Fired For Playing Solitaire?

from the what-if-it-made-him-more-productive dept

Politicians love to find actions that make them look “tough” on something — even if the end result actually has bad results. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg seems to be going down this route, as he personally had a city employee fired after spotting Solitaire open on his computer. This really isn’t a first for politicians. A year ago, a state senator in North Carolina looked to have Solitaire banned from government computers, claiming that it would save the government money. Apparently, both of these politicians think that if someone doesn’t have Solitaire on their computers, they’d automatically be productive workers during the time that they were otherwise playing (rather than doing something else to waste time). Of course, studies have suggested that a quick game of Solitaire at work can often be good for worker productivity. It gives workers much needed breaks that make them more productive when they are working and makes them happier. However, none of that matters, apparently. Why not judge employees on the actual work they do, rather than on whether or not they take an occasional break?

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Comments on “Fired For Playing Solitaire?”

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JerseyRich says:

Re: The Problem Is....

…that you can’t always trust that people are doing the right thing and using the solitaire for occasional breaks.

I understand and agree with the productivity thing, but some employees will play solitaire for four hours a day.

Maybe if there were a timer integrated into the game so that it worked for X number of minutes per hour. Heck, it could even have reminders that it was time to play.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: The Problem Is....

The Problem Is… That this is just stupid. I’m all for employees having breaks, it leads to a better overal productivity level. But what the hell? If they wanted to, they could have just unchecked the nifty little box next to Microsoft Games when they installed the OS for Bezebel’s sake. More often, employees will either smoke a cigarette, BS with a co-worker, or just surf the internet.
Personally I never understood how solitare can possible be enjoyable in the first place anyhow, it seems about as fun as jamming a spoon in your arse….

Anonemousey says:

Re: Re: Re: The Problem Is....

“If they wanted to, they could have just unchecked the nifty little box next to Microsoft Games when they installed the OS for Bezebel’s sake. More often, employees will either smoke a cigarette, BS with a co-worker, or just surf the internet.”
So true. In my company I see meetings with too many sidebars that have little to do with the topic at hand and casual hallway conversations that turn into 30min chat sessions as more time wasting than surfin’ the ‘net or playing solitaire (which my company saw fit to remove from all computers… thanks, that makes those business trip flights a REAL JOY!)
My thought is that if an employee is not performing their job, the manager should be involved enough to know it, and firm enough to crack down on poor performance. If the employee is fully performing their job, but is still wasting time on these things, then you haven’t given the employee enough interesting stuff to keep them preoccupied throughout their day. Yeah, I know that smacks of Peter in Office Space getting promoted for doing nothing, but it’s partly so funny because it’s partly true – just exaggerated.

Wyndle says:

Re: Re: Re: The Problem Is....

The Problem Is… That this is just stupid. I’m all for employees having breaks, it leads to a better overal productivity level. But what the hell? If they wanted to, they could have just unchecked the nifty little box next to Microsoft Games when they installed the OS for Bezebel’s sake. More often, employees will either smoke a cigarette, BS with a co-worker, or just surf the internet.

I get the same amount of work done every day. It doesn’t matter if I take a long lunch, stretching it from 1.5 hours to 2, and 2 hours at the gym during work time. I still surf (alot) and get my work done. Granted, the majority of my work is reactionary but I still have planned tasks to do that get done in proper timeframes.

Logan says:

Re: Re: The Problem Is....

It’s all about productivity. Multiple short breaks are going to give employees a chance to recoup, regain strength, and put them in a more creative mindset. If someone is playing solitaire for 4 hours straight, chances are that removing the game won’t fix the problem, they’ll find something else to waste time on. If you hire the right person for the job, a game or two on their computer is something you won’t care about, because the quality of their work will be above average.

ctyankee says:

Re: No Subject Given

[quote]Why not judge employees on the actual work they do, rather than on whether or not they take an occasional break?[/quote]

Certainly true productivity is important but how do you plan on measuring it in the government sector?

Bottom line is that if government workers have time to play solitaire on taxpayer’s money – that is one less government worker that we need to be supporting through our taxes.

Unterhausen says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

I spent all of Desert Storm playing tetris. Nothing else to do.

Back in the States, we had a couple of guys that would never answer the phone, and would sit and play solitare all day. I made it so the graphics weren’t right for the cards, i.e. if it looked like an ace, it was a 2, and etc.

Now I work with a couple of guys that don’t get their work done nearly as quickly as they could, and we all may end up unemployed as a result.

Michael says:

Re: No Subject Given

In response to the original commenter:

“So much so that doing a crap job, but being very visible is actually rewarded more than doing very good work but not being visible.”

