Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring
Length: 1326 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
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Do we really have our privacy rights in the workplace? In today’s society we are so caught up with our rights that we often forget about work rules. If someone goes into my office or someone reads my email I feel violated and deprived of my rights. But the real question is, are these things my own to do with? In all reality if it is a private organization the person who owns the business is the owner of all offices and computers, so in that case you’re just using his stuff.
Sometimes there is no middle ground. Monitoring of employees at the workplace, either you side with the employees or you believe management owns the network and should call the shots. The purpose of this paper is to tackle whether monitoring an employee is an invasion of privacy. How new technology has made monitoring of employees by employers possible. The unfairness of computerized monitoring software used to watch employees. The employers desire to ensure that the times they are paying for to be spent in their service is indeed being spent that way. Why not to monitor employees, as well as tips on balancing privacy rights of employees at the job.
First ill start off with talking about electronic monotoring. This as well has its pros and cons. On the good side electronic monitoring offers a huge advantage to the employee: it is objective. This benefits the employee because it provides an unbiased method of performance evaluation and prevents the interference of managers' feelings in a review. Electronically generated information offers uniform and accurate feedback on past performance. This means the evaluation will be strictly based on the quantity and quality of work, rather than on managers' opinions.
Another advantage is providing feedback to employees on their work performance. Instead of listening to a manager tell an employee how to do a job, one may review a tape to see exactly what they are doing wrong and judge the employees performance. In this case, monitoring is used as a tool to show employees their work habits and what they need to change to improve their performance. Employees generally like this because they can see for themselves their weak and strong points, and they can use the information to improve their work methods. This knowledge can increase employee performance and efficiency.
On the negative end of this employers cold be basing a persons performance on this.
I know I sound like I am contradicting myself but everything isn’t always as it seems. A employee could be doing something for the company but be flagged as a slacker. For example, I am working at MASCO at the moment. I was assigned a project to compare our website to other fortune 100 companies. All day for two weeks I was searching web sites and finally someone called the manager of the department to ask why I wasn’t doing any work and just looking at websites all day. Little did this person know I was really competing my job. Now did the cameras and internet monitoring give me a fair chance? No in there eyes I was just fooling around until the saw the truth.
Employers could have a Duty ethical way of thinking. Most believe that it is there duty to monitor there employees and find out what’s going on with the company. They uphold morals and try to abide by them. But is it morally acceptable for an employer to read his or her employee’s e-mail? To formulate an opinion on this question we need to address Mill’s principle of utility and some deontologys as well as who’s rights are involved. Identifying these issues should provide enough information to form an opinion. First lets take a look at Mills principle of utility and how it is involved. How could an employer reading his employee’s e-mail be considered an action that serves the greatest number of people? On the surface it appears quite the opposite. One person or a small group of managers monitoring e-mail traffic from all the employees appears to be wrong based on this analysis. However, this could be looked at from the shareholders point of view as well. Is it not in the best interest of the company at large that it’s employees put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages? Allowing employees to send and receive personal e-mail and surf recreation web sites during business hours is not in the best interest of the shareholders. It is also not in the best interest of the shareholders to allow a hostile work environment to be created by unprofessional e-mail traffic. From this point of view the needs of the many would be the shareholders so monitoring e-mail would be permitted.
Deontological issues that are involved appear to be slightly more complicated. It could be argued that employees have the right to expect privacy even if it is not for the greater good of the company. However, for every right there is a correlative duty. In this case if the employee has the right to privacy then the employer has the right to expect the employee not to use company time and equipment for personal business. The company also has the right to expect its employees to use their computer systems for professional web surfing and e-mail. E-mail traffic has to be treated with the same discretion that casual conversations in the work center. It could then be argued from deontological point of view employers have the right to monitor computer and e-mail usage in the work place.
A main question people have about being monitored is what’s the point? Employers monitor to maintain a high level of efficiency and productivity as well as for liability purposes in situations such as sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and employee theft suits. By monitoring an employee’s email and internet usage, an employer can keep an eye on whether the employee is wasting time while at work, whether an employee is keeping up with the expected work pace, whether personal problems are affecting an employee’s work as well as to see how employees are taking breaks. Seventy percent of porn traffic occurs during regular business hours.
Now my question to you the reader is are things like this acceptable in the workplace? Where is the sense of duty in today’s employees? Now I know employees get all worked up about being monitored but some have valid reasons. One reason for employers to consider whether to monitor is the dissatisfaction it can breed among employees. Employees might worry that the company will use the monitoring system to collect evidence against them. For instance, if an employee is searching the Web for medical information on a debilitating illness, he or she might wonder if that will turn up in the Human Resources files. Monitoring may also generate concerns about other surveillance methods. For example, an employee might think if the company starts with monitoring my e-mail, will they listen to my phone calls? Will they install cameras and microphones in the office?
These are all valid workplace concerns because; employees have to feel comfortable at their jobs. If they feel as if they are being watched and their information may be being complied against them then they will want to leave the job. This is something no one wants. People should feel safe and secure at there workplace. But the other end employers are looking for good honest employees and this is a way to sort them off.
This is an ongoing argument that probably will never be solved. It just takes a little care from both sides and everything might work out. We could all learn from the Judeo-Christian Person-As-Ends theory, “Love you neighbor as yourself”. If everyone in the workplace would just do there job and treat people the way they wanted to be treated the work environment would be much healthier.