During the day, most of us have visited a website to check the news or an auction bid when we should be working on that marketing report. What happens though when CNN and eBay turn to Careerbuilder and Monster? A recent NY Times article discusses the benefits and pitfalls of searching for a new job while at work.

In workplaces where high-speed broadband Internet access is typically available and 60-hour workweeks are commonplace, many employees believe that the office is the most convenient or effective place to do a job search. And people who are unhappy with their jobs sometimes believe that they are entitled to use the workplace to find something better.

To many organizations the usage of office equipment, not to mention the time spent searching, is no different than stealing the occasional box of pens. In addition, this method is hardly private given the ability of the IT department to track employee’s web surfing tendencies.

This attitude can be explained in part by John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmand, a Chicago based placement firm who states,

that most employees, especially those under 40, see themselves as “free agents” who will search for jobs from their offices as a matter of course. Employees working 50- or 60-hour weeks, he said, are often too exhausted to look for jobs when they are outside the office.

It is important to understand where this attitude comes from and why it is more prevalent in younger workers. Many who have spent some time in the workforce and have been witness to the shift from corporate loyalty to the project-based commoditization of the employee, or have witnessed their parents going through it over the last 10-15 years, no longer share the belief “for the good of the company.”

Those who experienced it first hand feel exploited and underpaid, so they make up for it in intangibles. I have interviewed managers who are consistently puzzled by the behavior of some of their employees. “They just don’t seem to care.” In practice I would tend to agree as this goes directly to the concept of reciprocity. When businesses started breaking this chain either in terms of downsizing or eliminating pensions, they also lost the life-time loyalty of their workers.

Coming soon:   Failure of the Protestant Work Ethic