Have you ever snooped through user emails, the boss' private file folders or searched desktops out of pure curiosity and enjoyment?
As one survey reveals, one in three IT staffers do all that and more--even rifling through confidential corporate files.
Is this surprising to you? It's not to me. I mean we're all human and we're all curious. And let's face it, while the IT department is watching over user behavior there's likely no one watching over the IT department.
Now before you launch an email tirade at me for implying that all IT workers are unethical, just sit back and think about this workplace dilemma for a moment.
What separates IT workers who snoop and those who don't? Is it ethics? Is it a higher morality appreciation? Or is it just the real fear of getting caught doing something despicable and likely unforgivable in the workplace--an act that would very likely get you canned.
This conundrum led InformationWeek's John Soat to propose an ethical code of conduct for today's IT enterprises. Soat recommends: "a pragmatic approach" featuring five simple rules, with one that accounts for what he calls the "weaknesses of human nature."
- Never open E-mails with these subject lines: "Notice of insufficient funds," "Here are your latest test results," or "An Inquiry From The IRS"; these are OK to look at: "What I'm going to do to you when we get home," and "About last night ..."
- Ignore the temptation to notify co-workers immediately when someone in their business unit gets a raise or a significant bonus, except for those making less than that person.
- PC files are off limits--they're boring, anyway--except for half-finished screenplays, which are, more often than not, unintentionally hilarious; OK to share with colleagues.
- No surveillance cameras in the bathrooms. Enough said about that.
- Give co-workers the benefit of the doubt when monitoring the Web sites they access: "Neighbors I'd Like To Know.com" might be a community spirit site.
While a few of Soat's rules elicit a chuckle (I thank my colleague for that since there isn't much to laugh about when it comes to workplace issues these days), I would love to hear what you readers have done, or not done, when it comes to unethical behavior such as snooping.
What was the motivating factor for your decision? Don't worry we won't print your names; we just want your insight.
And on a final and related note, I received some nice feedback on a recent request on how IT leaders are building up their business skills. As one TechCareers reader Kurt wrote, sometimes it isn't about taking courses or attending seminars:
"Here's an idea - you might need to leave your secure job to take on a more hybrid-type of position at a less secure smaller firm where one can use multiple disciplines. I was in a senior-level techie position and wasn't doing much of any business-related skills. It was tough BUT I'd rather rely on ME instead of some corporation that may or may not be laying off people or selling off your division in 15 years when it will be REALLY difficult to add on more business related skills. Hence, I left and am now doing: strategic planning; working with a budget; building a department in terms of IT system and personnel; a lot more marketing; and a lot more direct customer service. The company may not last forever BUT it also might be the mother lode, who knows. In the meantime - my own skills et is much improved and I am becoming more valuable in the all-important marketplace. Maybe once I hit the income level I want I just might go back to the big corporation, etc.
Thanks so much Kurt for sharing your own experience and proving that being proactive is certainly the best strategy in moving ahead in one's career.