by Gaylan Nielson and Brent Peterson

Three Minute Coach

Sep 09, 2009
IT Leadership

How to keep your team from getting distracted by social networking.


How do I keep my team from getting derailed by social networking distractions?

Coaches: Gaylan Nielson and Brent Peterson, authors of FAKE “WORK” and cofounders of The Work Itself Group.

Always: Ensure that every employee knows what work is critical.

Our research shows that about 50 percent of all work is “fake work,” or work that is not directly linked to organizational strategy. Social networking and other workplace distractions are symptoms of a common problem—workers without clear expectations. Always translate organizational strategies into clear tasks and provide a forum for team discussion and alignment among coworkers. Alignment requires a concerted effort to create ownership, determine task importance, coordinate workloads and establish accountability for results.

Sometimes: Meet and have strategic conversations and reinforce accountability. Use real work tasks—those that are critical and connected to strategy—to manage and monitor performance. Managers should avoid noticing and rewarding noncritical work. Instead, review the obstacles and resource issues that obstruct real work and let the team help curb social networking distractions.

Never: Assume that strategies are understood and are finding their way into daily work. Managers think they can align people, but employees must adjust and find ways to drive strategies day to day. You can’t ignore distracting behaviors, but ultimately you have to focus on monitoring real work tasks and expected outcomes. In areas like IT, exciting new projects often dominate, and strategic links are ignored. Most people don’t like doing fake work. They want to accomplish work of value.

Gaylan Nielson and Brent Peterson have been organizational consultants for over 20 years working with Fortune 1000 companies and their subsidiaries all over the world. You can find them at