Johanna over that Managing Product Development just left this post about a friend who found out his boss is reading his email.
Leaders and managers: One of the most important things we do is build trusting and postiive relationships. For people to follow us willingly (real leadership) we need to be respected. We need to be trustworthy.
Who knows the exact circumstances of Johanna’s friend, it doesn’t matter. Don’t be sneaking around looking at your employee’s stuff! Assume your activities will be discovered (they likely will). The only exception I would throw out there is if there is an HR investigation going on regarding a serious and dangerious situation (like workplace violence).
The fear/knowing that you will be caught should stop you from treating your adult employees like children (like you get to control them – YOU DON’T). The even MORE COMPELLING reason not to read emails or snoop around is that it is not mature management behavior. A workplace is where adults come together and create value for the various stakeholders. And for those of you who think you want to catch employees sending emails to their firends, don’t bother. There will be emails to friends, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. A fully engaged employee is also going to think about work on their personal time, so it all evens out. If you have an employee who is spending an inordinate amount of time on personal calls or emails, you have other problems (structure of the role, work assignments, communication, expectations, etc). Spying is not the solution.
We cannot do our best work – not even close – when we are in an environment that is set up on the assumptions of a lack of trust. Period.
I hope you agree! If you don’t, if you think it is OK to read your employee’s email as a normal course of business, please leave a comment so that we can talk this through.