Email Monitoring

Topics: Privacy, Surveillance, Employment Pages: 15 (4531 words) Published: May 3, 2013
Proceedings of ASBBS

Volume 19 Number 1


ABSTRACT This paper examines, through an exploratory empirical study, how employees feel about electronic monitoring in context of the psychological contract they have with their employer. This paper expands research related to psychological contracts as no scholarly research incorporating technological monitoring and surveillance effects on the psychological contract from the employee’s perspective is known to exist. After reviewing literature related to psychological contracts and relevant literature related to expectancy theory, equity theory and agency theory and the organization’s right to protect itself four hypotheses are proposed. Using a survey created for the study the four hypotheses are tested using a convenience sample of employees of a small, southern academic institution. Results are then presented followed by discussion, conclusions and limitations and suggestions for further research. INTRODUCTION In the past twenty years the rapidly changing attributes of technology can be seen throughout the embededness and integration in both an individuals’ personal and professional lives. The diffusion of computers and information technology into the organization setting has forever changed the relationship between the employee and employer. Technology advances have affected the employers’ needs and expectations as well as employee behaviors and role responsibilities. These changes have mandated new roles of technology monitoring and surveillance efforts by the organization in an attempt to increase performance, decrease abuses and/or waste, and control undesirable employee behaviors. Methods incorporated to assist in monitoring include electronic monitoring of email communications, website viewing, computer keystroke capturing, listening in on phone calls, video surveillance, etc. The rate of organizations engaged in some form of electronic employee monitoring has been steadily increasing over the past ten years (Firoz et al, 2006: Fazekas, 2004). A survey done in 2001, by the American Management Association (AMA), reports that 82% of employers are using some form of electronic monitoring in the workplace and by 2005, the same AMA annual survey, reported 76% of organizations are engaged in tracking Internet usage (DePree and Jude, 2006). Email communications alone are reported to be monitored and tracked by 52% of organizations studied (AMA, 2003). However, The Center for Business Ethics, in 2003, asserted

ASBBS Annual Conference: Las Vegas


February 2012

Proceedings of ASBBS

Volume 19 Number 1

that as high as 92% of all organizations electronically monitor and track their employees in some form or another (Firoz et al, 2006). With this increasing use of electronic monitoring in the workplace other issues of ethics, trust, procedural fairness, and employee reactions come to the forefront of organizational settings and effectiveness. Common sense dictates that monitoring can be used effectively to assist the organization in improving performance and protecting itself from potential hazardous behaviors and wasteful actions from employees However, what is the psychological cost that employees pay from constant surveillance, and does it hinder the organization in the maximum attainment of its goals? Legal and ethically debates on electronic monitoring and surveillance in the workplace has brought about little to no consensus and the contextual landscape surrounding this issue still seems vague and obscure. When it comes to electronic surveillance and monitoring the law does not explicitly define workplace rights and/or responsibilities of the employee or the employer. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act (1986) comes closest to creating a...
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