Managing Employee Internet Abuse in the Digital Workplace

Managing Employee Internet Abuse in the Digital Workplace

Kimberly Young
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch049
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Employee Internet abuse is a problem among organizations often resulting in poor job productivity, high turnover rates due to job loss, and the potential for legal liability. While organizations developed acceptable Internet use policies and monitored employee Internet usage, studies found that these methods alone were not enough to deter and prevent employee Internet abuse. This chapter describes the research surrounding employee Internet use and presents Young’s model for preventing and addressing Internet use in the workplace. The model includes strategies in policy development, training, Internet monitoring, and revised termination policies for incidents of employee Internet abuse that include rehabilitation through the company EAP. Finally, the chapter addresses new trends in digital media abuse such as to Facebook and Twitter in the workplace and how these can create new kinds of technostress for those who become addicted.
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In 2000, a landmark study from Websense Inc., a leading monitoring software firm, showed that online pornography along with online shopping, investing and sports watching online were leading causes of Internet misuse in the workplace. Some key findings from the survey included:

  • 3.24 hours a week is the average time an employee spends looking at non-work related Web sites.

  • 30.3 percent of workers watch sports online at work.

  • 68.4 percent feel that employees should be allowed to access non-work-related Web sites at break times, before or after work.

  • 56.6 percent favor filtering software that allocates time for personal Internet use each day at work.

In that same year, The New York Times fired 22 employees in Virginia for allegedly passing around potentially offensive electronic mail (The Associated Press, 2000). The Associated Press also reported that Xerox fired 40 workers for spending work time surfing pornographic and shopping sites on the Web. Dow Chemical Company fired 50 employees and suspended another 200 for up to four weeks without pays after an email investigation uncovered hard-core pornography and violent subject matter (Collins, 2000). A spokesman noted that there were a whole range of abuses from mild pornography to very graphic pornography and seriously violent images. According to Dow, no material that could be classified as illegal was found. However, the violations were made by workers at all levels in the company. At the pharmaceutical giant, Merck & Company employees faced discipline, including dismissal, for inappropriate e-mail and Internet usage (DiSabatino, 2000). Merck would not indicate how many employees had been terminated or otherwise disciplined, how many employees had been subjected to Internet monitoring or what, specifically, employees had communicated or downloaded to provoke the measures.

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