Workplace Monitoring and Employer-Employee Relationship

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In the past two decades, workplace surveillance including email, social media, and Internet monitoring has gained considerable attention of academicians and the mainstream public. The pervasive explosion of new electronic means has prompted businesses to adopt technology to increase productivity, augment profitability, and competitiveness. In this same vein, employers deploy a plethora of systems to track and record business activities of workers including online dealings and phone conversations. Such technologies help business owners to monitor employee schedules, record communications, register and analyze performance in real time.

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Also, employers use biometric systems to control identification and access of staff to work stations (Gerten, Beckmann, & Bellmann, 2019). Workplace monitoring and the infringement of employee privacy represent a growing source of a business dilemma for managers and organizations. It is noteworthy that daily reliance and dependence on technology by individuals and businesses have elicited a contestation among multidisciplinary researchers regarding employee privacy in the workplace (Gorenc, 2017). This ethical issue presents a severe challenge to managers because it tends to strain employer-employee relationships.

A growing body of empirical studies reveals that more than three-quarters of organizations in the United States record and review email messages, telephone calls, Internet connections, and computer data of their staff (Gerten et al., 2019). This management approach has existed throughout history in different ways. Experts predict a continuation of this practice as the wave of digitization sweeps across multiple operations (Gorenc, 2017). In the wake of the growing evolution of sophisticated technologies, the concern of e-monitoring and employee privacy represents the newest source of challenge for businesses. Managers are worried about how to protect their work while safeguarding employee privacy rights.

Most firms in the United States are accustomed to the expectation of workers’ privacy (Chory, Vela, & Avtgis, 2016). Companies in the twenty-first-century encounter problems in maintaining a degree of employee privacy, avoiding observation, and unauthorized intrusion. Most workers assume that an individual’s privacy is protected by having specific account numbers and passwords on their workplace software and emails (Chory et al., 2016). However, when the staff takes some time in the office to watch movies, sports scores, and celebrity news on the Internet, employers use special programs to record and analyze those activities (Gerten et al., 2019). Notably, approximately 50 million adults in the United States access the Internet at work.

Justification of the Proposed Study

A significant proportion of workers access the Internet on a typical working day. As the world becomes hyper-digitized, the number of people accessing online entertainment at work is likely to increase remarkably (Lee Jr, Warkentin, Crossler, & Otondo, 2017). It is essential to note that most employees engage in multiple non-work-related activities when they use the World Wide Web during office hours. Chory et al. (2016) observe that more than 72% of Internet users engage in multiple events such as instant messaging, downloading music, video streaming, and other forms of entertainment during office hours. Business managers are concerned about whether employees utilize the company’s time productively or create a legal liability for organizations through offensive communications (Gorenc, 2017).

Besides, employers have concerned with workers deliberate or accidental dissemination of confidential information in electronic mailing attachments (Atkinson, 2018). Moreover, the issue of cyber-attacks, especially viruses penetrating the business from external communications explains the essence of e-surveillance practices (Atkinson, 2018). In consequence, most companies monitor employees’ computers and Internet access points more rapidly than ever before. This paper investigates the impact of employer-employee privacy relationship, which presents the new stress for business management. The study reviews the literature on the employer-employee relationship in the technology-driven business environment. Also, the paper presents research methods that will be used to collect and analyze data of the proposed investigation.

Literature Review

In the twenty-first century, organizations face a diversity of challenges related to increasing technological advances. As most firms adopt e-commerce to reap its multiple benefits such as low-cost advertising, customer relationships, information gathering, and improved business visibility, surveillance of online activities has become paramount (Gorenc, 2017). According to Lee Jr et al. (2017), managers are concerned about the risks of employees to waste company’s time doing via online activities, exposing the company to the dangers of cyber attacks, and trading secrets. As such, employers have adopted electronic monitoring to protect the work environment (Atkinson, 2018). Such practices are likely to jeopardize the employer-employee privacy relationship.

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In recent years, technologies have advanced and created the ability of managers to access limitless information. These technical capabilities have changed irrevocably the way organizations conduct business. Companies have gained control of the world at their fingertips (Chory et al., 2016). The pace of technological advancement continues to augment most business operations in incredible ways. As communication and information technologies continue to advance, businesses witness a myriad of ethical, moral, and legal dilemmas (Lee Jr et al. (2017). Privacy rights in the workplace have become the center of focus, especially for mainstream media.

The federal constitution accords public employees express rights to individual privacy. Most employers monitor workers for performance, productivity, work quality, and efficiency (Chory et al., 2016). In some companies, surveillance of telephone conversations gives employers an accurate picture of how staff associates itself with customers and the public (Gerten et al., 2019). Such practice helps organizations to protect business reputation, competitive edge, and profitability. However, the people, especially in the United States have a negative perception of workplace monitoring. Fundamentally, most American workers believe surveillance is a critical infringement of employees’ privacy rights. Besides, Chory et al. (2016) claim that it is against the Federal Wiretapping Act to intercept any cable, verbal, and electronic communication without the express consent of staff. Nevertheless, the above Act excepts interceptions that employers make during ordinary businesses (Gorenc, 2017).

