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Group 2 - Monitoring Employees (Topic #1)

Discussion Topic: "Employers should have the right to electronically monitor employees as much as they choose. If employees don't like it, they should quit." Discuss your position on this ethical issue with your group, and use some of the following questions to help direct the discussion.
  1. What are your position(s) and supporting arguments on this issue? 
  2. How do you evaluate, weigh and balance these arguments in establishing your positions? 
  3. What is the group's "general" position on this issue? 
  4. How would you deal with this issue in the real business world? 
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Posted on May 14 2000, 07:22 PM

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Posted on May 12 2000, 08:02 AM

response to mia
by Kat Himes

I agree with Mia. I have a friend who works for a major corporation, and that is how her email is inspected.

Just a thought--do you think that companies should only monitor employees who work the 9-5 shift, same as other businesses, to ensure employees are focusing on work and not personal calls? What about employees who work the night shift?

Posted on May 07 2000, 08:44 PM

Night Shift
by Susannah Erler

I think that if an employer chooses to monitor their employees, then the time an employee comes to work should not be much of a factor in deciding how much to monitor them. Unless the company has detected an increase in "missing property" (for example) during a certain shift. The employee might want to monitor that shift more closely.

Posted on May 08 2000, 06:56 PM


random drug tests?
by Jeremy Menard

If drug tests are to be random, it seems to me counterintuitive that only one shift or level(type) of employee were forced to take drug tests. If fairness is of major importance then random selection should be applied. Or better yet, test those employees who have specific symptoms. Suspicion warrants testing. If drug testing is based upon suspicion, then the symptoms that managers look for should be posted for all employees to see. In other words, employees should be able to know beforehand what constitutes suspicious behavior.


Posted on May 09 2000, 03:14 PM


sorry-wrong topic
by Jeremy Menard

I just realized that I responded to the wrong topic. Sorry about that. I will repost in the other discussion area.



Posted on May 09 2000, 03:16 PM


What a mess!
by Kat Himes


All of these comments makes me want to start my own business, so I don't have to worry about being monitored!

During the debate I thought about this point: When you are applying for a job at a firm, you are informed of your duties, benefits, etc. Employers must inform you that you are being monitored. Therefore, it is up to you, as a job applicant, to decide whether you agree with this company's policy. If you don't, then you simply do not accept the job. Instead, you find a company that you would like to work for that does not monitor its employees.

Regarding Susannah's question about 1984--I read the book in the late 1980s, and my classmates and I were amused at Orwell's "predictions." What strikes me now is that this type of environment is possible, but arises from poor communication. I think that employee monitoring replaces good boss/employee relationships, and that a company that needs to monitor employees is a company that has very poor internal communication.

Posted on May 04 2000, 09:54 AM

Accept monitoring or leave?!
by Mia Schybergson

I think we can all agree on that companies are monitoring their employees for the purpose of making profits, not for spying on the employees privatelife. Currently I think most of the monitoring is beeing done in order to detect errors with company computer systems. The employer reads employee e-mails mainly for the purpose of finding big files etc. that will constraint the computer system. This kind of monitoring I think is acceptable, but the tricky thing is of course to figure out where the limit for reasonable monitoring goes.

Posted on May 04 2000, 03:01 PM


Profit vs. Privacy -- Which is more valuable
by David Allen

Hi guys.

We have studies, data and professional opinions on both sides of the issue. I think we have to consider the big picture.

Does a company have a right to monitor you as much as they choose?

I think answering this question starts by deciding what the purpose of a firm is. I happen to believe along the same lines as Freedman -- that the purpose of the firm is to profit, period.

If we believe this line of reasoning, then it would it be ethical to monitor employees "as much as possible" if doing so leads to increased profits.

Let's pretend that the evidence is overwhelming and we all agree that monitoring leads to profits. If so, would we still allow firms to monitor us as much as possible, or is our privacy worth the sacrifice of profits?

Posted on May 04 2000, 06:53 AM

Response to David Allen
by Christina Waskan

One could argue that you are oversimplifying the issue. But sometimes we have to do just that to help us make a decision. Especially, when there are valid arguments on both sides. But I agree with you in the sense that companies are there to make a profit. If they don't make one, they cease to exist. And then, what? In the long run, no one would benefit.

