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THEO PAPHITIS: Millionaire, Dragon, rubbish employer, hypocrite & Social Media dufus

posted by Alex Hens
6 September 2009

Last week I read an article from the Daily Mail (a link I followed I don't hesitate to add) from the inimitable Theo Paphitis entitled Why ALL bosses should copy me and ban Facebook from the workplace. I think it's fair to say that it wound me up. REALLY wound me up. It's true that many articles I happen across from that "journalistic (and I use the expression in it's loosest sense) stable" do, and that why I try to give it a wide berth  but this one got me fired. His key points were:

    the internet is responsible for an orgy of self-indulgence and exhibitionism.
    Ryman stopped all time-wasting by imposing a non-draconian ban on ALL websites that couldn't be justified as useful for work.
    The internet has undermined dialogue in so many ways.
    Online socialising (unchecked) could cause the end of the world  or something like that.

And just in case you were unaware of what sparked this typically Daily Mail one eyed opinion venting by Mr Paphitis, it was the news that Portsmouth City Council had carte blanche banned facebook after discovering that their staff were wasting on average 400 hours on the site every month (PTod article here). Now never ones to let the facts get in the way of a good sensationalist headline, or indeed the sum total of a Daily Mail story, you don't have to look too hard in other press to see that this actually equates to just 5-6minutes a month PER staff member. But more on that later.
- The Internet is responsible for an orgy of self-indulgence and exhibitionism

This was one of the most reprehensible elements of the article for me  mainly because of its un-abashed hypocrisy from someone who profits from participating in a programme that is itself a platform that encourages this very "self-indulgence and exhibitionism". The Internet elements collectively termed as social media simply provide a more accessible and inclusive window for and onto social interaction for those that are willing to do so electronically. Some people do, I'm sure, delude themselves that this channel for communication (or "egomaniacal drivel" as Mr Paphitis prefers to tar it all as) is the route to fame and success  but I'm sure most people using it (other than those already anointed celebs by whatever media powers that decide such things) actually see it for what it is: a way to stay in touch with a social &/or professional circle(s), potentially expanding your horizons and perspective along the way, sometimes to business or personal gain too, but most often it's just about light hearted engagement. And don't even pretend to hide behind the we're a serious business programme giving people valuable business insight. If that's the case why is the programme the same week in week out, changing only the supporting cast of moron's, the clinically deluded and the painfully naive, smattered, of course, with the odd sprinkling of genuine prospects? Because you profit directly from people's hunger to get rich quicker and snatch their 15minutes of fame along the way.
- Ryman stopped all time-wasting by imposing a non-draconian ban on ALL websites that couldn't be justified as useful for work.

So, if I understand this correctly, Theo felt that stopping EVERY website other than those that passed some Paphitis management check list of suitability was in some way non-draconian  as opposed to putting a block on a particular site/s which may have been discovered to be attracting too much of your employees attention. I clearly have no idea how you define draconian Theo  but might I suggest you check the dictionary, because I wouldn't be surprised to find your staff referring to you as Theo Draco Paphitis. And are you really that arrogant and / or ignorant to think that by putting a stop to what has appeared to you as a visible metric of time wasting you've done anything to address any time wasting propensity at all? I guess at least now your own staff are more likely to up the circulation of The Mail.
- The Internet has undermined dialogue in so many ways.

You state in your article that you are never ceased to be amazed at the way people will email each other, even though their desks are only a few yards away and that Technological progress has brought linguistic regression. I guess if you're taking a very squinty eyed look at things over a short time lapse (very Daily Mail for sure) then it could seem like that, but what about appreciating the sheer volume and speed of interaction that modern communication technology enables and the fact that common human interaction protocols are also having to evolve as this advances? Sending an email or text gives an instant, clear and auditable record of that engagement. Should it replace face-to-face dialogue (or even voice-to-voice)? It depends on the situation is the honest answer. And sure people get it wrong, but that's who we are and what we learn from. So don't give up on us just yet - when you started out I bet it was just phone and Royal Mail.
- Online socialising (unchecked) could cause the end of the world  or something like that.

In the end, businesses and public services cannot survive if staff prefer to be socialising online rather than doing the job for which they are paid. We're talking 6 minutes per employee a month!!!! If you, Theo, or indeed anyone (even the most radical/crazed public sector union representative), can tell me convincingly whilst looking me straight in the eyes that the vast majority of council staff don't lose more time on cigarette breaks, getting in late, sloping off early, having an extended lunch break, taking a personal call or 6, chatting over a photocopier or generally mopping up after other council incompetence in so many other ways  then you can have the deeds to my house! Now I'm not going to go the other way and, for the sake of making a cheap point, pretend that every single Portsmouth Council employee has access to the Internet and a facebook account. But even if we assume just 10% of the workforce have that's still not much over an hour a month  or 15-20 mins. a week. Are some senior council officials and businessman / celebrity wanna-be's trying a bit too hard to grab the headlines with misdirected draconian policies and commentary pieces?
What this really told me

So firstly I surmised that both Ryman's and Portsmouth Council would be a pretty rubbish place to work. Why? Well not least because the middle management can't tell who's wasting time and who's pulling their weight. If they could / did then they'd not judge performance on website logs, but rather by metrics that actually matter and then reward or sack appropriately. When I was last an employee I probably strayed onto personal business or internet distractions a couple of times a day  but I also arrived early, didn't smoke (no smoke breaks), generally ate lunch at my desk, generally stayed late, worked on the train on the way into and out-of the office and carried on working late into the night / early morning as the workload (quite often) required. Oh, and I also (I'd like to think) added a level of intellectual input and steering to the business over and above anything that could be judged purely on an hour by hour rate. What would a log looking at my social media access tell you of that? If there are people taking the Michael within your business then shame on you and your inadequate management and personnel policies for not being able to highlight where that's happening and take appropriate action against those individuals. Through these actions you are quite simply, and very publicly, treating your employees like children  so expect them to behave even more as such. I have always worked damned hard, and been rewarded accordingly when appropriate, but if your management can't sort the wheat from the chaff and you are happy bragging about this managerial inadequacy, then why would I want to work anywhere where I'll clearly be carrying a load of slackers  because even without the internet then I'm afraid that not pulling your weight (might I be so bold as to suggest particularly in some corners of local government) has become a skill set in itself. Secondly, by closing the door to accessing social media you're demonstrating, in spades, your ignorance to the benefit social media can bring to your business. Even if we look at the tiny world in which I (and readers of this blog) operate  namely Recruitment / Employee Communications  it's easy to conceive a bottom line benefit you'd miss out on. Let's go back to my assertion that perhaps there are 450 staff spending 15-20 minutes a week on facebook (potentially within their own lunch time or before the 9am hooter starts or after the 5pm hometime bell!!) and let's imagine that perhaps 10% of those people actually enjoyed their job (go on  go with me on this). Perhaps they mention how much they enjoy their job to their network (perhaps 100 strong each?) and then maybe a job arises: what-do-you-know  immediate audience of 4,500 who have already been positively engaged by your employer brand from afar. So whilst I never had you down as a Mail reader Mr Paphitis  it seems to me that perhaps under your broadsheet-esque Dragons Den persona you've so lovingly nurtured, you've indeed found your true home writing the kind of brainless sensationalist knee-jerk integrity-less hyperbole-laden cr*p that the Daily Mail has become famous for trotting out to whip up middle Britain to sell more hatred based papers. Only one question remains for me  anyone got any tips on how I can stop my Dad from reading The Mail?!