Among the many things trending in today’s world organization environments is workplace privacy. In all organizations, size notwithstanding, both the managers and the employees are involved in communication and other activities not directly related to their job description duties and roles. For instance, a certain worker might check personal mail using the company’s internet and computer facilities or make a private call to friends or relatives on his or her work telephone at any time. With these, the concept of privacy at the workplace refers to the extent to which employers monitor, collect information on communication, activities and private lives of their workers.
Ethical Issues in Monitoring Employee Activities
The issue of employee workplace monitoring raises complex discussions in today’s world business organizations. Questions often asked with respect to this issue include if companies should monitor their employees while at work, what actions the companies should monitor, and what types of monitoring should be considered acceptable (Yerby 2013, 44). In light of this, it is clear that the act of monitoring workers by their employees is quite a controversial practice on the rise today and involving the consideration of various ethical issues.
The monitoring of employees at their workplace culminates into a debate about whether an employee should have the right of privacy or not. However, this topic of employee monitoring brings up ethical questions as well. In the technologically world of today, the ethical issues are many and diverse starting from employees downloading pornographic content, placing personal websites on company owned servers, or even placing offensive images as desktop and computer screen savers. The ethical issues from the employer’s perspective differ from what most employees consider ethical or unethical. From the employee’s point of view, it is possible for a business organization to act unethically in the process of monitoring keystrokes, accessing private e-mails, or providing inadequate equipment that could possible result to physical employee injury. Such extents of strict monitoring create rulings and workplace decisions capable of disciplining the employees for just taking a legitimate work break. Essentially, the monitoring programs fail to recognize instances when employees are genuinely incapable of delivering their assigned duties. This culminates into the employer getting wrong and biased incomplete data concerning the employee’s workmanship.
More so, the various monitoring programs commonly used such as key loggers have a tendency to be invasive. For example, Assentor is a sophisticated monitoring program incorporated in a number of organizations to screen all incoming e-mails in search of contents relating to racism, sexism, or pornography. Assentor assigns offensiveness scores to each e-mail it screens and forwards the e-mails with higher scores to a supervisor for review. Although the intention is to monitor certain ethical concepts, the supervisor ends up getting private information about most of the employees through browsing through their emails. In summary, looking at employee monitoring from an ethical perspective, it is good to regulate the practice. Unfortunately, the current laws and standards do not provide sufficient guidelines for regulating ethical employee workplace monitoring.
Overcoming the Ethical Issues in Employee Monitoring
In as much as employee workplace monitoring poses so much ethical issues especially relating to the concept of privacy in the workplace, monitoring remains to be one of the most efficient way used by employers to check the effectiveness of the employees and lower their liability with respect to what is expected of them. However, maintaining a watchful eye in the workplace through monitoring requires the managers to apply certain strategies that limit the chances of infringing on the employees’ privacy.
One way is through the incorporation of knowledge management systems to ensure productivity as well as limit the legal liability risk. The knowledge management systems are suitable for effectively helping an organization to sufficiently monitor its employees alongside providing them with benefits of improved performance and increased organizational awareness (Yerby 2013, 52). In this respect, an organization should incorporate acceptable use policies that outline ways in which employees can use organization systems and the privacy expectations inclined on them. However, the task of creating and updating the knowledge management systems should not solely depend on the IT department alone. Instead, it should incline on tea efforts including representatives from human resource, legal counsel, and the inputs from the IT group who decides what data will be available in monitoring reports.
Furthermore, employers should consider the fact that many employees have the notion that personal computer use at workplaces is private. In light of this, the managers should ensure that there is a policy on computer usage that clearly illustrates to the employees that they should not expect whatsoever level of privacy with any information they put in the computer system networks of their employer’s organization. In addition, the employees should also make clear statements against guaranteeing privacy in the e-mail communications, alongside any other means of electronic communication system integrated within the organization structure.
Summing the facts up, organizations deserve the right to monitor their employees so as to maintain productivity and protect themselves as well as the employees. Even the American Civil Liberties Union agrees to that. However, during the process of monitoring, the organizations should employ various safeguards so as to enhance the ethical aspect of that practice by protecting the wellbeing of all parties involved, especially the privacy of the employees.