Make Your Employees Hate You...

Published Date
01 - May - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - May - 2007
Make Your Employees Hate You...
A quick quiz:

1. You're watching Star Wars Episode 6 (Return Of The Jedi). Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) has just thrown the evil emperor into that bottomless pit. You...
a) Shed a tear. You actually liked that crazy old coot.
b) Rejoice. The dark side of the Force is vanquished.

2. You're watching the TV serial The Office.
a) You cannot understand what all the fuss is about, and all the jokes are terrible. That poor boss chap...
b) It's your favourite show. You swear there's one of each character of the series in your office.

If you answered "b" to both, be afraid. Be very afraid. If "a" is what you went with both times… Warning: this article could cause serious friction burns from vigorously rubbing your hands together in glee, and make you burst into hysterical laughter. Yes, you guessed it. You're that dreaded and much-hated creature called The Boss, whom no one understands. You're the Gollum of Middle Earth, ugly, disgusting but very much necessary if Frodo is to ever find his way.

OK, enough of the silly analogies; you're a boss, and you have a job. It's not pleasant, but it has to be done. You just have to prevent your employees from running amok. As of this century, however, employees are much more tech-savvy. They're always punctual, they're always sitting quietly in their little cubicles, and even avoid the regular goofing-off waterholes. To the untrained eye, they're hard at work, silently toiling away at their desks. Your latest sales figures and financial reports tell you otherwise.

The Internet is one of the banes of every boss' existence. Sure it's informative, and even a necessary enabler for a lot of existing business models, but it's also the world's favourite goofing-off spot. A couple of videos on YouTube, scrapping friends on Orkut, checking useless forwards sent by friends / colleagues, IM-ing all day, and even visiting adult dating and content sites can reduce the amount of productive time spent in office per employee to a fraction of what's expected.

Boss Speak
None of the people we spoke to for this article wished to be named, whether boss or minion. No one wanted to ruin the work relationships they have, and we understand that. We will quote them, however, quite shamelessly, but will not include their names.

The CEO of a BPO said, "I hate IMs. I have never seen a worse technology invention. Nothing hampers productivity as much as MSN and Yahoo! Messenger. We blocked those chat protocols, and then our employees started using browser-based services like It was like an addiction we had to break. Now after we've blocked all the browser-based messenger sites, they're using local chat applications such as IP Messenger to waste time chatting with the person in the next bay!"

A system admin of an e-learning company says, "Our company's favourite pastimes seem to be Orkut and blogging. We blocked them, but they started using public proxy servers to get access again. As for personal blogs, we had to send out a memo telling our employees that their blogs were being monitored, and warnings were issued. Still, some people are so addicted to Orkut, Adult Friend Finder, Yahoo! 360, or blogging that they risk their jobs by trying to access them."

A manager in a small publication house says, "We have various levels of computer users, only one of which gets Net access. The rest, designers for example, get only company e-mail access. Our problem is not Net-based, it's Windows games that waste the most time. I am sure we have at least a few Solitaire and Spider champions in our midst!"

Most of the other bosses we spoke to had the same complaints. A few were more concerned about company e-mail and what employees were e-mailing out of the company (despite confidentiality clauses), rather than what mails they were receiving. Some even related incidents of virus attacks that obviously originated from within the office, because some employee thought it would be fun to have some time off to watch system admins battle the malware.

Overall, the Sith lords of the multi-verse... err... we mean bosses, stood together and in unison cried, "Foul!"

A proxy server can even be used to block access to sites, or even be configured to only allow access to certain sites

Smaller Solutions
Now, companies with computer strengths of more than 100 PCs are generally well-organised. They've been bitten by the time-wasting bug and have mended their ways. It's the smaller companies (at least amongst the ones we spoke to) that didn't seem to realise how much of employee productivity they were losing. An HR manager for a small services company (10 PCs) was shocked when we told her what other bosses were saying. We decided to sow the seeds of doubt in her head, installed a monitoring software on a server, enabled logging, and went back after three days. "I can't believe it," she repeated, when we showed her that her 10 PCs had sent / received over 5,000 IMs in those three days. Taking an average of 10 seconds wasted per message sent / received (they have just a 256K connection), that worked out to 5,000 x 10 = 50,000 seconds / 3,600 = almost 14 hours of productive time wasted. Close to 30 minutes a day per PC!

