Employee monitoring software and the minefield of unintended consequences

Here, we look at the value of employee monitoring software for small businesses.

Privacy proponents and worker advocates have been griping about the growing presence of employee monitoring software in the workplace for years, but to little effect.

Concerned about protecting their legitimate business concerns, employers are becoming convinced that keeping tabs on employees’ workplace activities and communications through electronic surveillance tools like Mobistealth is of vital importance.

Challenging such a notion isn’t easy as there is enough documented evidence available to quash any counter-argument.

That, however, doesn’t change the fact that introducing a digital big brother in the workplace isn’t always the smartest business move.

On the contrary, it can create enough turbulence in the workplace to completely disrupt a company’s smooth functioning and overwhelm it through unexpected consequences.

Incongruent with positive work culture

The significance of work culture in fostering employee commitment and motivation has been highlighted by business gurus and researchers time and time again. For a company to sail towards its goals, it’s imperative that the workforce embraces responsibility and dedicates itself wholeheartedly to the cause.

Bringing employee monitoring software onboard has a huge tendency to pollute the existing environment by triggering dissatisfaction and instilling a sense of insecurity. Text messages and chat conversations get monitored, web history gets logged, location is tracked, and emails are scrutinised.

A workplace that previously felt like home starts to give the feel of a boot camp. Such cultural shift may prove beneficial in the short run, but is likely to cause damaging to the company and its reputation in the long run.

A wrong message is sent

Employers sometimes tend to forget that the people working for them have feelings too. By bringing them under electronic surveillance, they offend the latter big time by making them feel untrustworthy. It’s not completely unjustified to keep an eye on employees’ workplace activities and communications as smartphone and internet privileges do commonly get abused.

However, what the employers need to realise is that not every employee is irresponsible, crooked, or lazy. In fact, only 1 per cent or less of the workplace may actually do something to damage the company’s interests in the absence of employee monitoring software.

Consumed by paranoia, employers tend to suspect every single employee of posing a substantial risk to the company.

Even worse, they don’t even make an effort to hide this suspicion. Such display of distrust is not taken well by employees, who may respond by slowly walking towards the exit.

Effect on employer-employee relationship

The arrival of employee monitoring software in the workplace marks the beginning of a silent war between employers and employees.

Employers want their workforce to perform to the best of their abilities and deliver best-possible results swiftly. For that purpose, keeping a close eye on employees’ smartphone, computer, and internet usage seems logical.

Employees, on the other hand, are not too happy with having their activities and communications monitored watched by the management. To them, it’s a blatant invasion of privacy and a huge blow to their workplace freedom, which includes watching cat videos and sharing hilarious memes.

It doesn’t take long for privacy and freedom to turn into a point of contention between the two, with neither side ready to make any compromise on their stance.

This wedge keeps growing wide with the passage of time, before eventually causing the employee to either quit, or find themselves fired.

Related: Can I monitor my staff while they are homeworking?

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Employee performance

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