Posted on May 07 2000, 11:47 PM


at some day
by Chounhee Choi

Development of technology will expand monitering areas and monitering techniques. As network has developed, the notion of working fild also has blurred. Sometimes you work in your home and sometimes you work in a bus through remote wireless telecommunication system. Some military satellite can identify your face even in thousand miles away from the ground.

If we just allow those monitering without any specific standard or prior notification, even your bedroom will be monitored for the purpose of company profit some day.

Posted on May 03 2000, 06:47 PM

Virtual Space
by David Allen

good point Chounhee. where do we draw the line.

In particular, I am skeptical about the phrase "email is the company's property", as if it were a physical thing. The PC may be the company's property, the phone may be the comapny's property, but my mental consciousness that ends up as verbal or written communication in an email or over a phone cannot possibly belong to the employer.

If I am having a conversation with my wife at work on the phone, does the employer own that conversation. If it does not own it, and I do, then I wonder if they have a right to monitor something that I own. Likewise with email.

Posted on May 04 2000, 07:06 AM


no data found
by yaron david

i looked around a bit to see if there was an data that could support our contention that EM may reduce stress. as you too found- it aint out there. the point that we made, although it may not be a very strong point, is that there is lots of data that shows that if employers know the best time as to when to give out breaks, then employees' productivity and satisfaction increases, therebye reducing job related stress. now, by monitoring the employees we can find out exactly when the optimal time for a break would be. in this case monitoring is used as sort of a feedback mechanism. i don't agree that it would be necessary to continue all the monitoring once that optimal break-time is found.

Posted on May 03 2000, 12:00 PM

There is a study which shows reduced stress
by Susannah Erler

Hello Yaron and Ram,

What about the study we included in our paper and which you mentioned in the rebuttal on Monday:)

It is a study by Nebeker and Tatum. The article says that the results of their study indicate that EM (with feedback) leads to increased performance with little effect on work quality satisfaction or stress. The study goes on to say that when employers use EM "with proper design" it is possible to gain the benefits of increased productivity, increased satisfaction and reduced stress all at the same time.

This info is from the American Business Review, January, 2000.

Posted on May 03 2000, 04:17 PM


more stress or less
by Jeremy Menard


I am unfamiliar with the study that you cite, but it seems somewhat contradictory. In the first half of your response you mentioned that you could increase performance with little effect on satisfaction and performance. My interpretation of is that yes indeed, monitoring leads to greater stress, just not a substantial amount. However, in the scond half of your response you mention reduced stress. Could you clarify the results of the study for me?



Posted on May 04 2000, 10:37 AM


Less stress
by Susannah Erler

Hello Jeremy,
My understanding of that study is that Nebeker and Tatum concluded that "with proper design" EM could decrease stress (implying that if only feedback were used then EM could have little effect on stress). They say that proper design is: "moderately high standards when no rewards are offered, and easy standards when rewards are offered."

That is the best I can do to interpret the description of the study (since the reduced stress vs. little effect on stress part is slightly unclear). I can show you the American Business Journal article it came from if you like.
I hope that helps.

Posted on May 04 2000, 06:34 PM


benefits to employers
by yaron david

with regards to Ram's email:

in the handout that accompanied our presentation, there is a section entitled "benefits to employers". in this section we briefly discussed the legal issues regarding EM, and the ability for a company to secure its profit potential by implementing some sort of monitoring mechanism.
in the presentation we cited the example of the chevron employee.

Posted on May 03 2000, 11:52 AM

Response to benifit to employers - legal
by Ram Muthaiyah

The cases sited were leagal cases involving the employer and employee. There is another legal issue that the employer should be worried abut. For instance, I as an employee can break into IBM's computer network. This causes a legal issue for the compnay from another company. Through EM such costly lawsuits can be prevented.

Posted on May 03 2000, 03:16 PM


Legal issues
by Ram Muthaiyah

In our debate yesterday, I was really suprised that the team arguing FOR had now arguments based on the legal implications. I think this is an important issue when considering EM. Many employers face legal lawsuits due to actions of their employees. These are costs to the company and to the custoemr indirectly and supports EM.

Posted on May 03 2000, 07:48 AM

Survey results...
by Ram Muthaiyah

I was in the group that argued against EM. In the debate yesterday, the FOR team, proposed certain arguments supporting EM as EM reduces stress and improves productivity. But while researching for this debate I actually found survey results stating the contrary. Are there any surveys that show EM does reduce stress and improve productiviy.

Posted on May 03 2000, 07:45 AM

There is a study...see message below
by Susannah Erler

There is a study which suggests it is possible to have reduced stress with EM. I wrote about it in a message below called "There is a study that shows reduced stress."

