In fact, we're all surprised when we can't find an old high school friend or college buddy on Facebook - usually assume that they must have experienced an untimely death as we can think of no other explanation. So the idea that employees would be accessing Facebook while at work is pretty much expected. I'm going to direct this one to Business Analysts because they likely have even more day to day face to face or hands-on work and communication with the rest of the project team than even the project manager does. While a tech lead may try to snow the project manager over with a 67% complete progress report on a key development task and he might buy it, the business analyst is even more likely to know that it's more like 35%, and the tech lead is just trying to show the optimistic progress that the project schedule is requiring at this stage. And perhaps the business analyst is more keenly aware that the root cause is not encountering issues or gold plating... maybe it's distractions due to other influences aside from work – including social media.
So, what about the employee or project team member who is using social media excessively and it's not for work purposes? What can we do about that? These are adults - for the most part, seasoned professionals and you're expecting big things and steady production from them. Usually, the two don't combine and support each other. It's hard to get approximately 8 hours a day of efficient and productive project work from someone who is carrying on a loaded social media presence during what should be work time. What do you do? Here are my main three options or actions that I would suggest...
In a right to hire state like Nevada where I am located, you really don't need cause to let someone go... so you can just fire them. The upside – if you know they aren't productive because of an addiction to checking and updating their Facebook page constantly or maybe it's Twitter, or Instagram or some other social media outlet then you can let them go swiftly. The downside – the customer knows this project team member and any change in a key position part way through a project engagement is going to cause customer concerns... maybe a loss of confidence in the overall ability of the delivery team. But if the customer has already noticed or noted a lack of production from this individual then removing them will likely be a good thing regarding customer relations. No explaining necessary.
The likelihood that you are going to just fire them without review, investigation, or any discussion with the team member is small, though and we all know it. Just be careful because anything you say can and will be used in a court of law in this litigious era. No real rash moves are advised. Document what you can well before ever even going to the problematic team member.
Discuss and put them on a performance improvement plan.
The next option – and probably the best and most popular option – is to discuss the concern with the project team member and put them on a performance improvement plan. Give them two weeks or 30 days to improve their performance and progress on tasks before taking any further action. It needs to be as quantitative as possible so as to not leave too much future action to question or discretion. That may be difficult in this case, so look at the project and this individual's assigned tasks and do the best job you can coming up with something at least somewhat measurable. And if the project customer has complained about this individual, then feel free to include them in the discussion and documentation. After all, that project customer confidence and satisfaction can be used to help document reasons for terminating the project team member.
Remove the project team member from the project.
A final option is to remove the team member from the project. Since this can be done immediately without any explanation really necessary in some cases, it may be the overall best first step in the process. If the resource were extremely critical to the day to day operations of the project, then it will be more difficult, but you can explain to the project customer that this particular team member wasn't as good of a fit as hoped and was needed on a different project or for other tasks at the moment. On boarding a new resource is time-consuming and costly, yes, but if this particular project team member hasn't been very productive due to their lack of work focus and progress, then it probably won't be that noticeable as they are already taking the project timeline and budget off track with their poor work performance and work ethic.
Summary/call for input
No one likes situations where they must fire someone or take performance related concerns to the next level. We all usually just wish we could close our eyes and then open them and everything would be ok. But life and projects aren't that way. Thankfully, I've not had to take much action this way on projects I've managed – my project teams have been top notch performers for the most part. Mistakes have been made a couple of instances of over-anxious rogue development activity had to be curbed before it was too harmful to the project, but I've not had to deal with the distracted or slacker worker.
Readers – what about you? Have you had to take any serious action toward a project team member due to distractions or lack of work focus? Has social media gotten in the way of real project productivity? Has the customer had to come to you with these types of concerns? If so, what action or actions did you take? Please share and discuss.