With bills to make, payments to collect, and accounts to be tallied, we're betting she's waiting for this article to see how to stop her company's PCs from being misused thusly.

"As a smaller company, we have to work doubly hard to compete. I'm certainly not going to rock the boat and ban IMs, but I will send out a memo." She thanked us for the help and says she will make sure all her employees read this article.

Enough of the reality bytes: time for some problems and their solutions...
Unnecessary Browsing
The most common complaint we received was that employees waste time surfing. Not only is productivity affected, it's also a complete waste of bandwidth. Here in India, whether at home or at work, we still pay for bandwidth by the MB or GB, so any savings is always welcome.

Proxy Server
A proxy server can do a lot more than restricting employees to certain sites. If it has a caching system, it can help cut your bandwidth costs in half. Instead of fetching the same page 10 times for 10 PCs, it does so once, and serves the same page to anyone who requests it.

Apart from bandwidth savings, a proxy server also helps you identify who's doing what, and visiting what sites, for how long a day. No, you don't have to get all worried now and think lawsuits: this is not spying, it's merely called logging. You have a right to know how your proxy server is being used.

Apart from threatening your lackadaisical employees with its logging capabilities, a proxy server can even be used to block access to sites, or even be configured to only allow access to certain sites. Another boon is the fact that you can ban many file extensions, such as .exe, .zip, .rar, etc. to prevent your employees from downloading so much. If you choose your proxy solution well enough, you can even block all IM protocols.

Suggested Software
Squid ( If you can spare a server PC for Linux, this is the software you should use. It supports caching (accelerated surfing), SSL, and DNS caching, is very, very scalable-whether it's 10 PCs or 10,000 accessing the Net, it's stable-and if that weren't enough, it's open source and completely free! Though it does run on Windows via emulators, you're better off running it on Linux. It's not newbie-friendly, though, so if you haven't a clue about Linux or editing configuration files, steer clear.

FreeProxy ( All the features you'd want, including detailed logging, complete access control, ban lists, caching, authentication, and much more. In short, it's quite a well rounded proxy / caching / Net access restriction software, it's free, it's scalable, and runs on Windows. For smaller setups, this is a good choice because it just sits on a computer, runs as a Windows service, and will bring down bandwidth usage considerably.

WinGate ( Medium-sized businesses might want to look for something more robust and secure, and this is a good alternative. It features authentication, detailed per-user or per-service logging, a good firewall, protocol specific restrictions, and much more. You're sure to dissuade any goofing-off online because of its comprehensive logging and report-generating capabilities. However, the feature you bosses will love the most is its AI Filtering-just choose to block adult, gambling, sports, chat, Web mail, and even job sites, and WinGate will use a little programmed AI and a rather large global database to prevent your users from accessing such content.

The bad news? You're going to have to cough up considerable cash for this gem: the licenses are priced by the amount of connected users, ranging from as little as three to an unlimited amount. Don't confuse this with the number of PCs you have, because if you have 100 PCs in your office, you could consider buying a license for 25 or 50 users, since not all 100 will be accessing the Net at the exact same time. Licenses available for WinGate standard are 3 / 6 / 12 concurrent users, and for the Professional version, 6 / 12 / 25 / 50 / 100 / 250 / 250 concurrent users. Prices range from $75 (Rs 3,375) for 3, $200 (Rs 9,000) for 12, to $1700 (Rs 76,500) for 250 concurrent users.

People use IM to make friends, date, flirt, learn about different cultures... problem is, so many people are doing so on company time, using company bandwidth!

After the problem of e-goofing off, the most popular complaint was games. A lot of people have taken to playing games online (Yahoo! Games anyone?), but since more and more companies are filtering content and blocking access to such sites, Windows games have remained popular. Solitaire in particular is infamous for being the game of bored secretaries and employees, and most Windows games are just sitting there in the Start Menu, begging to be played!

