Two of my co-workers (in my department of 5 people) spend a lot of time surfing the web. Their computer monitors face the hallway, and frankly it is embarrassing, and a bit shocking, how often the screens show websites that are not at all job related. (Nothing inappropriate, but obviously they are not working). We all report to the same boss, and we've all been working together for many years. I believe our group (sales) as a whole can be much more productive and successful if these particular co-workers were more focused on the job. I also think that sometimes our department gets a bad "rap" because others see this as well. While I prefer not to alienate these co-workers, I wish I could tactfully motivate them somehow. I believe that if I approached them directly about this, they would either deny it, or they would just appease me, then eventually go back to their ways.
Work computers should be used for work, not for personal agendas. Surfing the Internet on company time is unprofessional. Some companies have tracking programs to monitor what sites employees are visiting. The fact these employees are so brazenly surfing the Internet for personal reasons indicates that your company doesn’t see it as an issue or as a loss of productivity.
Unfortunately, you are in a difficult position. Thus far, doing nothing has been your course of action, and it may be your only good option. As this has been going on for a while and it’s being done out in the open, it’s likely your boss knows what is going on. Clearly, he doesn’t object or is unwilling to deal with it. Putting your boss on the spot about the situation may actually boomerang: rather than dealing with the perpetrators he may resent your interference.
I agree with you that if you address the issue with these employees directly they will deny it or pay lip service to changing their ways and then return to personal surfing in the near future.
I think the real issue here is: What does this situation say about your boss? Is this really someone to whom you want to attach your potential to grow? The fact he has not dealt with the situation in all this time is indicative that he won’t deal with it, even if he is confronted by you. So, you can choose to stay where you are and put up with the situation. Or, the company sounds like it is large enough that you could investigate making a lateral move to a boss whose thinking and management style are more in line with yours. A more drastic alternative is for you to keep your eyes open for a position outside the firm with a company that supports higher professional standards.