This is beyond true. I’ve had jobs where I’ve been able to do absolutely nothing of value what-so-ever, and get raise after raise. On paper, it’s a business, and productivity matters. But in the real world of people, it’s all about perception. If people believe you to be working hard, then you ARE working hard. At least, you are in every reality but your own, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

And the truth is, people don’t perceive much in most white collar jobs, because there simply aren’t good metrics. Laborers are usually tracked by the statistics of their labor (calls taken, bugs fixed, widgets welded, etc.), but those of us lucky enough to have more project-centric jobs (or even better, broad-goal-centric jobs as in several types of management positions), the only metric is other’s perception, and that’s when you have complete power to do only what you want to do, and craft a perception of doing whatever they’re expecting you to do.

Disclaimer: Don’t hurt America. Be a good doobie and work hard and all that. Yeah…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

I would agree with the legal ramifications on the issue. IS it retaliation or favoritism? Ha, I also agree that since there is a policy that they can monitor the computers because it is the employers right to do so then they should be accountable for maintaining the equipement. Overall the city failed the employee. The employee should have been worked with and preserved by educating by re diverting that type of unwanted behavior in the work place. Since he or she had time to play, I would have given double or triple the load of work or a reprimand.

Howard Lee Harkness (user link) says:

Solitaire & other computer games

Starting about 1990, I taught programming courses for a national training company. One of the things I discovered fairly early in my teaching career was that my students tended to get absorbed in playing solitaire. During the setup for my next class, I deleted all of the games from the classroom systems. Not only was the student participation better, but I also got much better reviews from the students. This wasn’t just a slight effect, the difference was substantial enough to draw a comment from the home office on the improvement in my performance reviews. I passed that tip along to the other instructors, who reported similar results.

Violins and Musical Accessories

Weeverman says:

Re: Solitaire & other computer games

I understand what you are saying, however, there is a difference between sitting in front of a computer for one class compared to sitting in front of your computer ALL DAY. My employees work hard so I let them have their “down time.” Whether that be playing solitare or reading a book. Keeps them happy and productive.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

“Strict enforcement of company ‘rules’ breeds a smarter, more secretive employee who can get away with anything.”

Absolutely. The employee just becomes resentful of all the ‘stupid’ rules and circumvents them, if they are even somewhat clever. I’d do the same, and probably anyone here would.

It sounds like there really isn’t much of a debate here; Employees need ‘Office Space’ – pun intended.
The fact is, if the supervisor is so aloof as to let an employee get by while wasting hours upon hours, it’s the supervisor/manager’s fault just as much as the employee’s.

Additionaly, I completely agree with the idea that a worker [especially at a desk job a.k.a. sitting in front of a PC all day] should be judged only by their work output, regardless of when they leave or come in, take breaks, or anything of the sort, as long as the necessary level of professionalism is maintained.

I’ve worked at both ends of the spectrum…a company that was too relaxed to the point where people were literally wasting time and getting paid for it, to the opposite end, where ever single minute of the day was monitored and even if you had the runs your “Statistics” for that day would suck.

Neither one was perfect, but I think it depends on what the company really wants.
A) Creativity, Less error, long-time employees
B) Robotic repetition, plenty of errors, and a high turnover.

I also agree with the simple biological statements regarding attention span, etc…
If you don’t allow someone to shift focus away from their task often enough, you will just end up with less efficient, stressed out workers.

And no, I’m not quite sure what a “spoon up the arse” feels like, but I’d imagine it would be rather painful and I’d probably quit that job the same day….

John Hedge says:

Re: Re: Re: Doing something else.....

I began my IT career here in the UK when forced onto a programming course (I was unemployed) by the welfare people. I’m doing very well now thanks to them.

My point is that, in our lunchtimes, we were not allowed to use the computers that we were forced to use the rest of the day. So we went out. And we came back late.

I persuaded an insightful manager to let us use the computers at lunchtime. We played Hearts. And we brought packed lunches instead of going out for a meal. We saved money, we had fun, we saved company time. And the four of us who liked playing Hearts were four of the first people out of 30 on that course to get decent jobs in the IT world.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

The average human...

Has the attention span of about 15 minutes… If given a break after that 15 minutes and then studying again they will learn twice as fast as another person. Your brain can only pay attention so long before it has to use another area or it gets too hot. It alleviates this by changing your direciong of thinking. Daydreaming is a good form of this. Solitare or even a more intensive game would be the perfect thing to reboost your brain into achieving it’s maximum potential. What is that nowadays for the average person…

Sean (user link) says:

Not in front of the boss

It really doesn’t matter if playing a short game of solitaire is mental break that makes employees more productive. Even the mayor admitted he did the same thing during his office days.
What this guy did that was really dumb is having the game open when the big boss is coming around. Everyone knows employees are going to do this kind of thing, but you don’t flaunt it in front of the boss.

