In this case study, Dominion-Swann (DS) has implemented a “radical restructuring of the work environment” in order to regain control of its employees. By 1990, DS had been suffering from a number of business woes. It was not keeping pace with its competition, employee turnover had increased substantially, health costs and work-related accidents were rising, and employee theft was at an all-time high. Instead of identifying and addressing the underlying business and management problems, DS decided to treat the symptoms by turning to SciexPlan Inc. to help radically restructure the work environment through the use of employee monitoring technology.
DS has justified its work environment restructuring based on past failures rather than future goals for success. The company has created a system to compile a comprehensive database of information on every employee. DS also monitors its employees in all aspects of their job, subjecting them to constant evaluation and productivity tests. The massive amount of information collected on each employee is supposed to allow DS to objectively manage personnel and make job assignments that provide the greatest efficiency. Instead, DS has created an impersonal monitoring, surveillance, and detection system designed to lay traps for employees and shape their behavior without any managerial effort.
Has DS become so consumed with its “radical restructuring of the work environment” that it has prioritized technology and control over the welfare, creativity, and productivity of its people?
Analysis and Issues
Digital technology has made an undeniably profound impact, both positive and negative, on the workplace. When implemented properly, the benefits of this impact can include increased productivity, improved safety, better working conditions, and enhanced communications between employees, management, and customers. However, an exceedingly obsessive employee monitoring system will create tedious and stressful working conditions, loss of employee privacy, and fear which will result in reduced levels of creativity and productivity. By implementing an overly zealous system for employee monitoring, DS is significantly aggravating the tension that exists between surveillance technology and employee privacy concerns. DS wants to monitor employees in order to reward effort, knowledge, productivity, and success while eliminating idleness, ignorance, theft, and failure. Instead, it is treating its workers like pieces of equipment rather than unique and valuable individuals. DS has basically transformed the workplace into an all-encompassing electronic prison where nearly every aspect of an employee's behavior is monitored. The DS managers who monitor every move that employees make are accomplishing efficiency objectives at a sizeable cost. Monitoring and surveillance can create a high stress environment for employees that can lead to physiological and psychological stress-related illnesses. Covert surveillance at DS will do nothing but increase fears, anxieties, and distrust among employees. The impersonal aspect of technological surveillance diminishes employees’ concepts of their value, contribution, and self-worth. The all-encompassing surveillance implemented by DS will destroy any hope for employees to make decisions and act autonomously. Autonomy is a critical component to on-the-job independence that maximizes worker morale. Although DS has justification for some amount of employee monitoring in order to successfully evaluate employee performance, it has taken employee surveillance to the point where it will adversely affect productivity. When employees do not feel that they are trusted, their desire to perform well is lessened. The employee screening process DS has implemented brings up additional privacy concerns. Any investigation of employee activities and...