The case against employee monitoring

On the contrary, electronic surveillance may
send negative messages to the workforce. In many cultures, it may raise privacy
concerns, injure trust, increase the stress level and raise questions of

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Many employees have privacy concerns regarding monitoring
and what kind of information being collected throughout the process, especially
when the employer invades their social network activities and emails. Furthermore,
excessive monitoring and tracking employees’ online activities have direct
impact on reducing innovation and productivity, says Karen Levy, a postdoctoral
fellow at New York University’s Information Law institute1. Employers usually justify
such actions by claiming that by owning the computer they have the utmost right
to access emails produced by it. Bahaudin Mujtaba of Nova Southeastern
University in the Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship argues
“While employers use monitoring devices to keep track of their employees’
actions and productivity, their employees feel that too much monitoring is an
invasion of their privacy.”9 and some
employers practice monitoring without explicitly notifying their employees.

Trust is often a major issue in monitored-environments. A
lot of employees would perceive it as their employer doesn’t trust them, and as
a result, this can definitely be an obstacle and a step backwards in the
relationship between both of them. In the `Journal of Business Ethics’, Rita
Manning highlights the dark side of surveillance “When we look at the
workplaces in which surveillance is common, we see communities in trouble. What
is missing in these communities is trust.”9

Employees being monitored constantly, especially for
evaluation purposes, generates a high level of stress and a lot of pressure.

The higher stress levels they get, the more dissatisfied about the job they
become and this leads to decreased morale and lack of motivation. Some other
cases known as “bathroom break harassment” where the stress of an employee
reaches a very high level because they fail to take enough bathroom breaks out
of fear of termination. A real-life example would be, United Airlines, when a
supervisor threatened an employee with firing her and terminate her contract after
she went over her permitted bathroom time. Flight reservationists are usually
allotted with a total of 12 minutes bathroom breaks during a 7.5 hours shift2.

Monitoring at the workplace may raise questions of
fairness, giving that such systems target only line employees and not
high-level executives or managers3 which makes it completely
unethical to implement. Women working in low-paying positions are more likely
to be targeted and monitored, according to an article in Public Personnel
Management, “The majority of employees being electronically monitored are
women in low-paying clerical positions.”4. Another issue related to
fairness could be whether the information collected is work related or whether
the standards are viewed as reasonable. The National Association of Working
Women summed it all up by saying, “the work lives of monitored employees
can be characterized by three words: invasion, stress, and fear”5.

Bottom line

          From my
point of view, electronic surveillance is only ethical when: 1. The employer has set a
written and transparent policy that employees can review and agree on. 2. You make sure to
implement and apply monitoring on all employees regarding their (age, gender or
position). 3. Ensuring
that all data collected are work-related and none of it could be considered breach
of privacy right. 4.

You engage employees in the monitoring process so they become familiar with it
and able to identify their weak and strong points.

But it is totally not ethical if: 1. The employer tracks personal data and
activities of employees without a pervious notice. 2. Monitoring is only applied on some employees
not on all workforce. 3.

Monitoring implemented without informing the employees explicitly. 4.  Surveillance crossed the limit of
productivity evaluation e.g. (bathroom break harassment).

1 Williams, R. (Sep.

30, 2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 November,
2017, from






2 Crampton, M. ;
Nishra, S. (NA). Retrieved 24 November,
2017, from

3 Williams, R. (Sep.

30, 2015). Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 November,
2017, from


4 Schulman, M. (Nov 20, 2000). Santa
Clara University. Retrieved 26 November, 2017, from  


5 Crampton, M. ;
Nishra, S. (NA). Retrieved 24 November,
2017, from