How Big Brothers destroy themselves

By: Together Abroad 31-08-2015

Categories:* Ethics ,

A few years ago I met with an acquaintance of mine for a drink. He moved to the Netherlands a month ago after he has accepted an employment offer from one of small local companies. During our meeting I got to know that he was fired. The reason for that is that he sent from his work email to his private email a work-related file. On my question whether he knew that he was not allowed to use any work related materials/information outside of the office, his answer was negative. Since he could not access his work related materials from anywhere else, but his work laptop, and could not access the office at all times, he wanted to work on this file over the weekend to get up to speed with his responsibilities. According to my acquaintance, it was not confidential information.

The interesting part is that apparently, his employer was checking his emails. He did not know about it. He also did not know for how long his email correspondence was monitored and whether there was any other type of monitoring happening. The Director came and told him that he is fired without giving any opportunity to explain why this happened.

It turned out that my acquaintance was not the only one whose email correspondence and working files were checked. In that company the monitoring of employees at all levels, including line management, took place. This was one of the many reasons of high turnover.

What kind of message such monitoring sends to employees? It does not indicate any trust, does it? However, this monitoring can take a different turn if an employer mentions that some monitoring will be applicable from time to time (due to whatever very good reason clearly explained to employees) or just in the beginning to make sure that the newcomer’s performance and adaptation goes smoothly.

My acquaintance was sending the file with the good intention to get up to speed, however, it turned out that he breached the company rules/ethics that he was not informed about. You might say that it is common sense to keep your work related information only within your work area, and you will be right. But every company works in its own way. In another company, maybe, this intention would have been rewarded (extra effort to get up to speed during your time off). If you want your people to comply with your rules, make them clear and be honest with your people.

It is your business and you have the right to protect it. But is such monitoring the best way to protect it? You want your people to be loyal, responsible, professional and ethical? Be loyal, responsible, professional and ethical yourself. Employers have access to almost everything: files the employees store, the information on the websites they visit, incoming and outgoing calls, etc. Employees can be watched at any time. Quite a lot of companies are also installing the surveillance cameras. For different reasons. This is all fine, as long as you, the employer, talk about it with your people and explain them the necessity for this. If you want people to comply with something, let them know what your rules are. At least you let them know and it is up to them to accept it or not. This is a short-term success solution though.

More importantly, become such an employer where all this monitoring is not needed. Be supportive, inspiring, trusting; make people proud of being a part of your team. In this case there will be no fear that an employee misuses any information related to their work. You will not need to watch people because you will empower them to take responsibility and ownership, and they will treat your company like it is their own. Do that on all levels of your organisation and inspire your line managers to be the same. What if somebody breaches your privacy and monitors you, as an employer? Would you like it? I doubt that somebody likes to be watched (especially like this); definitely not your top talent. You will not retain them by such monitoring, but you will by giving them trust and becoming their partner, rather than being their Big Brother.

By: Liubovi Bosenko