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Group 3 - 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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Are managers always reliable?
by Lara Khansa

I was just wondering if those who monitor employees' emails are always ethically reliable. I am wondering if it is also possible for employees to fully trust their eavesdropper. If employees trust the company’s managers by accepting to be monitored, they expect their secrets to be kept, I expect.
How can we ensure that managers be always reliable? Is it possible for employees to restrict their emails to work and not write a single email for personal purposes?
Any thoughts?

Posted on May 07 2000, 12:14 PM

Personal e-mail
by John Foster

Unfortunately, there are managers in the world who will abuse their power and make life difficult for their employees. I agree that you can never fully trust those who are eavesdropping on you. However, I think it is possible to separate your work e-mail from you personal e-mail. For example, you can set up a personal e-mail account on an Internet site and then have all of your friends and family send personal e-mail to that account instead of your work account. You can check it at home after work, and you will have no problems with eavesdropping.

There are many jobs (especially professional jobs) where people work late consistently and it is hard not to take care of personal business at work (i.e. consultants). I would hope that employers realize this fact and provide a less restrictive environment that enables some personal business to be done at work. Many employers now offer a concierge service so that many personal activities can be easily taken care of during a lunch break.

Posted on May 08 2000, 09:14 AM


Comparison of Direct Monitoring and Mangement By Objective
by Kai Ning

Electronic Monitoring employees belong to Direct Monitoring system. It was management system before 1960s. The management by objective system has been more popularly used in current manufacturing enterprises.

Two examples of different management system

Direct Supervision

From 1908 to 1914, Henry Ford’s talented team of production managers pioneered, through trial and error, the development of the moving conveyor belt and thus changed forever manufacturing practices. This technology innovation made Ford the largest automobile giant.

In order to control the resources –both human and material, Ford employed hundreds of inspectors to check up on employees, both inside and outside his factories. In the factory, supervision was close and confining. Employees were not allowed to leave their places at the production line, and they were not permitted to talk to one another. Their job was to concentrate fully on the task at hand. Few employees could adapt to this system, and they developed ways of talking out of the sides of their mouth, like ventriloquists, and invented a form of speech that became known as the “Ford Lisp.” Ford’s obsession with control brought him into greater and greater conflict with managers, who were often fired when they disagreed with him. As a result, many talented people left Ford to join his growing rivals.

Management by Objectives

Zytec Corporation, a leading manufacturer of power supplies for computers and other electronic equipment, has spent considerable time developing a formal MBO system for company control. Each of Zytec’s managers and workers participates in goal setting. Top managers first establish cross-functional teams to create a five-year plan for the company and to set broad goals for each function. Employees from all areas of the company then review this plan. They evaluate the plan’s feasibility and make suggestions about how to modify or improve it. Each function then uses the broad goals in the plan to set more specific goals for each manager and each team in the organization; these goals are then reviewed with top managers. The MBO system at Zytec is organizationwide and fully participatory, and performance is reviewed both from an annual and a five-year time horizon. Zytec’s MBO system has been very affective. Not only have organizational costs dropped dramatically but company also won the Baldrige Award for quality.

Two theories for two systems

Theory X

· The average employee is lazy, dislikes work, and will try to do as little as possible.
· To ensure that employees work hard, managers should closely supervise employees.
· Managers should create strict work rules and implement a well-defined system of rewards and punishment to control employees.

Theory Y

· Employees are not inherently lazy. Given the chance, employees will do what is good for the organization.
· To allow employees to work in the organization ‘s interest, managers must create a work setting that provides opportunities for workers to exercise initiatives and self-direction.
· Managers should decentralize authority to employees and make sure employees have the resources necessary to achieve organizational goal.

Advantages and disadvantages of the two systems

Disadvantages of Direct Supervision

· First, it is very expensive because a manager can personally manage only a small number of subordinates effectively even without advanced electronic supervision system. Therefore, if direct supervision is the main kind of control being used in an organization. A lot of managers will be needed and costs increase. A set of advanced electronic supervision system may cost more than the human resource cost and it has to be upgrade to catch up with fast developing technologies in dealing business.
· The direct supervision can demotivate subordinates if they feel that they are under such close scrutiny that they are not free to make their own decision. Moreover, subordinates may start to pass the buck and avoid responsibility if they feel that their manager is waiting in the wings ready to reprimand anyone who makes the slight error.
· Third, direct supervision is simply not feasible for many jobs. The more complex a job is, the more difficult it is for a manager to evaluate how well a subordinate is performing. Especially in the current computer industry, we can’t evaluate a programmer by how many hours he or she has not moved away from his desk as a standard to judge the quality of his work.

Advantages of Management by Objectives

· Specific goals and objectives are established at each level of the organization to contribute to the achievement of the overall organization objectives.
· Mangers and their subordinates together determine the subordinate’s goals. The participation of managers and employees in objective-setting process is a way to strengthening their commitment to achieve their goals and meet their budges. It also fully explores the ideas of employees for innovation and creativity.
· Periodically review the subordinates’ progress toward meeting goals will be more effective and feasible for managers to manage their teams and enhance the communication and corporation between mangers and subordinates.

