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Group 4 - 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? 
For help, email allan.jeong@doit.wisc.edu

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Posted on May 12 2000, 08:03 AM


Productivity and privacy
by Nicolas Philippou

Imagine writing a project or even an exam, and you have the professor over your head during that process. I personally would feel a lot of stress and my work would be poorer than my real potentials. Isn't what matters the most the outcome? Why can't employers trust their employees and instead find a way to measure their outcome and productivity? And yes, I do believe that it is a privacy issue. If we all agree that some of the private activities are allowed at work then even if the employer monitors a totally insignificant conversation of the employee (a conversation with his hairdresser for example-he doesn't have to be the president talking private issues), then he invites the employees right for privacy (He may never want anyone to now about an appointment he made to treat his dandruff :>). I do admit that in some cases, the monitoring is necessary. In these cases, there should be given some time to the employees, maybe during lunch hour (even though I don't think it would be sufficient), when all the monitoring systems would be shut down so they could do their private activities in privacy.

Posted on May 08 2000, 04:22 AM


Need for carefull evaluation of monitoring
by Nicolas Philippou

As shown on the statistics Chris found, the most heavily monitoring used are the ones regarding internet, e-mails and computer work. New software, made that easy and cheap. It keeps track of which computer files were opened, which programs used, web sites visited, games played, even the number of keyboard strokes make. Is all this monitoring necessary? If this software did not existed, I don't think that any of the employers, would put one surveillance camera on the employee and one on his computer screen to get the same result. They would focus, as Sungho Ko said, on other ways to increase the productivity of their employees. I have to agree though that some kind of monitoring way be necessary in some cases, especially when employees interact with costumers, for training and security reasons. The employers however, should carefully evaluate all these cases separately before they decide to monitor their employees. They shouldn't just monitor everybody and everything because it's easy and cheap.

Posted on May 08 2000, 04:13 AM


Guidelines for EM
by Thierry Forin

Amis du jour, bonjour,

Electronic Monitoring presents certain risks and often challenges the rights of privacy of the individuals.

However I believe that if applied properly, in accordance with all the parties involved, electronic monitoring provides more benefits to these stakeholders than inconvenients.

As discussed in class, EM may provide fair metrics to evaluate the performance of the employees who can now feel appraised objectively. EM also affects the bottom line of the company by reducing on the long run the costs related to theft and misuse of their resources, and it finally enables companies to offer a better level of service to customers by learning from past errors.

These are the purposes EM attempts to achieve. Yet one must be careful of the means utilized to reach these goals. Because the freedom of the individuals to act is at the heart of our modern societies, the privacy of the employees must be respected to the extent possible in the workplace.

Thus I believe it is management's responsibility to establish a dialog with the personnel. Management must explain the goals EM will try to achieve and how it intends to achieve them. Personnel will have their say around this negotiation table and will have to approve the means that would be employed. Through concertation and by giving the chance to personnel to agree on the level of privacy they are willing to give up, electronic monitoring can be implemented successfully.


Posted on May 07 2000, 03:44 PM


We need to consider more careful approach on the EM
by Sungho Ko


I agree that not expanding the EM is better than using EM.

I basically understand Shengying Xu¡¯s opinion. However, I want to suggest another possibility for using EM.
People who are favor of EM insist that employees monitoring did not violate the basic privacy rights. But it is more possible for employers to use EM in order to control theirs employees. Of course, if the employers really want to provide better services and increase company¡¯s productivity through EM, it appears to me a little bit weird. Because EM basically came from employer¡¯s distrust against employees, we need consider different possibilities besides benefits of EM as you already mentioned.

Let¡¯s think about South West Airlines case. SWA achieved really remarkable performance during last 20 years and increase its excellent reputation through self-efficacy without EM. SWA¡¯s executives basically trust its employee and encourage its employees to work voluntarily. I think employers should develop their leadership, while they avoid using the EM. Therefore EM cannot be justified for better performance and better services.

Actually, we could not evaluate exactly about effects of EM. We should think about the long- term effects as well as short-term effects form using EM. In the short term, we might think that EM is beneficial for the company and customers. But If Electric monitoring continuously controls worker¡¯s behaviors, it will possibly occur negative side effect on their performance through deteriorating their motivation.

