Questionable $178B loss: Employees' fault? Or management's?

Questionable $178B loss: Employees' fault? Or management's?

Summary: Websense -- a company that sells solutions that help managers crackdown on unauthorized usage of the Internet -- issued the following statement today: "Websense, Inc., the world’s leading provider of employee internet management solutions, today announced that internet misuse in the workplace costs American corporations more than $178 billion annually in lost productivity.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Browser
33

Websense -- a company that sells solutions that help managers crackdown on unauthorized usage of the Internet -- issued the following statement today: "Websense, Inc., the world’s leading provider of employee internet management solutions, today announced that internet misuse in the workplace costs American corporations more than $178 billion annually in lost productivity." 

If nothing else, you have to give Websense some credit for complete and utter transparency.  More often than not, to hide such conflicts of interest, vendors put themselves at arms distance from studies that could stimulate demand for their products by commissioning research outfits to do the studies for them, and then neglect to disclose that connection in the resulting press releases and announcements.  According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Microsoft was connected to an incident of this nature this year when, one month after a research oufit announced at RSA's security conference that Windows was more secure than Linux, the researchers disclosed that Microsoft funded the study.  While a controversy ensued about whether Microsoft had any control over the research methodology, the point that was lost in that discussion was that when a vendor commissions a study, it almost always has the power to decide whether the study is released to the public or not.  Anyway, read the press release and draw your own conclusions about the assumptions it makes.

Regardless of the integrity of the study, announcements such as these always make me wonder should be blamed for the financial damages that result from Internet misuse.  Anybody who has taken Management 101 knows that if you hold employees accountable for achieving documented and measurable goals, that goofing off whether it's through "cyberslacking" (Websense's term) or any other means will simply surface in employee underperformance versus stated goals.  If I'm running a company, I want it to be a great place to work -- a place where employees can use the Internet as long as they're meeting or exceeding expectations.  In that context, I wonder whether cyberslacking crackdown products aren't really crutches for poorly managed companies.  Of course, there are other, more legitimate reasons to monitor Internet usage.  For example, any misuse that could lead to a lawsuit.  An example of that might usage that violates your company's policies regarding sexual harrassment or violence in the workplace.  Another transgression to watch out for is leakage -- inadvertent or intentional - of intellectual property.

[Update 7/20/05: In response to one reader's question about how it was that WebSense arrived at these numbers, I contacted WebSense for a breakdown and then analyzed it.   See Why WebSense's FUD doesn't add up.]

Topic: Browser

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • How did WebSense determine the numbers

    These kinds of audits I have completed are really a lottery of best estimates. What cold hard facts did WS use?
    BXLE
    • They hacked into

      1000 companies ISA servers, read the logs line by line and compiled the results.
      skeptic tank
    • I'm working on that right now.

      That's a great question. So, I asked WebSense for the breakdown and they're sending it to me. Look for my next blog.

      db
      dberlind
    • OK, WebSenses calculations along with analysis are posted

      See http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=1626

      db
      dberlind
  • Management fails to understand staffing requirements

    If you hire 3 people to do 1 person's worth of work, do you gain productivity by monitoring their internet usage? If this doesn't qualify for Apples and Oranges, I don't know what does.

    Management staffing decisions consistently baffle me. Go outside the company to hire a high-priced "Grid" expert - instead of assigning the work to a tech savy systems analyst. Fill open reqs - even when you have adequate staffing. "Balkanize" *NIX groups into "client", "data center", "distributed", etc., even when the talents needed are the same. Migrate techies into project management "slackers" and then try to replace them with cheaper, less experienced techies.

    I could go on and on, but you should catch my point here. If you HONESTLY planned your personnel needs, and adjusted them according to work flow, then you wouldn't need to spy on them to see how much money you were losing. This $178 million loss is like the idea of body count - the statistics SEEM to show something, but in the end they don't.
    Roger Ramjet
  • TalkBack Posting Responsible for $2.4M Loss

    That's assuming that most of the serial posters here are actually employable...

    ;)
    ejhonda
  • Exactly right. Getting the job done...

    ...is the point. The vast layer of middle management that can't manage is the problem. My wife once worked for an eedjet who had a conniption because she used the wrong paper clip (a small one rather thanthe preferred larger one). And then there's the manager who goes ballistic because someone comes in at 7:01, but fails to provide direction, coaching, or any other managerial functions that really matter. And on and on.
    ordaj9
  • .000001% of gnp spent frivolessly

    I think I got the percentage close, I have to
    wonder how much money is wasted on cigarette
    smoking? Monitoring the network for unauthorized
    use (usually looking at porn) can be a concern
    for institutions and businesses concerned with
    appearances. Looking at websites is the new
    water cooler, smoke break, candy break, coffee
    break, what have you. For the most part it
    provides a diversion from the problem at hand
    which can be productive. I recently read that
    americans only work 6 of the 8 working hours, and
    that's on the high end of the scale. 178 million
    dollars, 100 million employees in the US, $1.78
    each, wow, that's a problem.
    pesky_z
    • Does that mean less than 1/3 are employed?

      Seeing as the US population is over 300 Million and all. I guess it is concievable if the majority of the population is retired or too young to work.
      voska
  • Management is ALWAYS responsible.

    The very idea of management is the ability to manage, regardless of the situation or issue. That is something that seems to be forgotten in recent years.

    With that said, I don't care if an employee comes in and sleeps 7 out of 8 hours, as long as he/she produces results and meets deadlines/goals. As the manager it is my responsibilty to make certain the goals are realistic.

    As far as monitoring for porn I suppose it might be needed, but I still think that it's better to enlighten people about what is acceptable and what is expected of them rather than trying to play big brother. In some case there isn't a choice but those cases are few and far between.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Makes sense

      If the job gets done it shouldn't matter that it appears that the employees are not being productive. The proof is in the jobs being done correctly and timely.
      voska
    • That would be sweet..

      Have a manager tell you what needs to get done that done, once you get it completed, you can go home with a full days pay. I want that job :)

      When it comes to porn, we do both. We tell employees that it is not acceptable and our firebox blocks all/most porn websites. Better safe than sorry.
      Patrick Jones
      • Oops..

        "get done that done"

        that should be "get done that day"
        Patrick Jones
      • That's called getting paid by the job

        Instead of by the hour. Problem is employers can get unrealistic and give you work that you can't get done in even 8 hours let alone less. So you can end up working 12 hour days getting paid what someone who works by the hour for 8 hours gets paid.
        voska
        • Why did you have to go and do that?

          You just rained on my parade. I was really enjoying my dream :)
          Patrick Jones
        • Not a chance

          Setting goals and objectives must be interactive with all involved if it is to have chance of sucess.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Just stating what I've experienced

            Not sure if I'd call it a success though. I've worked for employers who give you list of task you could not possibly complete in 8 hours using the pay by the tast method. Looks good at first but they keeps saying they are waiting of you to get up to speed. Everytime you even get close to finishing in 8 hours they add another task.

            I say they may not be a success because the turn-over was quite high and retraining was costing them a fortune. Eventually they went to hourly and when I quit the turn over was still bad.

            Just and example of bad management though. If you do this right you can actually get very productive employees with little turn over.
            voska
    • Does your Mgr know HOW many hrs

      you spent posting to various junk forums daily? ;-)

      And, what is the recourse if the top mgr is an Internet junky?

      -m
      michael_t
      • As the owner I have no manager.

        It's good to be the king. ;-)
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Then why did you skip my 2nd Q? :-) nt

          nt
          michael_t