Congress has made numerous amendments of the Federal Wiretapping Act to accommodate emerging cordless telecommunication systems. Most organizations have adopted new technologies to augment their business reputation, increase competitiveness, and enhance profitability (Chory et al., 2016). Business managers monitor employees in a variety of ways including e-mail surveillance, mobile phone calls during office hours, habits during breaks, Internet access tracking, and their use of social networking platforms (Gerten et al., 2019). The data collected from such surveillance informs managerial decisions such as disciplinary actions, promotions, availability of allowances, provisions of workers’ trips and vacations among other employees reward schemes and benefits (Atkinson, 2018). Workers found with consistent patterns of deviance in the workplace face disciplinary action or do not qualify for the above benefits.

The interception of email and Internet communication represents a new paradigm of workplace monitoring. Although businesses use e-mail and Internet access as valuable tools, their mismanagement by employees can lead to a tremendous drain on productivity, the company’s image, and efficiency (Gerten et al., 2019). It is noteworthy that the use of monitoring tools provide employers with a high degree of power to protect their work. However, it provokes invasion-of-privacy dilemmas. Lee Jr et al. (2017) add that workplace snooping and intrusion into workers’ privacy rights have been familiar concepts of capitalism throughout history (2019). The author posits that human employers purchase human labor as a commodity (Lee Jr et al., 2017). In this respect, monitoring and constant evaluation are essential to maximizing labor output. Such monitoring involves some degree of interference with employee confidentiality (Atkinson, 2018).

Researchers question whether today’s’ quantitative changes in surveillance represent a new phenomenon in workplace monitoring. In essence, the increasing emergence of new technologies has leveraged employers’ surveillance capabilities (Atkinson, 2018). In the past, employers monitored workers through visual observation and abstract time that focused on workers performance. In contrast, today’s business environment witnesses an intricate web of interrelated issues, which require sophisticated technologies to analyze and control (Lee Jr et al., 2017). Such new developments in information and communication technologies have revolutionized the way businesses monitor and evaluate workplace activities. Qualitative transformations in contemporary society have far-reaching consequences on the way employers relate with workers (Gorenc, 2017).

For instance, the omnipresence of surveillance systems has increased because smart devices capture and record employees’ activity in real time both in and out of the office. Moreover, employers are concerned about the health and fitness of workers (Lee Jr et al., 2017). Hence, sophisticated technologies such as biometrics help managers to track workers health information such as cholesterol levels, body fitness, sleep quality and burn out (Chory et al., 2016). Managers use digital technologies to process and analyze such private information to measure their impacts on individual performance and overall business productivity (Gerten et al., 2019).

A vast body of research shows that such datafication impacts the employer-employee relationship. Moreover, qualitative changes influence employee attraction, performance, and retention (Lee Jr et al., 2017). Today, most employers can scrutinize workers using lines of codes and flows of data. Mainly, they create traceable histories of performed tasks for each staff. The pervasive advancement of technology has enhanced the ability of the company to monitor humanistic habits even when on leave or vacations. Management uses such as technology to reassemble the clear streams for scrutiny and targeted intervention. For example, they use security, commercial, and public agents to sort, categorize, and profile employees in ways that impact their lives directly. According to Atkinson (2018), such a high degree of monitoring contributes to retrenchment, unfair dismissal, and biased treatment. In particular, employees found spending official hours on social media or blogs have fewer chances of promotion, receiving bonuses, and qualifying for allowances, or even attending seminars.

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The digitization process of business surveillance takes place more or less throughout modern society. It has created unimaginable methods for employers to monitor, assess, categorize, and analyze workers’ behaviors (Lee Jr et al., 2017). Furthermore, an increasing combination of diverse data flows enables managers to capture information about the clerk’s performance, individual’s output, conversations, and mobility in and out of the workplace. Consequently, organizations use such data to create personal profiles for their employees. These developments have critical ramifications for power relations between staff members and their bosses (Chory et al., 2016).

The replacement of visual gaze by automated electronic gaze augments the power of the company over the staff. Even though employers are better equipped to spot employees counter-productive activities and insufficient commitment, that dimension of power impacts businesses adversely. For example, researchers have discovered that Amazon.com uses enormous surveillance such that workers are known as Amazombies (Atkinson, 2018). The company imposes immediate correctional actions on workers who run behind assigned schedules. Overall, as technologies proliferate, monitoring is likely to become more individualized than ever before (Gerten et al., 2019). As a result, managers will evaluate workers individually and pressure them to improve performance, complete assigned targets promptly, and outperform team members.