Posted on May 03 2000, 04:20 PM


Is Big Brother watching you?
by Susannah Erler

I was in the group which debated for electronic monitoring. Here is one of issues which piqued my interest while researching the paper:

Where did my previous biases come from? Going into the project, my personal feelings were more opposed to electronic monitoring than not. I can’t say exactly where this leaning came from. But I think it has to do in part with reading the book “1984” when I was younger (“Big Brother is watching you”). Do you know this book?

My classmates and I read it before the actual year 1984, and I think at the time there was a general fear --at least with people my age--of what things were actually going to be like in 1984 (“would we be controlled by “Big Brother?”). I think that my leanings against electronic monitoring were influenced by reading that book and growing up in that time where people seemed to be aware of (and somewhat bothered by) the increasing presence of video cameras and other monitoring devices, and the possible implications.

Did you ever read Orwell’s 1984? Did you read it before the actual year? I am wondering if *when* we grew up has anything to do with our feelings about this issue of monitoring. Do you think people who grew up being comfortable with bank surveillance cameras and ATM cameras and so on are more comfortable with monitoring then those who remember a day without these devises? Do you think people who grew up with shows like MTV’s Real World (where there is always a camera in your face) are more comfortable with monitoring then people who grew up when video cameras were not as common? I suspect they would be.

Posted on May 02 2000, 09:33 PM

EM is it 'oh' so good?
by yaron david

hope everybody out there got something out of the presentation today.
Because we had to argue the benefits of EM, we did not get a chance to project many of our true feelings about the issue. i still need some help with regards to the fact that as consumers within society we don't seem to mind much when we're monitored in the grocery stores, or via cookies on the web. i havn't had the fortune of being monitored at work, but shouldn't it bother us to the same extent as when we are monitored as consumers (off the job)? if the issues at hand are rights and privacy, well then aren't our rights and our privacy stripped whether we're an employee or a consumer? i know i'de probably be a little irrate to find my boss peeping in on my activities at work, but why don't i get mad at all the other vehicles of monitoring that i'm subjected to daily as a consumer?

have a good night's sleep

Posted on May 02 2000, 09:08 PM

Respond to Yaron-customer vs employee
by Susannah Erler

I wonder about that too. I came up with a couple of possibilities:

1.Maybe the difference has to do with the relationship of the one who is monitoring to the one being monitored. For example, in a customer/shopkeeper relationship, the shopkeeper does not have as much power over the customer as an employer does in the employee/employer relationship. The shopkeeper can not fire the customer. If the shopkeeper judges the customer, that will have no influence on the customer's livelihood, as it might in the employee/employer relationship. The only real power the shopkeeper has is the power of the law--which is a power that is over the customer all the time anyway.

2. Maybe society is more used to store video cameras than they are to workplace electronic observations. (which is something I address in a message I am about to post).

Posted on May 02 2000, 09:30 PM


Response to EM is it 'oh' so good?
by Ram Muthaiyah

Yes, it was a good debate yesterday. I am glad you brought up this point in this discussion as I was not too convinced in class.

W.r.t Monitoring at the grocery store, I think this monitoring is fine for me as a customer as I am going to be at the shop for a negligible amount of time. Moreover, I dont consider it invasion of my privacy. In the work place, it is a different as I spend 1/3rd of my time and even more at my work place. In addition to that I would definitely need to attend to some amount of personal work at work as my employer expects long hours from me.

Posted on May 03 2000, 07:40 AM


I Own It
by David Allen


I don't mind being monitored in the grocery or with cookies because I feel like I'm on somebody else's property, and they have a right to do what they want.

If on the other hand, the grocery store wanted to put a video tape in my kitchen to monitor my consumption habits, I would consider that an invasion of my privacy.

I guess what I am getting at is a sense of peronal space that you own. I think this becomes interesting in the virtual world, when the idea of physical space is blurred. Where is your space vs. the employer's space?

Posted on May 04 2000, 07:14 AM


Click here to post new message
by Allan Jeong

To promote true discussion and the exchange of ideas, start by responding to messages and elaborate or comment on messages already posted to this bulletin board by FIRST reading each message, and then replying to the messages.

Then, if you want to initiate a new line of discussion or message thread, RETURN TO this message and click on "Reply to message" in this message window.

Posted on Apr 28 2000, 07:57 AM

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