Get Rid Of Them / Control Them
There are several ways you can prevent access to Windows games. You could just uninstall them from your PCs by going to Add/Remove Programs (Start > Run > "appwiz.cpl") and then clicking on "Add/Remove Windows Components" on the left. Select "Accessories and Utilities" and then click Details. Uncheck Games and press OK > Next > Finish. Windows games will be uninstalled.
If you're running a Domain Controller (see Mayhem Management, Digit February 2007), you can uninstall these games from all PCs, and then prevent your employees from re-installing them.

If it's not just Windows games, but all games you want to prevent access to, you're going to need some software help...

Suggested Software
StopGame ( Now here's a must-have software for all bosses... StopGame doesn't just block games; it allows you to completely control if and when your employees play them. This is the perfect retort to those slackers who claim to need a little relaxation at the fag end of a hectic day. Half an hour a day, four hours per week, only during official lunch hours... any sort of restriction is possible. If the employee tries to break the rules that you've set and start a game, poof-it just closes right down again. It's like you sitting there and pressing end-task time and again, without the maniacal laughter or evil giggling. All you have to do is install the software, follow the instructions in the help files, add the games you want to block / restrict (Windows games or otherwise), and watch twitchy-fingered employees with withdrawal symptoms order that extra cup of coffee. You will need the StopGame Office version of course, available at stopgame_office.htm. It will cost you anywhere from $18 to $9 (Rs 800 to 400) per copy-depending on how many PCs you want to install it on. For example, four licenses will cost $18 each, 15 will cost $15 each, and 51 or more will cost $9 each. We're sure our editor would love to get something like this to prevent us from playing Quake III Arena all the time, but unfortunately, he knows we geeks will just find a way around it! For most employees however, this is quite a foolproof solution.

Chat / IM
It's just so easy, isn't it? We're sitting at our PCs chatting with people across the world. We can even have voice conversations for free, and see each other via webcams. Chat is a beautiful technology, loved by every mother and grandparent who has a child / relative abroad. People use it to make friends, date, flirt, learn about different cultures... problem is, so many people are doing so on company time, using company bandwidth! Most of the bosses we spoke used words we cannot publish to describe Instant Messengers (IMs).

Block 'em
There are many ways to block IM traffic. You could just block/disable the protocol ports from your proxy or NAT server. A LAN Domain Controller can prevent IM software from being installed or used. A really adamant systems / network administrator can ensure that no employee connects to any IM networks, ever! However, instant messaging has become more a part of our lives than we realise. Many employees use IMs to chat with clients-it's free, instantaneous, and nowhere as close to invasive as a phone call. So the new problem for both small / medium businesses and enterprises is not how to block IM access, but how to regulate it.

Suggested Software
Symantec IM Manager ( com): What was once a free software called IM Logic has been bought over by Symantec and made into a security solution for any business. If you're worried about IMs being a security risk, or just a productivity killer, this is a solution you'll love as a boss. The software sits on a server and can log all IMs your employees send. It can block IMs that contain certain phrases (in real-time), block file transfers or just certain file types, it logs everything that's said in IM form, and generates reports as basic as who (user ID and IP) chatted how long and to how many people, to reports that will give you usage patterns and the exact messages sent. It can connect to a SQL database and store all information there, so admins can just search for keywords or users and get detailed information. It is also very legally-aware, and informs users and the people they speak to of its presence, so no lawsuits will ruin that sweet taste of victory over IMs. If anything can stop your employees from goofing off and chatting all day, IM Manager can. Just send your employees a mail informing them of your decision to install this software (with a link to the homepage) and your productivity should increase instantaneously. It's not cheap, obviously, and you can expect to shell out $40 (Rs 1,800) per license (per user) for small-sized organisations, or $30 (Rs 1,350) for enterprises.
Here in India, a lot of employees take advantage of the fat Net pipe that companies provide, and use it to download illegal software and content using P2P networks. Apart from increasing a company's Internet bill, the illegal use can land a company with a slew of lawsuits. P2P software are known to tunnel (bypass restrictions by using another protocol's ports), and can even use normal HTTP ports (80) or POP ports (110 or 25). Basically, if you're connected to the Net, chances are your employees can use P2P software and access networks to download illegal content.

