not dissimilar to the time when personal mobile phones were still new and some companies banned their use at work or when making personal phone calls.

We were then the younger employees and just couldn’t appreciate that policy. Today, just about everyone uses their mobile even at work but sensibly. I imagine it will become an increasingly commonplace eventually for companies to allow Facebook use.

This may raise the challenge of managing usage that it doesn’t undermine productivity. The key then would be to not necessarily try to police the time spent on Facebook but whether it is interfering with work and whether the team is still delivering the outcomes and results within the deadlines set. From their point of view, what’s the issue of checking or updating my status on Facebook once in a while if I am still delivering on all their work on time.

If I can paraphrase Yoda, “Frustration leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.” The reason I set out the different perspectives above is that I personally do not believe this is an issue which, in the grand scheme of things, should lead you to frustration. The first step however begins with seeking a better appreciation of where your boss and colleagues stand on this.

A better understanding would be a pathway to a hopefully more amicable resolution on the issue for all parties concerned. Engagement is also needed for them to better understand where you’re coming from. All the best, may the force and inner peace be with you.


Johan Mahmood Merican

Johan is currently CEO of Talent Corp Malaysia. He previously served as Principal Private Secretary to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. He was instrumental in the development of human capital related initiatives such as the GLC Blue Book on Performancelinked Compensation policy, PINTAR and Trust Schools.


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