Our Bad Management of the Week Award – which we have just invented for this week and this particular case – goes to Carlisle City Council, who have banned staff from chatting on Council time.
Staff must now “clock off” if they wish to talk about non-Council business in the office.
Never mind the resentment and ill-will that this generates among employees. Never mind the fact that, if this new policy were to be carried out to the letter, it would cost far more in administration than could ever be saved.
The real objection to the new policy is that gossip is good – at least so long as it is kept within reasonable limits.
Informal communication between employees is an efficient method of conveying useful information. “Lateral systems” avoid the hassle of sending data up and down the formal hierarchy. Many businesses actively encourage their development by sponsoring social activities among staff.
Put simply, it is cheaper to say something at the proverbial water cooler than to send an official memo.
Of course, excessive chattering and gossiping in working hours can become a problem. However, there are better ways to deal with it than decreeing counter-productive policies that simply alienate the employees on whose goodwill the organisation depends.
The best is to set employees tough, challenging objectives that engage their interest and keep them too busy in working hours to waste time.
The problem in Carlisle, as in most of the developed world, is that challenging objectives, engaging people’s interest, and being too busy to waste time are not concepts usually associated with local government.