How Far is Too Far With Respect to Employee Monitoring?


Employee monitoring is a topic which brings out an ethical side to it and which brings valid points from both sides of the argument. It is the right of the employer to make sure that their employees are using their time at work in an effective manner and that they’re not using company equipment to harm the reputation of the company. However by creating an atmosphere of constant monitoring can lead to discontent within the workplace and can suggest distrust on the management’s part.

Employee monitoring contains any method of tracking which is used to watch what the employee does at work. This can include video surveillance, email scanning and anything in between. With the pace at which technology is advancing, most employers are now making use of some software to monitor employee performance at the workplace.

At present, the only law in the United States which protects employees from being monitored at the workplace is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 in which employers are prohibited from eavesdropping on the personal conversations of employees on purpose. The law however doesn’t take into consideration social media and other modern forms of communication today.

The following are some pros and cons for both sides of this argument:

Firstly, monitoring can be used to stop inappropriate behaviors at work. Pornography is seen to be one such behavior which tends to be seen as a misuse of the company time. Social media and gaming websites too are seen as productivity risks for those employees who are already unengaged. It can even be viewed as a waste of company money and a breach of contract. Monitoring can also be used to protect the company’s property from theft. The electronic transfer of information of the company could lead to trade secrets being lost as well as a lot of money unaccounted for. Thus, employee monitoring can also ensure that no such act takes place which endangers the company’s reputation. Lastly, monitoring can also make sure that corporate professionalism is being maintained within the workplace. Without monitoring, a hostile work environment could be created with objectionable material or racist remarks being passed around which could lead to legal charges to be faced by the company.

While the above were the pros of monitoring, there are some cons as well. Firstly it is considered to be an invasion of privacy. This is because at times, it is inevitable for workers to make use of the workplace computer for personal matters. Monitoring also has an issue of fairness associated with it because it is usually the entry level or intermediate workers who are usually being monitored, not the high level employees. Lastly, monitoring could also lead to a negative effect on the morale of the employees. Distrust could be created between the employees due to such monitoring and when people feel they are being watched at all times, they may not be able to focus on the task itself but rather on the wrong actions they may be committing which could lead to them getting fired.

In the end, the best thing would be for employees to ask their employers whether or not they are being watched because the chance of managers telling the truth is high due to their moral ethics.