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Business Ethics: Employee Surveillance

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Growth in business and introduction of information technology has brought immense changes within the business world. Inevitably, these developments have increased competition and the need for business organization to perform. The practice of employee surveillance has served to ensure employees perform their duties as assigned by their employers, eliminating unethical work practices and guaranteeing peak performance in organizations. Moreover, with the increasing need to safeguard confidential information and proprietary data, business organizations have turned to employee surveillance for security purposes. However, employee surveillance is an issue that has raised ethical concerns within the business environment. Considering the unethical breach of workers’ right to personal privacy, this issue is critical to ensure business ethical practices are maintained by employers as well. Employment surveillance is highly effective in ensuring employees adhere to organizational regulations, nevertheless unethical nature of this approach necessitates use of alternatives approaches to foster good work ethics and maintain business performance.

            With technology developments, there are currently many practices involved in employee surveillance. Nowadays employees can be supervised from virtually any point. In the past traditional supervision methods ensured workers kept their hand on their assigned duties. Supervisors remained present in farms and kept track of their workers productivity and work rate, ensuring none left his job undone. From these traditional methods that contemporary employee surveillance systems have evolved from. Contemporary monitoring practices used by business organizations vary widely. Techniques utilized in surveillance include application of monitoring software, scanning e-mails, video surveillance, checking internet usage and the visited websites, monitoring phone calls and their destination, and monitoring employee location. Of great note is that monitoring employee ensures employees perform their duties effectively.

            As technology advances, more techniques are being introduced to foster surveillance out of the watchful eyes of the workers. Many business organizations use these techniques without disclosing to their employees about their monitoring programs. Other than the covert use of these programs without notifying company workers being considered unethical, there has been no general consensus on ethical means and grounds for the practice. As a matter of fact, not all practices have been agreed upon as ethical. This has in essence, left room for abuse and unethical use of these programs by employers even in situations where these programs have been made known to the employees.

Individual, Organizational and Societal Perception of Employee Surveillance

Employee surveillance is an issue that has raised ethical concerns from individual employees who criticize these programs as a violation of personal privacy. The fact that employers supervise every area of their employee’s private life at the work place has made majority of the workers resent this practice. Workers regard corporate unethical surveillance as unethical because of invasion of their privacy. Moreover, constant monitoring puts undue pressure and exerts stress on the employee, who has to be cautious of each move at work. Lowered morale results from discouraged employees. keeping track of the personal records, and using information obtained from the records for any reason, especially in demoting or even firing employees has been highly condemned. Individual workers view the use of surveillance methods as lack of trust and confidence in their service.

            The employers are criticized by their workers for the lack of privacy in the places of work, but they do have their own reasons. One of the chief reasons given for surveillance regards employee productivity. Not all workers adhere to their duties especially in the absence of their employers and superiors. Lack of supervision tends to reduce their effectiveness in performing their duties (Brown, 2005). With the rise in the use of information technology, especially in communication, businesses have come to rely on these on many areas. However, many workers especially those in direct contact with the internet have been found to spend considerable amount of working hours communicating with family and friends on social media networks. This ends up wasting company resources as well as time, which should have been spent on the work employees are legally paid to do. Such behavior cannot be considered morally right and employers regard this unethical behavior as a basis and support for carrying out stringent employee monitoring. Another justification is offered from the fact that employers own the resources use by the workers and thus have control over how they should be utilized. The practice is ethical to them as it curbs the rather unethical behavior practices in the workplace ensuring the organization maintains good repute. However, there is a general consensus among employees concerning boundaries of such programs.

            At the societal level, employer surveillance is viewed skeptically in spite of the fact that the measures do protect the population. Considering the great risk arising from sensitive information companies hold, it is imperative that such information is protected from unethical use. Proprietary data held by the organization may concern their customers, suppliers, shareholders, neighbors and other members of the society. It is agreeable that security measures are necessary to keep confidential information on these people safe from any illegal use. Employee monitoring becomes an essential security measure that would guarantee protection of these data from the unethical employee practices.

Alternatives to Employee Surveillance

            The unethical nature of employee surveillance arises from its nature of interfering with personal right to privacy of the organization’s employee. This arises from the fact that it does not respect or protect the employee’s moral rights personal privacy. Irrespective of this, alternative approaches can be put in place at the work premises to curb errant behavior and guarantee productivity.

            Establishing well structured ethical programs within the organization would provide the essential ethical guidance. This special department would coordinate development of business ethics within the organization and facilitate their implementation. This would in fact raise prevailing ethical standards and foster improvement in standards of conduct among employees. An ethics department would confer good work ethics within the organization, but at the same let the employees make their own decisions (Good Governance Program, 2004).

            Another alternative involves the business organization clearly articulating what it expects from its employees. This would outline the organization’s correct behavior according to the established culture and organizational practices (Brown, 2005). This includes their responsibilities assigned different positions, behavior at the workplace. These regulations would also point out employee behaviors considered violating the organizations stipulations. Outlining these regulations gives the worker an opportunity of making their own choices. In both alternatives, it is evident that some form of monitoring of work performance would be still essential to supervise progress and individual work rates.

Evaluation of Alternatives

            Using teleologicalism the first approach would ensure employees have knowledge to act ethically according to organizational standards. It at the same times can denote the fact that scrutiny of individual performance at work would be vital to ascertain the employee’s adherence to organizational regulations. Deontologicalism regards the first alternative as right based on dissemination of information on ethics. This empowers morally upright behavior in the workers. On the second alternative however, it will not sufficiently be considered the best option. In spite of it being morally right to produce regulations to the workers, it fails to implement ethical programs that will facilitate recommendable behavior among the employees.

Recommendation

            An alternative that does not in any violate the individual right to personal privacy is recommendable. Considering the two alternatives, the first approach will suit any organizational structure and effectively replace employment surveillance systems without compromising productivity. Individuals in these organizations will find the business ethics programs agreeable as they would not interfere with their personal privacy. Furthermore, it would foster trust and confidence in how they are viewed by their employee. Organizations will not have to spend resources on surveillance when their workforce is informed on the right behavior within the work place. Moreover, structured ethics departments would ensure employee issues are identified and discussed reducing chances of resentment from either side.

Conclusion

            In spite of its perceived effectiveness in fostering organizational performance, employee surveillance does breach vital individual rights to personal privacy. Business organizations monitoring employee activities within the work place, in many instances infringe upon this constitutional right. Adoption of other methods that will be considered ethical to all parties can minimize or totally replace the unethical employment surveillance. Establishing business ethics departments to facilitate all ethics programs within the organization is a suitable alternative to employee monitoring. The ethics department would ensure employees gain knowledge on best work ethics and appropriate behavior. It is an approach that will ensure the organizational goals of attaining peak performances and maintaining integrity are attained without compromising employee trust.

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