Thursday, April 5, 2012

Advantages and Disadvantages of Employee Electronic Monitoring

This report is intended for the management to give them a clear view about electronic monitoring, its advantages and disadvantages, how it should be used and the ethical issues behind implementing it.

Introduction and Historical Information about Management Monitoring

Employers supervise and monitor employee’s to evaluate them and it’s the supervisor’s responsibility to make sure that his staff are working inline with organizations policy and achieving the organizations goals. This is not a new concept or trend, in the last century Fredrick Taylor introduced the “Scientific Management” and separation of control from the actual work, where management decides and controls performance and ways to achieve it, while employees do the work. Later after this concept, which was basically, fits factories and production lines more than the new working environments. There are two sides for the coin in this trend, for the employee it is an attack to his privacy and from the employee point of view it’s an efficiency tool (US Congress, 1987).

Considering McGregor’s “conventional conception of management’s task” or theory X as he named it, where the management needs to control and make use of the human’s energy to best suit the organization, and at the same time it’s responsible to organize all elements to ensure productive organization, as well in his theory people need to be motivated, controlled, and as a result their doings to fit the organizations needs, he thinks that because people by nature are lazy and tend to challenge organization’s needs, the need to be guided. (McGregor, 1954) Monitoring for employees will give the management a better view on how their employee’s are spending their time, discovering their weaknesses and guide them to what best suits the organization. Where in theory Y McGregor’s that is more appropriate with our time and suits more the modern working environment, in this theory he assumes that the management is responsible for facilitating all elements needed to build a productive environment in terms of tools, people and money to best suit beneficial incomes for the organization, in addition to that and contrast with his X theory he thinks that people are not lazy by nature nor standing against organization’s needs, but became like that due to working experience with different organizations, people motivation, directing them to fulfill organizational needs do exist in people but needs direction from management to make people recognize this potential in them and develop it, last he thinks that the main and most crucial task for management is to position organizational environment and ways to operate so that people can achieve their objects and manages to direct their energies to fulfill organizational objectives and goals (McGregor, 1954). As I mentioned earlier it’s more realistic to follow theory Y than theory X or Taylor’s Scientific Management theory in todays working environment, as people feel resistant to be controlled and prefer to be treated as adults who can control them selves (McGregor, 1954).

Those theories and specially Taylor’s because adopted by offices and not only factories brought new trend of monitoring to offices and recording for staff working hours and well by connecting machines to calculate keystrokes types in typewriters, which proved to be a useful tool to encourage employees and increate performance  (McGregor, 1954).

Advantages and Disadvantages

As technology advanced and the use of the computerized systems, whether PC, laptop, Smart phone, IP phones and a lot more, it became more easy and more convenient to monitor users electronically instead of the manager keeps checking on his employees which might invade their right to privacy. As monitoring tools can run in the background and monitor employees web browsing habits, if its work related or not, monitoring and recording phone calls between customers and employees or employees and employees and a lot more; it would be more fair than managerial direct monitoring. Those automated tools don’t discriminate, and provides human-friendly reports, which can be used to evaluate performance, address customer needs or employees working behavior. It can help in developing employee’s skills in certain area, for example and employee who is digital immigrant, and proved by the tool that he lacks for skills in using the computer system can be sent into training to help developing his skills. As well, it differentiates well performers than non-performers or less, it helps management to estimate cost, plan and direct employees to organizations objectives if need be.

Some disadvantages may be recorded against the electronic monitoring or monitoring of employees in general, it may be considered as a breach to employees privacy, or stress as being watched and monitored all the time, as well the feeling that this monitoring criteria is not really suitable and not fair, as well employee might feel like machines that they have to work without stopping or they will be evaluated as non performers.

Ethical Issues and Stakeholders

Electronic monitoring and employee surveillance as other new technology trends can be ethical or unethical depends on the way it is used, the purpose of it and where is it used. If the employees are notified about such monitoring it is considered ethical based as no law prevents the employer from monitoring office premises. Main ethical issues cited regarding electronic monitoring are the effect of this system on the employee’s health, which is caused by stress, and privacy breach. Some employees believe they have the right to check personal emails during working hours and make personal phone calls, on the other hand for the employer it might cost him money and time if employees use work equipment and time in personal staff. On the other hand, employees believe that emails sent to them should be considered private and not being read by someone else, but for the employer it’s the organizations email system and organizations equipment is used which gives him the right to monitor it.

Stakeholders are the employee, employer and the government as it sets the law, which permits or prohibits and controls level of monitoring to be allowed, its effects on employees appraisal and career.


We need to identify the tasks that will be covered under electronic monitoring, create clear Internet and communications usage policy, with guidelines on how to follow it, as well clear punishment like termination for abuse of organizations resources based on the policy. Such policy should minimize or limit the number of employees refusing to obey employer because it will make the picture clear for them about what is ethical and what is not. On the other hand, employee training on communication proper usage to fit organizations needs and awareness on ethical and unethical behavior should be considered. As well, business code of ethics should be developed.
Mainly the policy should cover:

·      Use of business email on personal communication is prohibited.
·      Use of organizations computers should be limited to work related maters and not to install or download personal software on it.
·      Personal phone-calls and other way of communication should be done during break hours.
·      Employees should be informed by writing that Electronic monitoring is happening and that the results of such monitoring if affecting employee performance will be shared with the employee to guide, assist and train him how to best use organizational resources to fulfill employer’s requirements.


Mallo, J., Nordstrom, C. R., Bartels, L. K. and Traxler, A. (2007), The Effect of Age and Task Difficulty. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 20: 49–63. doi: 10.1111/j.1937-8327.2007.tb00431.x [Online], Available from:
(Accessed 15 March 2011)

McGregor, D. (1954) ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’, [Online], Available from:

Panina, D. and Aiello, J. (2005), ‘Acceptance of electronic monitoring and its consequences in different cultural contexts: A conceptual model’ doi:10.1016/j.intman.2005.03.009 [Online], Available from:
(Accessed 15 March 2011)

(Accessed 15 March 2011)

U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. (1987). ‘The electronic supervisor: New technology, new tensions’. (OTA-CIT-333). Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office. [Online], Available from: (Accessed 14 March 2011)