During some podcast on coaching and performance management, Mike and Mark suggest that a manager could suggest to a staff member to read a book on certain topics as part of their development. Would anyone feel comfortable with allowing a staff to read those books during normal work hours? Logically, the staff could say "I should be able to read the book during work since it is like going to a training seminar during work."

Any thoughts?


jamie_uk's picture

Hi Tony,

I work within an IT Department where we are encouraged to use books to aid training and development. I agree that reading books at your desk can make people feel uncomfortable and is not the best environment. We operate on trust and allow staff to take a day out or use the canteen/rest area for a couple of hours at a time.

Although in my experience most staff are happy to read books outside of work, especially as many of the courses staff go on include attendance at evening classes and assignments which must be completed at home.


itilimp's picture
Licensee Badge

I think this depends on the culture of both your organisation, and your team within it.

For example:
The organisation may encourage people's development where it makes them more effective, but:
(a) The team priorities and workload are such that development is at the bottom of the list. In which case if people see you reading they do not perceive it as 'real work'.
(b) The team may recognise that improving one's skills is fundamental to getting the job done and think nothing of you going off to read for a few hours.

[b]My personal view[/b] is that if the reading request has come about as a specific coaching action from the manager for work purposes, then work time should be permitted as it would be if they had to go off-site for training (although part of the argument against that of course is that it means people are on site for less cost).

If the reading helps someone become more effective in their work, but it solely initiated by them - then I think this should be done in their own time.

sadicarnot's picture

I work at a municipal power plant and a senior peer reads novels, gun magazines etc. at his desk with impunity. My boss admits he has double standards when it comes to his reports.

GlennR's picture

I find it ironic that, in some organizations, it's okay for someone to attend a classroom seminar or take an e-course, yet it is not okay for them to read a book, or a blog, or listen to a podcast on a topic that will better equip them to assist their organization in meeting its goals?

Focus on the continuous acquisition of knowledge and skills. Not the source.

Every day I read the appropriate entry in The Daily Drucker. Three times a week, unless I'm behind, I block out 30 minutes and read a book. (I don't spend a lot of time traveling, but I also do it on those occasions.) I generally highlight and sometimes outline the books. People walking into my office will see me with either a highlighter or a pen and my journal in front of me. When' they've mentioned it, I've told them the truth, which is that I'm doing research.

Tomorrow I start "The Wisdom Network" by Benton and Giovagnoli

While I listen to M-T on my commute, there have been times I have listened to it at work so that I could take notes.

I would have no problem handing a direct report a $15.95 copy of The Effective Executive and telling them to read one chapter a day at their desk. Much better ROI than on many classroom seminars that ate up our budgets (and I can say that because I used to do Learning and Development).



Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

I would.

And, I might also find it unacceptable if their work wasn't getting done. I would expect them to show signs of increased knowledge, as in behavioral changes.

Would I discriminate in the application of this rule based on performance? You bet.

Would I buck my corporate system? Yes. Silly question. But I would KNOW the system cold and know what my plan was if someone was caught. (And yes, they would know to say, "hey, Horstman said it was cool."

Would I tolerate gun magazines? Probably not - depends on schedules and breaks and so on.

But is reading at your desk prima facie evidence of a problem? Not for me.


GlennR's picture

Mark, I agree about the performance issue. As both a manager and an L & D director, I didn't let people undergo training unless they were in good standing with their supervisor. To me, it's the same whether they're attending a class or reading a book at their desk.

I also tried to prevent "tourists" from showing up in my classes. These were people who didn't "need" the training, but just wanted a break from work. Especially when it involved a trip out of town. Good way to burn through the travel and training budget.

BTW, a good question for managers to ask direct reports when they finish a training opportunity is: "Based on what you learned, how will you change your behavior? (This assumes the learning was relevant.)