How to deal with goldbrickers in the workplace

Managing productivity at the workplace requires clear communication.

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Goldbricking refers to the act of making a worthless item seem valuable. Literally speaking, it is akin to plating an ordinary brick with gold and passing it off as a bullion. In the workplace, it can be related to employees pretending to work hard while hardly working. These are the workers who leave early, intentionally work slowly or take long breaks.

In today’s era, when almost every work is done online, goldbricking is also known as cyber-slacking. It can be tough for the organisation and its HR to tackle such counter-productive work behaviour (CPWB). Fortunately, there are ways to manage productivity in such situations.

Define goals and objectives

Setting clear priorities and communicating them to all personnel involved is a good way to keep unwanted behaviour in check. Management strategies, such as objectives and key results (OKRs) and value indicators, such as key performance indicators (KPIs) should be well defined by the managers, even if for short periods. Expectations from the managers and the employees should be stated upfront. This includes any kind of support that an employee may require from the organisation.

If such measures are taken, then one does not have to worry about managing how people use their time in the office. If information is clearly communicated on what each person is accountable for, then delivery of results is better ensured and managing productivity becomes easier. The focus needs to be on managing goals. Managing people’s time is old fashioned.

Rattan Chugh

“The major difference between senior- and junior-level employees is the level of maturity and how they understand the feedback. Juniors need detailed conversations, while for senior employees, short conversations can communicate the message equally well”

Communicate and obtain feedback

It is up to the managers to communicate what needs to be done and when.

It is helpful to have direct conversations on the impact of CPWB on the company and on work. Managers need to have candid conversations with their employees. If things are left to pile up, employees will continue to engage in deviant actions, and think it is acceptable.

Managerial voice is the key. Employees who consistently slack off prefer managers who do not fight back. Keeping quiet will result in continued deviance and may even escalate into dangerous situations.

Sriharsha Achar, group CHRO, Apollo, says, “Managers should not lose their temper and should tackle counter-productive work assertively. They should clearly tell all employees, whether junior or senior, that a positive work environment is paramount to the success of the company, and maintain that authority.”

Feedback on goals and objectives is also necessary to combat any undesirable behaviour in the future. However, the approach to giving feedback will vary depending on the seniority of the employee concerned.

For instance, if it is a junior employee or somebody relatively new to the organisational culture, then a detailed conversation becomes necessary to clearly convey what the expectations of the company are. Frequent feedback, once or twice every week, will keep them on the right track.

For senior employees, on the other hand, feedback need not be frequent. A monthly follow up is enough. Being better acquainted with the goals and expectations of their position, small but helpful nudges in the right direction is all that it takes.

Sriharsha Achar

“Managers should not lose their temper and should tackle counter-productive work assertively. They should clearly tell all employees, whether junior or senior, that a positive work environment is paramount to the success of the company, and maintain that authority”

Rattan Chugh, CPO, Times Internet, feels, “The major difference between senior- and junior-level employees is the level of maturity and how they understand the feedback. Juniors need detailed conversations, while for senior employees, short conversations can communicate the message equally well.”

Tackling CPWB requires a manager’s watchful eye. A goal-oriented action plan is a better measure against slackers at the workplace.

If deviant behaviour is frequent, organisations may be tempted to use digital tracking tools to monitor their employees. However, it is better to avoid such measures. In fact, practically speaking, it may not even be possible. Except in the manufacturing industry, companies in the creative field require detailed research to deliver quality results. People go on social media for information and restricting access will not help in any way.

Moreover, some amount of cyber-slacking or surfing the Internet can also be a means of relaxation, much like taking a coffee break. Using online resources for personal time off can be beneficial for employees to stay engaged and be productive.

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