Employees surveillance has become more common in the digital era. It is stated to increase productivity as the employees’ data is collected and analyzed to improve the company’s performance. However, the performance benefits may come with the ethical cost of the employees’ trust. Assessing the records ultimately leads to decreasing trust, not only of the released member but the entire team if they learn about the monitoring. The damaged relations with the management cause employees to fear and be intimidated by the organization. Ethics indicates that establishing work relations based on fear is immoral. To solve the issue of the company’s required reduction-in-force, the group leader needs to consider several factors assessing the group and individual performance. They include overall performance assessment, work and relaxation time division, and transparent communication.
Employees’ monitoring and surveillance have become more and more common in the digital era. The following phenomenon, known as surveillance culture, started to form due to evolving powerful technologies and incorporating everyday activities into the digital world. Many large-scale and even small businesses already use technology in surveillance. The definition of personal privacy gets vaguer and vaguer as employers start to track the employees’ location and their gossips with colleagues. Such an increasing dependence on technology and media gives many advantages but also has its limitations. The effect of such control is stated as positive for the company with increased income but is questionable for the employees from an ethical perspective.
The Benefits of Employee Surveillance
The methods of surveillance vary widely, depending on its purpose and effectiveness. Many studies have found surveillance a highly useful tool in managing a company. They claim to increase productivity as the employees’ data is collected and analyzed to improve the company’s performance (Lyon, 2017). The collected information regarding employees’ computer use can help manage the time better. The employer’s specific policies can restrict the time shopping online or browsing the net during work hours. The employees also appear to perform better and distract less under surveillance when aware of their computers being monitored.
The following actions are typically legal and required to avoid crimes and keep a work balance. Employers are legally allowed to monitor almost everything the employee does at work (Lyon, 2017). Stricter control allows preventing company losses from minor theft to major incriminating activities. Several ethical standards also encourage employee monitoring to avoid leaks of private or sensitive information and stop company policy violations. Harassment cases or inappropriate behavior can also be detected through surveillance and increased safety in work surroundings.
The Implications of Monitoring Employees
However, all these positive effects do not come without implications. The collection, analysis, and storage of a massive amount of data require financial spendings even for five engineers. Monitoring implies not only high physical costs of recording and storing a considerable amount of data but also the ethical cost of the employees’ trust (Lyon, 2017). As the legal standpoint encourages the use of monitoring, ethics imply the opposite. The employer’s desire for complete control may go in contrast with the employee’s expectation of privacy and lead to conflicts. The employees in the case study never heard of their records being stored by the company, which may contradict their privacy perception. Assessing the records ultimately leads to decreasing trust, not only of the released member but the entire team if they learn about the monitoring.
Ethical Considerations of Surveillance
The absence of trust in the company can lead to much more detrimental costs than the benefits of using a surveillance system. The damaged relations with the management cause employees to fear and be intimidated by the organization. The moral clause urges to question the importance of the higher revenue over people’s intimidation to work harder (Lyon, 2017). Ethics indicates that establishing work relations based on fear is immoral. The following intimidation could force the people out of their natural patterns out of fear of getting fired. The situation escalates because the law does not typically take the side of the employee. The surveillance is legally allowed despite the moral pressure that the employees may feel. Moreover, many organizations today make the employees sign a monitoring agreement to get the job in the first place.
The Controversy of Employees Surveillance
The debate about the employer’s required conduct regarding the employees’ monitoring did not yet reach its ethical and legal ground as the field remains relatively new. That is why the only solution to the situation may be the introduction of the company standards. Having surveillance proves to be beneficial on many occasions other than possible ethical implications (Lyon, 2017). Introducing standards allows implementing monitoring without losing the employees’ trust or ruining the company morale. Strictly defining the situation and aim of surveillance and communicating it to the employees is essential. The guidelines should also include a detailed listing of penalties for using a computer for personal goals at work instead of just firing the employees without an explanation.
The Ethical Approach Towards Firing an Employee
To solve the issue of the company’s required reduction-in-force, the group leader needs to consider several factors assessing the group and individual performance. The collected data on the employees’ work time spent doing personal activities do not always objectively correlate with the performance at the workplace. The employee could show better results in developing a new mobile cloud service for providing voice over internet protocol (VoIP) even when spending more time for recreation. The individual capabilities and professional potential essential for implementing VoIP are the most critical factors for the company’s success. Since everyone’s ability to focus a long time on work and need to relax are different, they cannot be used to reflect the person’s impact on the company.
Moreover, as the mobile cloud service is typically used in mobile application development and social media, the division between the time spent online working and relaxing is hard to define. The result of having breaks to scroll the websites can instead increase productiveness through reengaging focus. Thus, the time spent analyzing employees’ screen recordings to distinguish the work time management would not be the most productive way to narrow the choice of the person to release.
A better strategy would be to combine several factors to create a more comprehensive picture of each employee’s performance. The monthly contributions to product development and the overall impact on the final results should be primary considerations for the most objective decision. The communication with the team and personality traits may predetermine the employee’s ability to contribute to the development too. The factors may also include the amount of time spent on personal activities during work time, but they should be carefully analyzed to determine whether the time was devoted specifically for purposes other than work.
The other instrumental aspect of considering the employee to release is to keep the communication transparent. The team should be kept aware of the fact that their data is being used for assessment and is one of the criteria for firing. The following straightforwardness on a sensitive issue would allow the engineers in the team to trust the company more and create a productive environment. Releasing one of the team members in the time of company reduction-in-force without informing the others of the grounds for release would only make the team apprehensive that they would be next. Thus, it would lead to team dysfunction and the company losing profit. Open and honest communication should remain an ethical standard for any company to not only prevent detrimental consequences to one’s business but also to support the employees’ morale.
The issue of employee surveillance remains an urgent yet contradicting issue. From a legal standpoint, monitoring provides a unique performance tool that evaluates productivity and prevents criminal activity. On the contrary, ethical considerations of intimidating the employees and destroying trust arise with constant supervision. The balance between these counteracting forces needs to be established in every particular situation. Moreover, even if the records of the monitoring are used, the employee should be informed about it.
Lyon, D. (2017). Surveillance culture: Engagement, exposure, and ethics in digital modernity. International Journal of Communication, 11(19), 824-842