If employers worry about theft and wrongdoing of employees, they can enforce recruiting process and focus on more education for its employees. To prevent only a few of worker¡¯s wrongdoing, we cannot justify expansion of EM.

In my opinion, EM should be restricted to extent of minimum. As Kris Sceihing said, some of electronic monitoring could be beneficial for the customers. Actually, I worked in the investment banking company as a stockbroker. Whenever my fellows, our brokers, received orders from customers, they recorded the content of order by phone to avoid conflicts with customers. But this case is definitely different from other electronic monitoring situation such as recording voice- mail, searching employee¡¯s e-mail. If recording voice-mail, searching employee¡¯s e-mail were not intruded into employee¡¯s privacy, on earth, which case is violating employee¡¯s privacy?

By universalism, we can do if can be universal rule, in this case, ¡°Do you really think EM keeps the right of privacy, right of free speech and right of due process?¡±

Therefore, the employers should create culture that they trust employees through leadership. I think trust is the best way to make high performance and desirable working condition. In the long run, good relationship with employees will guarantee the company¡¯s core competence and create true customer satisfaction.

Posted on May 07 2000, 02:10 PM


EM Statistics
by Kris Scheihing

This week's issue of Time magazine had some interesting statistics on employee monitoring:

54% of companies surveyed monitor internet connections
38% store and review email messages
31% store and review computer files
15% video record job performance
12% record an review phone calls
7% store and review voice mail messages

I was surprised that some of the numbers were so high. I was also a little concerned about the review and monitoring of voice mail. Voice mail is something employees don't expect to be monitored. I'm not sure how the companies justify this.

Posted on May 06 2000, 03:28 PM


In response to all responses till so far
by Shibani Chakravorti

I totally agree with everyone that have posted their responses in favor of EM under specific scenarios. I particularly liked the example of monitoring customers requests for changing their long distance phone carriers.Since customers do deny the changes they themselves had requested earlier, that itself is a very strong proof that EM is needed under certain scenarios.
Another example is the EM in Retail stores etc., for purposed of identifying thefts etc. I think it is perfectly valid under such circumstances too, because you really have to safeguard your own interests if you are an employer of such a store. For the very same reason,I think it is a perfectly valid reason to do so in Daycare facilities too, since you are really relying on the Daycare provider for the total well being of your little one. In fact i do know of certain daycare facilities which do EM themselves, and you, as a parent, can view that particular daycare from any computer which has the Internet facility to access the WWW, all throughout the day. That must be such a relief for parents, esp. in cases where their child had been sick/has not been doing very well lately etc, and has gone back to the Daycare after being at home for a while.

Posted on May 04 2000, 02:43 PM


Proper Use
by Chuan-Yen Hu

First, I would say EM is needed under certain circumstance. And if it is designed properly, it would help the company to have better performance.

Like now, I am sitting in a computer lab, with a camera in front of me. Acutually, I am quite comfortable with it, because I knew that camera is to make sure that the students properly use the resourse and prevent from theft.

But if you set EM in the lab or office of a professor who is working on quite important reaserch or invention (the improper use of the result would cause a lot of damage to socity), extensive monitoring would increase the chance for other people to get touch with the research or invention.

Just as Samuel Lex said, the monitoring is accetable, but with limitation.

Posted on May 07 2000, 10:09 AM

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Design of EM is important
by Brenda Mikeo

I agree with the examples given so far--electronic monitoring can save companies money and protect customers. But I also think that the design and intent of EM is important. Not every work situation warrants the use of EM. It is best used for specific departments/work areas where it is likely to have a significant impact on company profits, customer protection, and employee safety. I do not think it is necessary in all situations to record employees' every move or telephone conversation. It is to be expected that we give up some amount of privacy when we go to work, but not every bit of it.