Depending on the laws of the land, the software solutions mentioned here might constitute breaking the law if not implemented correctly

Stop Piracy
As mentioned, blocking P2P is a lot harder than anything else mentioned before. Thankfully there's software available that will put your mind at ease. Such software is rarely cheap, however.

Suggested Software
IM Lock Professional (www.comvigo. com): Yes, we know. This does fit into the category of an IM blocker, and the name suggests that's all it does... However, IM Lock is much more than just an IM blocker. This software is a little more expensive than Symantec's IM Manager, but it's primarily a blocker, not a "Manager". It can block access to all known IM networks, Web-based IM services, streaming media sites, and yes, almost every known P2P protocol and related sites. So if BitTorrent is the bane of your existence, get this and live peacefully, because it will block not just the entire Torrent protocol, but also access to any site that has Torrent files on it. Apart from this, it will also prevent access to other popular torrent clients such as LimeWire, eDonkey, KaZaA, Bearshare, eMule, Morpheus, and many more.

Doing Nothing
With all the little cubicles and bays in today's office, it's almost impossible to make sure that everyone is working. Now there are a lot of employees who don't need to goof off in any of the various ways we've described above. Although rarer, this breed of employee is much more prone to goofing off, because you've spent all that money blocking things they never used in the first place. How can you make sure that a few employees are not sitting around reading the sports headlines, or curled up in that plush chair reading a book? Honestly, you may not even be able to tell if they're in their seats or not. Let's not even start thinking about what they're doing when you're out of office at a meeting or travelling abroad.

Monitoring / Spying Software
A keylogger or similar spying software can track employee productivity. Such software can help you understand how each employee utilises time, and what they're doing in front of their PCs. For example, an employee who falls asleep will have the same screen in front of him for a long period. In such a scenario, a screen grabber spy software can show you that they haven't done anything for the past X number of hours / minutes.

Suggested Software
NetVisor ( The ultimate tool for any boss, NetVisor sounds almost too good to be true. This powerful software can tell you anything you need to know about PC usage of any employee in your company... seriously! The list of features is so long that we're going to have to give you a URL so you can see for

We'll list the few that will excite you the most: per-PC logging of every keystroke typed, files opened, IM conversations, e-mails, applications run, software installed, and much more. It can also create reports and e-mail them to you. It can take snapshots of every desktop and upload it to a password-protected local or FTP server, or just mail each snap. You can view any computer's Desktop at any time over the network or the Internet. You can remotely run applications on any PC, look at what's stored on their hard drive, shut down / restart any computer, send messages to any computer screen, and freeze any mouse in the office (works great if someone's addicted to Minesweeper)! The software can be run in stealth mode to hide from all known anti-virus solutions, and will not show up in Task Manager, the Registry, or even in startup. Of course, it also has the ability to show splash screens to users, warning them that they're being monitored-good to prevent lawsuits. It encrypts all its log files, manages disk space and processor usage to make sure the PC doesn't become sluggish, and is easily configurable by even a novice.

Before you start swooning in the drunkenness of your imagined power, you should consider the prices: $295 (Rs 13,275) for up to five PCs, $495 (Rs 22,275) for up to 10 PCs, $1095 (Rs 49,275) for 51 to 100 PCs, etc., all the way up to $4,995 (Rs 2,24,775) for over 500 PCs! If you're a paranoid boss, you may want the control this beauty of a software can offer you. Incidentally, NetVisor runs on Windows NT, 2000, XP and Vista.

Take Heed
Warning: Depending on the laws of the land, the software solutions mentioned here might constitute breaking the law if not implemented correctly. However, since it's the company's furniture and PC, it can dictate the way it is used. Usually, just being upfront about the solutions you deploy, and getting employees to sign a waiver or acknowledgement that they are aware of the methods you are employing to increase productivity and security, is enough. Still, if you're planning on using any of these solutions, get in touch with your legal counsel.

All this will obviously not make you very popular, but it will certainly sit well with your bosses. So go ahead, be evil, surrender yourself to the Dark Side, and start making your employees miserable!  

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.