Lidl : Surveillance Case Study

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As long as there has been employment, employees have been monitored (Nebeker & Tatum, 1993). However as the progress of technology becomes more rapid and equipment for monitoring is available to all, surveillance in the workplace has become a more alarming issue and the boundaries of what is necessary and what is an invasion of privacy are very vague. A case study presented for scrutiny is that of the ‘German supermarket chain Lidl accused of snooping on staff’. Many employers appoint surveillance within the workplace for a variety of reasons such as safety, prevention of theft or misuse and performance checks. The issues identified within this article are that of whether the monitoring that was carried out was necessary or whether it breaches privacy rights and has a negative effect on the employee. Although this is the main issue highlighted in the article, there are many underlying problems within Lidl as an employer and an organization; which will be presented and scrutinized in this essay. The media source of the article is The Guardian which presents the occurring matters in a very negative light. However, the merging topics I will be using to provide impartial insight and further analysis into the subjects at hand are that of: stress at work, ethics and organizational culture.

As mentioned above, to further understand the article and the issues within it, it is useful to explore it through focus of stress at work. Cartwright and Cooper (1997, page 4) discuss the more modern concept of stress as “a person’s response to a disturbance” whereas Perrewe and Crandall (1995, page 5) say that “a transaction between the person and the environment is stressful only when it is evaluated by the person as a harm, threat or challenge to that persons well-being”. Intrinsic to job

Role in organization
Relationships at work
Career
Organizational Structure
Non-work factors
Individual
Individual symptoms
-blood pressure up
-Depression
-Excessive drinking
-Irritability
-Chest Pains

Organizational symptoms
-High absenteeism
-High staff turnover
-Industrial relations problems
-Poor quality work

Figure 1 – Dynamics of work stress – Cartwright and Copper The model below portrays the different sources of stress an individual may acquire and the effects that these can have both on the individual and the organization they are a part of.

In relation to the Lidl case-study the factors that are intrinsic to the job include that of working conditions that arise from surveillance, such as close monitoring and restrictions (appendix 1).

Nebeker and Tatum (1993) carried out experiments to investigate the effects of computer monitoring on productivity, work quality, satisfaction and stress. They found that there were no significant negative effects of computer monitoring on the individuals. This would suggest that the surveillance that occurred in Lidl would not be part of the intrinsic factors to cause stress to the employees, if there was any. However a criticism of their study was that it was in an experimental setting and it can be argued that it is the intention behind the surveillance and the consequence of it in the workplace (that was absent in the experiments) that has negative effects on employees. Although stress may not occur from the surveillance itself, it can from the issues that arise from it such as inspection of employee’s coats and handbags when leaving the store (appendix 1.1). In a real work setting the over-stimulation from managerial work can cause stress to the employee where as within manual work, it is the factors of under-stimulation such as boring, repetitive work and lack of control or autonomy that are the source of stress (Bosma et al; cited by Wilson 2004). This interlinks with the section of Organizational Structure in figure 1 “Just being a part of an organization can present threats to a person’s sense of freedom and autonomy” (Cartwright and Cooper, 1997, page 20) which is...
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