Thursday, February 24, 2022

I hate “Tattleware”

I thought I had my next Worst Employer nominee. News broke yesterday of the mass exodus of employees from real estate company CoStar after allegations came to light of the company spying on work-from-home employees through the cameras on the company-issued laptops. I even had the post written. 

But in further researching the issue I came across this story that ran yesterday on the Today Show: 'Tattleware': How your boss might be tracking your remote activity

Its use skyrocketed as most companies switched to a work-from-home model during the Covid-19 pandemic.

[I]f you work at a company with more than 500 employees, there's a good chance that some form of surveillance software is installed on your work devices. …

Different types of surveillance software can take pictures of everything on your screen, track every keystroke you make, log your emails and messages, note how long you spend on certain websites or apps, or even make video or audio recordings of you at home. …

This software may be installed on employees' work laptops, phones or tablets without their knowledge.

I hate this type of employee monitoring. Employers that try to regulate employees' use of workplace technologies in this way are fighting a Sisyphean battle. I call it the iPhone-ification of the American workforce. No matter your policy trying to monitor your technology and your employees' related productivity, if your employees can take their smartphones out of their pockets to circumvent your efforts, how can you effectively police anything? Why have a policy you cannot police and enforce? While legal, it also feels creepy and intrusive. (Check your state laws; some require notice to the employee or their consent.)

Instead of regulating an issue you cannot hope to control, treat employees' use of technology for what it is — a performance issue. If an employee is not performing up to standards because he or she is spending too much time on non-work activities, then address the performance problem. Counsel, discipline, and ultimately terminate if the performance does not improve. A slacking employee, however, will not become a star performer just because you watch their social media access, keep an eye on how often they shop on Amazon, or montior their Spotify playlists. They will just find another way and will resent you for a perceived intrusion on their privacy. Instead of wasting your resources to fight a battle you cannot win, reapportion them to win battles worth fighting.

We ask so much of our employees, even more so during Covid. If my employee wants to spend some personal time during the workday on their computer, I just don't care. I only care when it reaches the level of a distraction that impacts performance. Then, however, we are treating the performance problem, not the technology problem — which is the appropriate and practical solution.

To put it another way, if you don't trust your employees to do their jobs, why are you employing them in the first place?