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Shouldn’t my employer mind his own business?

Q: My boss recently talked with me about how much time I was spending on Facebook. I had no idea the company was spying on our computer usage. Is this legal? And even if it is, is it moral? I feel violated!

A: I agree – if you were at lunch on your own time, using your own computer and connecting to the Internet via a non-company connection. On the other hand, if you were using the computer provided by the company and were “on the clock,” then questions of morality, as you suggest, are worth considering.

Today, most employers have established policies that guide workplace Internet usage. Even if your company has not done so, that still does not exempt you from considering that, while you are at work, you are being paid to wisely use your time on behalf of the organization.

If you were to look at the situation you describe from your employer’s perspective, “Thou shalt not steal” may at first seem a bit harsh. However, lost time, lost thoughts and lost opportunities while being paid to be productive are a major concern to most organizations. While few of us would ever consider taking money from the company cash drawer, time lost converts to money lost. Therefore, if Facebook or other Internet activities are distracting you from providing your employer a full measure of effort, then the conversation your boss had with you is appropriate.

At the same time, your question is an opportunity to address an even larger issue – how we, as Catholics, should conduct ourselves in the workplace. Are we role models of excellence, mindful of others, fully using our talents and paying appropriate attention to and respecting legitimate authority? Proselytizing to others about our faith is hardly ever as productive as letting others observe how you live your life at work.

Considering that excellence in all you do honors the Lord, it is then relatively easy to see that excellence at work is an appropriate form of honoring him. Questions such as, “How can I do more? How can I waste less? How can I help you?” are forms of service to others. How you improve upon even minor things, which all add up, are questions of major importance in today’s highly competitive world of work. Employees who routinely exhibit excellence at work, which is noticed by others, are, in fact, performing an appropriate form of workplace evangelization. By honoring your time at work and legitimate authority, you may become a role model of a Christian life well lived. Perhaps you may then earn the respect of your boss and others and become one of the individuals who, ever so subtly, is a workplace evangelist.