The surprising effects of employee surveillance

Co-authored by Questrom professor Michel Anteby, this Harvard Business Review article delves into the cycle of coercive surveillance when it comes to monitoring business performance.

While the dropping prices of monitoring technologies are making it easier than ever for managers to monitor their employees, managers in all fields from retail to call-centers and even banks and hospitals want to utilize the technology. What they don’t consider, however, is the way that increased surveillance might promote more than just good behavior.

In 2011, managers had installed cameras to monitor TSA employees as an attempt to stop the disappearance of baggage in airports. Instead, the TSA employees felt like they were in a fishbowl, being monitored continuously and dehumanized. Officers felt as though their managers were merely looking for a reason to discipline them.

Under such scrutiny, one tends to lose sight of the bigger picture, which ends up with employees feeling undervalued and over scrutinized.

The nature of coercive surveillance is cyclical; when a rise in monitoring happens, managers are led to distrust their employees, allowing managers to feel even more comfortable requesting more surveillance systems. This cycle continues until employees feel they can’t do anything without a Big-Brother-type presence, breathing down their neck at their every move.

While not all companies fall into this trap, increased monitoring can definitely backfire, leading to workers’ strikes and sometimes even quitting their jobs altogether.

Read the complete article here.

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