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Surveilling Employees Erodes Trust — and Puts Managers in a Bind

There’s a growing movement to track employee productivity through increasingly sophisticated technology, such as desktop surveillance, biometric smart badges, location tracking, or desk heat sensors. While this can be intrusive, it also presents opportunities for gaining profound insights into employee behavior, such as which applications employees use most frequently or whether employees are at risk of overworking based on their work patterns and productivity. While the ultimate decision to use these technologies typically comes from upper management, implementation and utilization of such systems typically falls on supervisors. New research suggests that when information obtained through monitoring is used for control purposes (e.g., performance review), employees were more likely to engage in counterproductive behavior, such as time thievery, inattentiveness, cyberloafing, or tardiness. However, when the information obtained through monitoring was used for feedback, employees continued to trust and maintain positive relationships with their supervisors and performed better in their jobs.

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