Kevin Mesiab (user link) says:

Re: Bean Counting

There’s nothing new about the Mayor’s management style. It’s the classic corporate “Metrics” fetish.

A person should be judged by the merits of their output, not by how many ticks elapsed while they sat facing a spreadsheet so that some yuk with a tie can move a bar on his gant chart and justify his own cubicle.

“One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed,” said the fox.

k says:

No Subject Given

I had to fire a government worker for playing solitaire on a computer. Sure it wasn?t her computer and the computer was the city?s PEG computer, live TV information system, so people watched her play and she lost. We fired her because she played Friday afternoon and left the game up so the channel had a lost solitaire game up until Monday.

p.s. play solitaire on mobil decive in the bathroom you won’t get caught.

mark says:

No Subject Given

I spent 30 years in a 9-1-1 Center (that was actually before 9-1-1 came in by the way). Every new director and his management crew had to learn the hard way about so-called “time wastage”. When you’re dealing with the type of job where you are waiting for a radio transmission or phone call, especially in the middle of the night, it pays to allow people to keep active doing something so they don’t get “dull” witted. Response times always went up when management cracked down on “not looking like you’re working” and improved when solitaire (cyber or cards), knitting, etc was allowed. I can see a certain amount of restriction on other types of situations where the worker has more control over his/her productivity, but firing would be a bit extreme, especially if a dip in productivity was not documented. (for the record, solitaire was done on the word processing, non- dispatch computer. No idiots in our shop.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

At our workplace we disabled the default games on the work computers (as well as the ability to install programs) and then put up a couple of computers in the break room for those who want to spend lunch/breaks playing games. Obviously people always find other ways to waste time, but why tempt them? If it’s pre-installed on company computers people will assume it’s OK to use.

Jeremy King says:

Fired For Playing Solitaire?

Multiplayer games are the best to relieve stress (and also in satisfying one’s fantasies of nailing one’s supervisor, co-workers,! This is done in a lot of companies to help relieve stress, but after working hours or during lunch! We have to understand and acknowledge that employees are human beings!

Doc Holliday says:

More regulation = less work

The worst job I ever had was doing high level customer service for Stream, Inc. I think they sent their “managers” to a special school to make them anal retentive. How they talked people into doing work for free always amazed me. I walked out after two weeks. I hate large corporations, in general, and Stream, especially.

At some Stream sites, managers allowed games – ping pong, foosball, et cetera. At other sites, nothing but work, you weren’t supposed to leave for lunch, but you couldn’t do anything but sit at a table and eat. They monitored bathroom time. The places without games had huge turnover. The turnover at the sites with games was still atrocious, (any company that has a standing “help wanted” ad in a major metro paper for years, while their business is contracting, has a problem in the human resources area), but less than at the other places.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: More regulation = less work

Yeah, Stream was my worst job ever, too. I still get chills when I see the Stream coffee mug in my kitchen. I almost got fired for playing solitaire while sitting around with no calls in the queue. Fortunately, the mgr that threatened me got a little overcooked while yelling at me, and was let go a few hours later. Stream DID, however, teach me the value of every OTHER job I’ve had.

Greg Cheek says:

Bloomberg firing employee

This is just further proof on the subject of who people choose as leaders. Here is a man that was known as a slum lord in new york that literally bought the mayor’s job; firing an employee for playing a game? What about the employee’s family, food, shelter, medical care? This is ludicrous. I feel for the employee as I was once sent home from work for a day without pay for placing a more relaxing background onto my desktop. A 1 minute exercise that was deemed “surfing” by an ingnorant supervisor. Maybe we need to check and verify that all politicians are actually “working” every hour of their “shift”?

Anonymous Coward says:

OK: Remove the solitare.exe and not block websites

So they spend a bunch o man hours just with the time it takes to go between computers and delete the games’s .exe, plus the logistics of keeping track of which ones have been checked – and then not have some hundred odd web-game sites on the ‘net with solitare clones on ’em. The reason why this is worse is half of em have some crappy game on there to attract the idiots that are allowed to use a computer at work and dont even know how to type a decent looking word document – are the people that go to the web game sites that put spyware on company computers…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: OK: Remove the solitare.exe and not block webs

I work in the callcenter industry where productivity is measured on the call by call basis. This is a situation where having games and other distractions effects the agent’s metrics and also prevents them from properly taking care of the customer. The simple and sweet of it is that we remove any way for them to have any kind of distraction to increase their focus on the work. If they don’t like it, they either get over it, or they can leave.