Posted on May 04 2000, 09:24 AM

To be or not to be
by Hsieh Ching-Hsi

I think the company has the right to monitor its employees. We have to know all the instruments and resources an employee use in his/her work place are the company's properties not the employees'.

If you and your spouse both have to work and unable to take your baby to your workplace, so you decide to hire a baby sitter. Will you allow he/she take your stuffs home or use your telephone to make lots of his/her private calls? If your answer is no, you should not ask the company give up its right to have similar concerns.

Therefore, I sort of agree with Ying and John. I think all the measures are only tools. A company can reserve its right and choose not to monitor its employees, if the company believe this will enhance the moral or efficiency of the working enviorment. However, there is nothing wrong with monitoring. Form the company's point of view, the only question is "to be or not to be."

Posted on May 03 2000, 10:20 PM

by Hsieh Ching-Hsi

I think the company has the right to monitor its employees. We have to know all the instruments and resources an employee use in his/her work place are the company's properties not the employees'.

If you and your spouse both have to work and unable to take your baby to your workplace, so you decide to hire a baby sitter. Will you allow he/she take your stuffs home or use your telephone to make lots of his/her private calls? If your answer is no, you should not ask the company give up its right to have similar concerns.

Therefore, I sort of agree with Ying and John. I think all the measures are only tools. A company can reserve its right and choose not to monitor its employees, if the company believe this will enhance the moral or efficiency of the working enviorment. However, there is nothing wrong with monitoring. Form the company's point of view, the only question is "to be or not to be."

Posted on May 03 2000, 10:19 PM

Use of electronic monitoring mirrors the company culture
by John Foster

I agree with Ying that electronic monitoring is only a tool and is not good or bad. How that tool is utilized is what causes ethical concerns.

Today, company cultures run the full spectrum from very dictatoral to relaxed and open. The way these companies choose to use monitoring will probably mirror their company cultures. Most firms will never use continuous employee monitoring because the cost would be prohibitive. Due to the cost pressures, electronic monitoring is most effective when it is used in key areas and situations that can dramatically effect profitablity, customer service, or employee well-being.

Each individual is able to choose their own level of tolerance for supervision. If you do not feel comfortable in a more restrictive monitored environment, then you should choose a job that has a more open culture.

Posted on May 03 2000, 05:41 PM

I am astonished!
by Lara Khansa


I am surprised that an MBA student at UW can still have this positive conception of employee monitoring. I wonder if you have taken MHR 701 or 702 (Motivation and leadership effectiveness). I wonder if you have ever read Luthans' "Successful vs. Effective Real Managers" or Kotter's "What leaders really do?" or Zaleznik's "Managers and Leaders: Are they different?”!?
Do you really believe that being a great manager is being a monitoring guardian? I bet you can never keep a business this way!

Posted on May 05 2000, 12:41 PM


by Ying Li


I agree with you that management through goal-setting and motivation is more efficient and effective than direct monitoring. I will definitely go for that if I run a business myself. However, the problem here is that we are not living in an ideal world and people do have the intention to behave opportunistically. If that's not true, we won't have so many crimes today.

So, a good manager should know when to apply motivation management and when and how to use direct monitoring to achieve optimal benefit for both the business and the employees.

Posted on May 05 2000, 01:13 PM


Only a tool...
by John Foster


I agree in theory that the most effective way to manage is through trust and mutual respect. However, we must not be blind to those who will act opportunistically. Even in the best led organizations there are people who work outside the law or established guidelines.

For example: If you realize that major theft is going on within your department, do you do nothing to stop it? You may need to use electronic monitoring in key portions of the process to eliminate the shrinkage. As I wrote before, electronic monitoring is only a tool. You can pick and choose how you use it. In this case electronic monitoring acts as a deterent to future theft.

I believe that a manager's responsibility is to provide the resources necessary so that an employee can be most productive. If that is trust and respect, I am all for it. But if that means providing a safe environment free from criminals, I am for that also.

In the future, you should note that listing names of books and courses only makes you look inexperienced. Using a questioning, sarcastic tone will not help you build trust and mutual respect with your employees. In fact, after reading your message, I think I am going to take an extra long lunch break, and call in sick tomorrow.

Posted on May 05 2000, 11:00 PM


Thanks for the "tip"
by Lara Khansa

Hope you will get better soon:)

Posted on May 06 2000, 02:33 PM


by Eileen


I don't agree with you. For an MBA student, we won't feel comfortable to be monitored since we are aware of our responsibilities. However, the percentage of MBA students is lower, compared to all. Don't you think that all employees at each level (with or without education)have the same motivation or responsibility? If everyone is the same, of course, we do not need any monitoring methods.

For the manager's point of view, I think monitor is not a bad idea to improve productity.


Posted on May 06 2000, 07:21 PM


by Kai Ning


Force people to do something or let people be willing to do something by themselves?

MBAs are people, works in the factory are also people. The point is how to motivate them and encourage them to do their jobs.