Brenda Mikeo

Posted on May 03 2000, 07:19 PM


Workers and employers need to communicate
by Samuel Lex

I completely agree with Shengying's message. A company does have the right to monitor business activities within its realm of responsibility. But this also includes respecting generally accepted rights to privacy that workers have. I believe that Yaron and Thierry summed it up in their rebuttal when they distinctly stated that monitoring, even though acceptable, does have its limits. The challenge for employers is to find the proper balance between the two. I believe that communication is key to achieving this balance. If employers desire to use certain monitoring methods, they must effectively communicate the parameters and limits of the monitoring to the employees. This will help to relieve a great deal of the distrust and stress that both of the presenting groups dicussed. When workers are informed of why the monitoring is being implemented (for better business operations as opposed to just spying), they generally will not have a problem with it.

The problem is when employers simply use it as a somewhat covert means to "catch people doing wrong things." This only breeds distrust and resentment.

So communication is key.

Posted on May 03 2000, 12:34 PM


Untitled
by Kris Scheihing

I agree. If employees are informed about the potential benefits of monitoring to themselves, the company, and the customers, they are less likely to resent it. And, if employees feel that the company has gone too far, they will be more likely to discuss it with their boss because the pattern of open communication has already been established.

The second group argued that monitoring would be detrimental to the corporate culture and that it would lead to an atmosphere of distrust. I think that the opposite is true. Companies can involve the employees in decisions regarding monitoring from the beginning. Let them have a say in what should be monitored and how. They probably know better than anyone else which factors lead to success in their jobs, how these factors can be monitored, what targets should be established, etc.

Posted on May 03 2000, 02:31 PM

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Electronic Monitoring- Pros for a Specific Example
by Shibani Chakravorti

I agree for EM under certain scenarios- e.g. in daycare centers. I have personally has some really terrible experience with a particular daycare facility in town, where the daycare provider was forbidden to do something by the mother of a child, but not knowing that someone would check on her, she just went ahead and did what she was forbidden. Of course, as luck would have it, she got caught, the child was withdrawn from her care, and she got a very bad review posted in her name with the 4C center. Well, if she would have been electronically monitored, maybe she could have been caught being sneaky long back, and would not have created such a torture for a parent.

Posted on May 02 2000, 01:13 PM


Another example of the benefits of monitoring
by Kris Scheihing

I agree that there are many situations for which electronic monitoring can be beneficial. I worked in the telecom industry for 4 years and it is common for long distance carriers to monitor and record phone calls. For example, the carriers record customer authorizations that allow them to switch long distance service. If a customer calls later and says that they did not authorize the switch (which some people do because they don't have to pay for their long distance if the switch was unauthorized)the company can listen to the archived audio tapes. This helps the carrier avoid huge fines (thousands of dollars) that they would have to pass on to all of their other customers through price increases.

Posted on May 02 2000, 04:23 PM

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Start here
by Allan Jeong

ELABORATE & COMMENT ON EACH OTHER's MESSAGES:
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.

INITIATING A NEW LINE OF DISCUSSION:
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, 08:29 AM


Privacy is not a strong excuse for electrical monitoring
by Shengying Xu

In today's class, the second debate team reiterated many times the privacy issue. I do not agree it to be a strong argument because 1) Electrical monitoring did not violate the basic privacy rights. It does not mean to use surveillance camera to monitor employees everywhere at the work place, for example, locker room.

2) Employers are not saying that no private activities are allowed at work at all with the monitoring. Employers are average human beings and there will be occasions that they have to run a couple family errands at work as well. Employers will have to understand that employees should be given the rights to have family phone calls at work. Electrical monitoring will only restrain the actions of overusing working time for family matters.

3) It is protection for employees as well. Email and phone are not the safest means to communicate. If the events are truly private and crucial, employees should understand that the best way is face to face conversation. (remember even U.S. president or British royal family's phone conversation with friends were tabbed)

4) As Shibani mentioned in her message, E-monitoring restricts inappropriate behavior by employees at professional setting. Individual employee's wrong behavior at work will damage company image and profit.

4) By personal libertarianism, employers have the rights to do what is the best for them. By universalism, employers should do what is the best for the majority people. E-monitoring will benefits majority stakeholders.

In conclusion, I believe E-monitoring is acceptable if employees are informed ahead of time.

Shengying Xu

Posted on May 02 2000, 07:37 PM

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