They get their breaks mandated by law and that is all they get. This attitude that all work and no play is crap. The workers can play when they get home. Unfortunately in this touchy feely day, no-one understands what work ethic is anymore. You come to work early enough to get you shit together before your shift and then you can start working the minute you punch in (ON-TIME). You do your job to the absolute best of your ability (This means that you do EVERYTHING you are told to do without deviation and without missing your deadlines). If you feel that you have too much to do, then you are not managing your time effectively enough. If you have time to chit-chat with anyone, other than to clearify a task, to receive a new task, or to report completion of a task, then you are stealing from the company coffers. Any time spent on the job site not spent on work is theft and can be prosecuted. Not to mention misuse of timeclock and that is a terminable offense in most organizations.

So, while you are reading this at work, here is a helpful reminder: We are watching and you no longer have a job. I would tell you to pick up your last check, but since we are sueing you for all of the time you have stolen from us, you may still owe.

And, as always, Thank You for doing business with “local company”, and have a great day.

Work Smarter says:

Re: Re: OK: Remove the solitare.exe and not block webs

We dont all work in callcenters you communist prick. We live in a country where the only work worth doing is knowledge work. Everything else is commodisized. I have worked for big city governemnt, small tech companies and large enterprises. In my opinion employee loyalty extends only as far as employer loyalty. An employer will fire you the second you are no longer needed without thinking about your needs. On that note the only work ethic worth a lick is to do what you need to do to get payed. In your world I would imagine you would never think of asking an hourly employee to stay late for anything and if you did and they refused you would ofcourse say “Thank You” anyway and not think any less of them since they are only required to do their 9-5. In my world we have to use our brains to produce work product. Some of us work faster than others. Im may case I can produce 8 hour of work in 4 and managers cant keep up. Does that mean that I have to do twice as much work as someone else? I dont so. So, my manager can either let me go home with a full days pay or shut the hell up. Work smarter not harder. Now I dont know what theis poor guys at the mayors office is but the reason he got canned is because it made the mayor feel inadequate that one of his employees was not grovelling for more work to do. FIre him on the merits of his work not on what he does on any given minute. Last I checked the guy was salaried and exempt for overtime pay. That means he has some control as to how he manages his time. I can see someone who works by the hour then charges me 3 or four hours to play solitaire. But if they are salaried I can expecte them to work as hard as they have to to do their jobs regardless of hours.

In any case, my point is, Work Smarter not Harder. Leave the backbreaking work for the cheaper developing countries. To excell in the US today you need to use your head. And companies need to understand that minds need breaks too. I take plenty of non-smoking breaks and thats exactly what I call them when my smoking manager asks.

Richard Pierce says:

Fired for playing solitaire

I was also fired for playing solitaire on company computers. I was not given any prior warning to being dismissed. I had no prior disciplinary or attendance problems. I had excellent attendance for over 26-years. But I did have a habit of playing solitaire while my equipment was making parts. This company had given warnings to younger employees, but not to me. I have since filed an EEOC age discrimination suit against the company. However, I as still out of work.

matkat says:

To be or not to be...

I think it totally depends on the indivdual. As in, if they can multitask or not. For example, some ppl might work better while listening to music, others may find it distracting, but the workplace bans it because some find it distracting even if it helps others. Solitare being taken off computers might help the majority of students in a classroom enviorment, but then your gonna have the one or few students who are multitaskers or have very active minds and get bored and therefore looses attention if not multitasking. I know this because I am that indivdual and I am sure there are others like me. In college I would do something mundance while listening to lectures like RDP into my home computer and manage torrents or something, just doing something other then sitting there kept my mind busy. I did fine in school, but I am sure if the instructor knew they would think I wasn’t paying attention even if my grades and test scores reflected that I was. I think some people just find it insulting if they are in a postion where you are suppossed to be giving your undivded attention and your attention is in fact divided, even if that helps some people.

The world is made by the lowest commmon denominator and the majority. Lowest common denominator example, the kid who blows his hand off with a firework so the whole county bans fireworks, even though the rest play it safe and have a good time. The majority being everyone and anyone, if someones speaks up suddenly, they are the majority opinion cause everyone else had the good sense to mind there own business, but no someone had something to say something, whether its intelligent or not its and opinion so lets make a policy around it cause everyone is entitled to have there opinion respected… boo

I only respect things that make sense and come from good sense and common sense. Everything else is just office and classroom politics.

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