Employee Monitoring and Privacy
Over the years, concerns regarding employees’ privacy at the workplace have grown. This concern has persisted due to the existence of laws in almost every state that allows employers to monitor employees while at work. The intensity with which employers monitor their employees has increased due to technological advancement (Lane, 2012). Although there are regulations that provide guidance on how monitoring should be carried out, the regulations cannot tackle all the issue that arise occasionally. As a result, there is always a struggle between the employer and employee regarding the level of privacy employees should have and the extent to which the employer can monitor their activities. From an employer’s perspective, monitoring is very crucial to the successful performance of businesses. Employers perceive monitoring as a tool with which to exercise control over employees’ behavior at their workplaces. On the other hand, employees may feel restricted by the monitoring process. When monitoring is very strict, employees may perceive their work environments as hostile.
Effects of Monitoring Employees
One reason for monitoring employees is to ensure that they are committed to their work and conducts their duties as expected. The main concern for employers is that traditional work ethics have changed over time. Consequently, employees’ commitment to their work and high performance has declined. Moreover, the emergence of new technologies has provided employees with diverse avenues of entertainment while at work. This entertainment may consume valuable time that would otherwise have been used for productivity.
Secondly, employers have purchased high cost equipment that enhances their performance. The equipment purchase is predisposed to vandalism and theft by unethical employees. When this equipment is vandalized, the employers incur high expenses while replacing them. These expenses consume the company’s profitability and performance. Monitoring provides a very effective avenue for safeguarding employers’ equipment against illegal damage and theft by employees.
Thirdly, the use of employers’ communication channels for private purposes by employees can lead to loses in terms of bills and maintenance expenses (Kuhn, 2011). Moreover, uncontrolled communication between the employees and other stakeholders can portray a bad image for the company, which may eventually lead to loss of business. One consequence of uncontrolled employees’ communication could involve a company being investigated by federal agencies. Such investigations may lead to discoveries of unlawful practices within the company, which may lead to prosecution. To avoid such mishaps, many employers control the communication of their employees with other stakeholders. However, only communication involving employers’ property is strictly monitored. Any communication using private equipment should not be monitored since they fall under the privacy protection by the constitution.
In addition, illegal and sexual harassment are common in the modern workplaces. These are vices that pollute the work environment and deny people a chance to work freely without being intimidated. Employers aim at maximizing the potentials of their employees so that they can get value for the money the pay employees. As such, monitoring allows employers to track down incidences of harassment. Consequently, negative effects of harassment are remedied before getting out of hand.
Pros and Cons of Monitoring Employees
One advantage of monitoring employees is increased productivity. When employees are aware that the employer is monitoring them, they may feel that their privacy is being violated. However, they are more likely to focus on job related activities compared to employees who are not being monitored. As a result of this focus, they are able to increase their productivity and performance.
Legal protection is another advantage employers’ gain by monitoring their employees. Monitoring allows the employers to store information relating to employees performance (Papini, 2011). In case of job termination, the employee may seek legal redress against the employer. When such a law suit is filed against the employer, the stored records regarding employee performance can be used as a proof that the employer had unquestionable grounds for terminating the employee’s services.
Eliminating employees who are unproductive is another advantage that the employer gains during monitoring. Sometimes, monitoring provides the employer with information that can be used to promote more productivity through a feedback loop. However, an organization may have employees who constantly break rules and perform poorly. Monitoring provides the employer with the data required to make decisions regarding elimination of unproductive employees.
Monitoring utilizes various technologies and software. By monitoring employees’ emails and other communication channels, an organization is able to limit the information that gets to the public. Companies have information that is specific to them. This information provides them with a competitive advantage. When left uncontrolled, the employees may leak this information to competitors. This may cause a company to lose vital value to competitors. Monitoring allows the company to restrict the information reaching the public. Although it may not fully control leakages, is able to determine the amount and nature of information that has been leaked. As a result, it is able to take the necessary measures to reduce damage.
On the other hand, monitoring has negative consequences that may affect the performance of a business. In most organizations, employees do not appreciate monitoring. They view it as a means of intruding into their privacy by their employers. As such, they may tend to discredit the monitoring process by deliberately reducing their productivity. Moreover, monitoring can be very restrictive because it can deny employees the flexibility and informal interaction needed to nurture creativity. The morale and motivation of workers may reduce due to the perceived grip on them by the employer (Peters, 2011). The overall effect amounts to low productivity and less motivation. Therefore, the downside of monitoring can be counterproductive.
How to Avoid Liability Regarding Employee Monitoring and Privacy
Since the law has little protection for the privacy of employees, especially in the private sector, both employers and employees should strive to avoid liability. Employees have specific privacy expectations when joining an organization regarding the use of the organization’s resources (Stanton and Stam, 2012). These expectations may not match with the privacy rules governing the organization. As such, the employer should take the initiative to eliminate any privacy expectations that employees may hold.
The employer can achieve this objective by communicating regularly through writing to all employees liable for monitoring. The communication should include specific information regarding the use of the company’s resources such as emailing system. The employer should elaborate that employees have no legal right to use the company’s resources for personal goals. Moreover, the employer should outline all the rules that govern the use of specific company resources. The stipulated rules must insist that the employer has legal rights to monitor the usage of any resources by employees at a pre-determined period. Moreover, it is paramount for the employer to state that the employee should have no privacy expectation regarding any communication carried out using the company’s resources such as emails. The employees should be made aware that the employer can monitor all communication through its networks and take legal action where necessary. When the employer elaborates all the rules and the absence of privacy expectations, he eradicates any liability that may result from monitoring of employees.
On the other hand, employees should understand all the rules regulating the use of company resources. Moreover, they should understand that the existing laws may not be able to protect them when they use company resources. This understanding guides the employees when using resources and prevents them from excessively using the employer’s resources.
Employee monitoring and privacy is a controversial subject. Federal laws provide little protection to employees against monitoring by their employers. Those employed in the private sector are further disadvantaged because the government mandates the employer to make rules and regulations guiding monitoring. Unlike the common belief that monitoring benefits the employers alone, it also benefits employees. Monitoring using technology such as cameras can save employees from theft implications since the cameras provide evidence that can exonerate them from false accusations. The benefits that result from monitoring are substantial and legitimize the monitoring process. Employers are justified to monitor employees so that they can maximize their productivity. Moreover, monitoring provides the employer with control and authority to dictate the best way to utilize resources to achieve the set goals. Employers’ regulations regarding the use of company resources and employees conduct reduces liability in case of privacy concerns.
Lane, F. (2012). The Naked Employee: How Technology Is Compromising Workplace Privacy. New York: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.
Kuhn, B. (2011). Prying Eyes: Privacy in the Twenty-First Century. Massachusetts: Twenty-First Century Books.
Papini, J. D. (2011). Big Brother: The Effect of Electronic Employee Monitoring on Electronic Misbehavior, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment. Los Angeles: Alliant International University.
Peters, T.A. (2011). Computerized monitoring and online privacy. Michigan: McFarland & Co.
Stanton, J.M., & Stam, K.R. (2012). The Visible Employee: Using Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance to Protect Information Assets – Without Compromising Employee Privacy or Trust. California: Information Today, Inc.
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