Posted on May 08 2000, 09:40 PM


Force or not force?
by Eileen


I do not agree with you. Of course, it is not good to force people to do something, such as the electronic monitoring. However, it depends on the situation the employer is facing. Employer can not consider all employees at different level equally. Usually, the higher the position employee has, the more responsibility he or she hodes. For a simple instance, employees have over time working paid, but managers do not. Therefor, I think the electronic monitoring is a good way to encourage employees' working performance in a certain industry.


Posted on May 09 2000, 07:34 AM


Balance is the key
by Jiayu Huang

Employers have the right to evaluate their employees, while employees have their right of privacy. In some functions of business such as customer service, electronic monitoring may be one of the best approaches to evaluate employees' performance. For example, many companies record conversations over the phone between customers and customer service representatives. This would allow companies to ensure a certain quality level of cusromer service and find out how to improve services. On the other side, to protect privacy and save companies' resources, the employees should not use companies electronic device for private communication. But monitoring how many times an employee goes to toilet or water cooler etc. is not necessary and not effective for enhancing productivity. It will create tension between the supervisor and the employee.

Posted on May 03 2000, 01:42 PM

Electronic monitoring is only a tool
by Ying Li

I do not think we can say that electronic monitoring is essentially good or bad. After all, it is only a tool, an instrument. It can be used well by the company, thus bringing beneficial results as one team described in class. However, it might also be misused/overused and therefore have a negative, harmful impact on both individual employees and the corporate as a whole.

So, I am arguing that electronic monitoring as a tool has nothing to do with ethics. It is rather how companies use the tool that triggers the ethics issue.

Posted on May 03 2000, 12:52 PM

by Joe W Barnard

In my oppionion, firms should (and do) have the right to monitor electronic traffic. Unless I am mistaken, the topic is not about video taping workers in the bathroom or tape recording their discussions with customers. It seems pretty simple to me, if the company pays for the computer, pays for the internet connection and they are paying you to be there . . . they have a right to make sure you are not misusing the resources. In fact, I can think of situations where a firm may be legally responsible if an employee misuses the electronic resources. A lot of time and money is being wasted surfing the web and sharing jokes, firms should be able to control this traffic to minimize their losses.

Posted on May 03 2000, 12:22 PM

How about productivity?
by Lara Khansa


Do you know that the major reasons for the lack in employee productivity are absence of motivation and stress on the job? Do you think that you will be motivated to work for a company if you are not trusted? Do you think that you will be very relaxed and productive when all your steps at work are recorded?
I got lately two job offers from very eminent software companies. The manager of the first believes in total privacy: every employee has his own office, is free to come at any time, as long as he does his job effectively and as long as there are no meetings in the morning. The manager of the other company assigns a corner of a big cubicle to each employee. Needless to say that in this case everybody sees everybody at each instant of the day and employees are continuously observed by their local manager. For your own information, the economical growth of the first company has consistently skyrocketed and the second has a very constant growth. In the first company, employees worked when they were relaxed and productive, on their own time, without suffering constant peeping into their use of company's resources. When employees are trusted and given an incentive, believe me no one will ever commit a fraud.

Posted on May 03 2000, 05:32 PM


It's a fair game
by Ying Li

I agree with Joe. Companies should have the right to electronically monitor their employees, so far as it informs the employees that they will be monitored at work and also tell them to what extent they will be monitored. If, after a company informs you of everything you need to know about EM, you still decide to take the job, then I do not see anything wrong here.

A lot of people talk about trust in their argument. I agree that trust is important in cultivating a healthy working environment. However, it does not mean that the use of EM will completely destroy trust between employees and the employer. When I did my summer internship, I was informed that the company had access to every employee's email account. However, I didn't feel anything uncomfortable about that. I lived the way I usually do. I received and sent both business and personal emails. I knew it was okay, and I trusted the company. I understood that the company wouldn't fire me simply because I sent out some emails to my friends at work. I knew electronic monitoring was to prevent abuses/misuses of emails at workplace, but not to "spy on my personal life."

Posted on May 05 2000, 12:54 PM


" Wizards - See & Dance; Hackers - Grope & Grunt; Employers/ees - Care & Share &quo
by Lara Khansa

“Employers want to be sure their employees are doing a good job, but employees don't want their every sneeze or trip to the water cooler logged.” That is the essential conflict of workplace monitoring. In my opinion, it is a major challenge of a good leading manager to urge employees to act in the best interests of the company. Leadership, in contrast to management, involves having a vision of what the organization can become and therefore requires eliciting cooperation and teamwork from a large network of people and keeping the key people in that network motivated and involved, using every manner of persuasion. There are many ways to evaluate an employee other than observing all his moves, through periodic performance evaluations and constant interaction and feedback, for instance. Trust is crucial in the workplace

Posted on May 02 2000, 10:06 AM

Start here
by Allan Jeong

To promote true discussion and the exchange of ideas, read the messages already posted to the bulletin board, and "post replies" to the messages to elaborate or comment on the ideas of other group members.

If you want to initiate a new line of discussion or message thread, click on "Post new message" off the main page.

Posted on Apr 28 2000, 08:24 AM

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