By Diane Robinson
Technology, Society, and Culture FALB11 Sec M
Professor: Marnie Binder
February 18, 2012
Psychological and Sociological Effects - Electronic Surveillance in the Workplace
As of today, almost all jobs are subject to some type of electronic surveillance. Some jobs more than others are particularly susceptible to monitoring practices. In the United States, it has become the norm for employees to be monitored on the job. The monitoring consists of counting keystrokes, listening to telephone calls: This can include the duration, time between each call, and number of calls taken. Monitoring also includes looking on to workers computer screens and electronic mail. The use of nametags in some companies helps keep track of an employee's movements and locations. Computers are being used to set tasks and performances for all levels of workers.
There are limits set for surveillance techniques by government agencies such as the FBI but for the private employer there are no constraints. "They may view employees on closed-circuit TV; tap their phones, E-mail, and network communications; and rummage through their computer files with or without employee knowledge or consent--24 hours a day." (besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/impact/s94/students/mike/mike_paper.html)
For employees of call centres in particular, monitoring has become an essential feature of the workplace. During the early days of surveillance, it was primarily limited to information that a supervisor could observe and record firsthand, now with the computer age, it has become all encompassing, constant, and instantaneous.
The debate of this issue has not been without business interest. Supporters of the electronic monitoring of workers find it an efficient means of managing modern enterprise to ensure quality customer service, and increase productivity. While abusers of this monitoring are recognized and may occur quite often, these can be avoided with an introduction of the new technology along with participation from the workers, allowing them to have some input into the design and implementation of the monitoring systems. With the help of employees and getting their feedback, it will enable for more improvement on performance. One example would be having a meeting to advise the employees that there will be a new monitoring system in the office so that they will be what are going on and why. The employee may still not like the idea, but at least they will know what to expect and handle the situation accordingly.
Employers believe they have a legitimate right to conduct surveillance for the benefit of themselves and/or the community around them. They feel that it can show a detection of fraud and other crimes, and may deter criminal actions, and comply with the laws such as discrimination and defamation law. In addition to electronic monitoring directly linked to performance assessment, employers may engage in surveillance practices involving the scanning of employee email and Internet use, often for the purpose of meeting obligations to prevent employees from using these technologies to harass colleagues or access prohibited websites.
Electronic surveillance of employees at work can sometimes obtain results that are beneficial to the employer. Suspicious behavior by employees will prompt the review of electronic records. Many employers have the capacity and reason to use electronic surveillance of employees, but choose not to practice electronic surveillance.