Research Questions

  1. What are the ethical implications of applying the e-monitoring dimensions in the workplace?
  2. What are the employee perceptions of E-monitoring?
  3. How can business managers strike a balance between surveillance and employee privacy?
  4. What are the effects of workplace monitoring on employees’ productivity?
  5. Which technologies do employers use to protect businesses from cyber risks?

Convenience Sampling

The proposed study will use surveys to gather data from organizations in the United States. The paper will use random sampling of respondents, who will encompass both male and female employees of different ages, educational attainment, and varying work experience. The respondents will be met directly and be informed about the significance of the research study. Questionnaires will be issued to respondents to fill them before collection a few days later. Convenience sampling technique will be used because it saves time. Also, the method is suitable for participants, who are ready and available (Gerten et al., 2019). Respondents will involve both managers and staff members. Data collection will occur on workers productivity and commitment based on workplace monitoring/snooping. Two sets of data will be collected. Respondents with high levels of agreement in relevance to productivity will be put in one category. The study will use questionnaires with open-ended questions to guide respondents in providing accurate answers.

Secondary Data Analysis

The study will also analyze secondary data of past researches on the impact of electronic monitoring on employer-employee privacy relationships. It is noteworthy that secondary data analysis entails a re-examination of information collected and processed by other researchers for a different purpose. According to (Lee Jr et al. (2017), the methodology is appropriate in cases of surveyed statistic sets. Besides, the method is beneficial because it is economical, offers vast amounts of data, and gives a researcher a chance to sample a large population. Another strength of survey research is the standardization of the collected information.

Sample Population

The planned study will use a sample of 324 participants. The study will be conducted at the University for an undergraduate economics class. The respondents will be recruited for the study in exchange for course credit. The participants will ask individuals who are well-known as non-students, full-time employees, and not self-employed and have access to work e-mails. The participants will visit a web page with the study’s questionnaire. It is paramount to assure respondents of confidentiality and to ascertain their consent. The 324 respondents from both public and private sectors will fill out the surveys. The convenient sample will represent a variety of job categories ranging from entry-level staff to top managers. Also, the sample will include workers with a tenure of less than one year and more than ten years in their current organizations. The sample will be drawn from numerous ethnic groups including Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans.

Measurement

The collected data will be organized and processed for synthesis. The study will adopt confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to test for the measures of parallelism and homogeneity. The study will investigate the effect of e-mail monitoring. A 5-point Likert-type scale will record the measurements. The primary measurements include the perceived amount of e-mail surveillance, workplace satisfaction, and perceived e-mail confidentiality. The responses on the perceived amount of e-mail surveillance in the workplace will be recorded on a 5-point Likert-type scale that will range from strongly disagree to agree strongly. The workplace relationships question will aim at examining how workers relate with employers and supervisors, who snoop on their e-mails. The problem will focus on likeability and trust between workers, co-workers, supervisors, and employers. The same scale will be used to record responses from all participants.

Conclusion

Organizations encounter a complex web of challenges that emanate from the proliferation of new technologies. Most organizations have adopted electronic monitoring technologies to protect their businesses. Employers use sophisticated techniques to spy on clerks both inside and outside the workplace. Throughout history, surveillance of employees in the company has attracted considerable attention of researchers, scholars, and the mainstream media. Experts are concerned about such practices and their implications on an individual’s privacy of workers. The federal constitution provides various Acts to protect employee privacy.

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The issue of E-monitoring of staff members presents an enormous dilemma to employers in their efforts to protect business reputation, profitability, and relevance in a harsh and competitive environment. The proposed study aims to investigate how employers maneuver such management issues that impact organizations directly. It analyzes data from numerous sources on the ramifications of e-monitoring in the workplace. The research study will employ a convenience sampling method to collect data from a university. The focus of the investigation centers on examining perceived amounts of e-mail monitoring, impacts of workplace relationships, and levels of perceived e-mail privacy. A 5-point Likert-type scale will help to measure and record responses for analysis.

References

Atkinson, J. (2018). Workplace monitoring and the right to private life at work. Modern Law Review, 10(1), 54-86.

Chory, R., Vela, L., & Avtgis, T. (2016). Organizational surveillance of computer-mediated workplace communication: Employee privacy concerns and responses. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 28(1), 23–43.

Gerten, E., Beckmann, M., & Bellmann, L. (2019). Controlling working crowds: The impact of digitalization on worker autonomy and monitoring across hierarchical levels. Journal of Landscape Ecology, 12(1), 1-24.

Gorenc, M. (2017). Electronic monitoring in the workplace. Innovative Issues and Approaches in Social Sciences, 70(9), 1: Web.

Lee Jr, J., Warkentin, M., Crossler, R. E., & Otondo, R. F. (2017). Implications of monitoring mechanisms on bring your device adoption. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 57(4), 309-318.

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