The Case of the Omniscient Organization
Case Analysis: The Case of the Omniscient Organization Introduction In this case study, Dominion-Swann (DS) has implemented a “radical restructuring of the work environment” in order to regain control of its employees. By 1990, DS had been suffering from a number of business woes. It was not keeping pace with its competition, employee turnover had increased substantially, health costs and work-related accidents were rising, and employee theft was at an all-time high. Instead of identifying and addressing the underlying business and management problems, DS decided to treat the symptoms by turning to SciexPlan Inc. o help radically restructure the work environment through the use of employee monitoring technology. Background DS has justified its work environment restructuring based on past failures rather than future goals for success. The company has created a system to compile a comprehensive database of information on every employee.
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DS also monitors its employees in all aspects of their job, subjecting them to constant evaluation and productivity tests. The massive amount of information collected on each employee is supposed to allow DS to objectively manage personnel and make job assignments that provide the greatest efficiency.
Instead, DS has created an impersonal monitoring, surveillance, and detection system designed to lay traps for employees and shape their behavior without any managerial effort. Problem Statement Has DS become so consumed with its “radical restructuring of the work environment” that it has prioritized technology and control over the welfare, creativity, and productivity of its people? Analysis and Issues Digital technology has made an undeniably profound impact, both positive and negative, on the workplace. When implemented properly, the benefits of this impact can include increased productivity, improved safety, better working onditions, and enhanced communications between employees, management, and customers. However, an exceedingly obsessive employee monitoring system will create tedious and stressful working conditions, loss of employee privacy, and fear which will result in reduced levels of creativity and productivity. By implementing an overly zealous system for employee monitoring, DS is significantly aggravating the tension that exists between surveillance technology and employee privacy concerns. DS wants to monitor employees in order to reward effort, knowledge, productivity, and success while eliminating idleness, ignorance, theft, and failure.
Instead, it is treating its workers like pieces of equipment rather than unique and valuable individuals. DS has basically transformed the workplace into an all-encompassing electronic prison where nearly every aspect of an employee’s behavior is monitored. The DS managers who monitor every move that employees make are accomplishing efficiency objectives at a sizeable cost. Monitoring and surveillance can create a high stress environment for employees that can lead to physiological and psychological stress-related illnesses. Covert surveillance at DS will do nothing but increase fears, anxieties, and distrust among employees.
The impersonal aspect of technological surveillance diminishes employees’ concepts of their value, contribution, and self-worth. The all-encompassing surveillance implemented by DS will destroy any hope for employees to make decisions and act autonomously. Autonomy is a critical component to on-the-job independence that maximizes worker morale. Although DS has justification for some amount of employee monitoring in order to successfully evaluate employee performance, it has taken employee surveillance to the point where it will adversely affect productivity.
When employees do not feel that they are trusted, their desire to perform well is lessened. The employee screening process DS has implemented brings up additional privacy concerns. Any investigation of employee activities and history outside of the workplace is an extremely sensitive and potentially litigious issue. DS is only justified in intruding into its employees’ personal lives when it involves misconduct or illegal activity.
Off-duty conduct may be relevant to employment if the misconduct negatively impacts the employee’s work performance or the company’s mission. However, the systematic monitoring employed by DS raises serious privacy concerns. Monitoring all employees’ activities, rather than just the activities of employees under suspicion of specific misconduct, constitutes a blanket search that brings enormous privacy concerns. Recommendations DS would be better off with no employee monitoring rather than scrutinizing its employees’ every move.
Once the employee monitoring creates a morale problem, all of the value it has created will be diminished. If DS is to continue with employee monitoring systems, it must create and clearly communicate a monitoring policy for employees. DS needs to start with human-oriented policies, then use technology to enforce them. As it stands right now, DS is exerting too much power in its invasion of employee privacy in the workplace. DS is exploiting the lack of regulation in this area in order to implement extremely invasive methods of employee surveillance.
Until employees are protected by regulation to protect their rights to privacy in the workplace, DS should assume responsibility to self regulate by limiting the amount of surveillance, implementing it only when it achieves specific goals for success. Monitoring should be conducted only for business purposes, and this must be communicated to the employees. In order to throttle back its employee monitoring system to a reasonable level, DS should review and apply the suggested rights given by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
To establish a reasonable approach and prevent abuses, DS should adopt a human-oriented policy that includes the following features: * notice to employees of the company’s electronic monitoring practices; * use of a signal to let an employee know when he or she is being monitored; * employee access to all personal electronic data collected through monitoring; * no monitoring of areas designed for the health or comfort of employees; * the right to dispute and delete inaccurate data; a ban on the collection of data unrelated to work performance; * restrictions on the disclosure of personal data to others without the employee’s consent (American Civil Liberties Union, 1997). DS should also consider whether or not monitoring is truly necessary for performance evaluations. DS does not need to watch an employee’s every move to be able to judge the quality of his or her work.
Performance monitoring should be far less of a concern than an employee’s ability to complete tasks and consistently meet deadlines. DS should involve its employees on the decisions regarding when, how and why electronic monitoring needs to takes place. Most importantly of all, DS must allow employees to inspect, challenge, and, when necessary, correct the data gathered about them or their performance. Conclusion/Summary
DS must strike a balance between its business interests and its employees’ privacy interests. This balance should allow for surveillance under certain limited conditions, and utilize less intrusive approaches. Although it is unlikely that DS would completely discontinue its monitoring practice, at a minimum DS should continue to fully inform its employees about all surveillance tools being used in their workplace and provided them with clear information as to what management does with the data.
References Pedeliski, Theodore B. (1997). Privacy and the workplace: Technology and public employment. Public Personnel Management. December 22, 1997. Shoppes, Mia. (2003). Employee monitoring: Is big brother a bad idea. Information Security Magazine. Dec. 9, 2003. American Civil Liberties Union. (1997). Privacy in America: Electronic monitoring. Retrieved from http://www. aclu. org/technology-and-liberty/privacy-america-electronic-monitoring