Dataveillance in the Workplace: Privacy Threat or Market Imperative?

Dataveillance in the Workplace: Privacy Threat or Market Imperative?

Regina Connolly
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7381-6.ch004
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The work environment is changing in response to market pressures, and the psychological contract that previously typified many employer and employee work relationships is coming under distinct threat as pervasive Internet-based technologies now enable management to monitor employees' email, computer interactions, and general work productivity. Although in some cases management may have legitimate reasons to monitor employees' actions, it is becoming increasingly evident that the use of these technologies has the potential to negatively impact employee productivity and morale, and in some cases employee health and wellbeing. This chapter outlines some of the emerging issues relating to workplace surveillance from the employees' perspective, as well as the motivation behind management's decision to employ technologies in order monitor their employees.
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A Shifting Context

As profit driven organisations strive to manage their business in an efficient and productive manner, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect that such organisations would not avail of the obvious empowering benefits that communication monitoring technologies afford them. Furthermore it can be argued that they may in fact have legitimate reasons to monitor employee actions in the first place. However, an inevitable outcome of these changes is that employees’ relationship with their employers is changing in line with the changing balance of power in the workplace.

For an employee, knowing that their performance is being monitored and that that information may against them as part of performance assessment or promotion evaluation exercises, changes their perspective of the parameters of the employment relationship. Employee-employer relationships are typically perceived as being a two-way exchange, with the focus squarely upon the perceptions of reciprocal promises and obligations of both parties (Guest, 2004). These perceived obligations form a psychological contract that has been described as an individual employees’ “belief in mutual obligations between that person and another party such as an employer” (Rousseau and Tijoriwala, 1998: 679). In short, employees have implicit and sometimes unvoiced expectations regarding employee contributions, in terms of effort, loyalty and ability for organizational inducements such as pay, promotion and job security (Morrison and Robinson, 1997; Conway and Briner, 2002).

However, the monitoring of performance presents a threat to that previously accepted contract and indeed can be perceived as a breach of expectations by the employer, which in turn can lead to feelings of injustice or betrayal of employees (Morrison and Robinson, 1997). Employees’ reactions to contract violation have been shown to effect their organizational commitment (Lemire and Rouillard, 2005), work satisfaction (Sutton and Griffin, 2003), job security (Kramer et al. 2005) and motivation (Lester et al. 2001), as well as increasing their stress levels (Gakovic and Tetrick, 2003). Trust and fairness are core aspects of any psychological contract (Guest 2004) and workplace surveillance presents a considerable threat to the previously perceived trustworthiness and fairness of employers who now have the potential to leverage performance information against employees.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Psychological Contract: The relationship and expectations between an employer and employee regarding behaviour and treatment.

Distributive Justice: The perception of being adequately recognised and appropriately rewarded for efforts.

Privacy: A state of being free from observance or disturbance.

Pervasive Technologies: Widely adopted technologies.

Interactional Justice: The perception that interactions with a third party such as an employer indicate sincerity and respect towards the employee.

Workplace Surveillance: Close observation of someone or some action in the workplace.

Monitoring of Employees: Systematic observance of an employee over a period of time.

Procedural Justice: The individuals’ perception that the organisation’s decision-making processes will be fair and just.

Informational Control: The right to have control over your personal information.

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