You Never Know When Manager is Watching

Is that a workstation or a sound stage? Should we assume that we’re
‘on camera’ every day?

You may be an unwitting video star, so keep your hair combed and “Smile! You’re on candid camera!” For some people, the camera adds ten pounds; for others, it adds worry lines.

Many organizations have installed electronic surveillance equipment to do what they wish their supervisors could or would do – reduce or prevent pilferage, inefficiency, and inappropriate behavior to make their property a safe and comfortable environment for workers and customers.

It would be smart for the organization to have a written policy that spells out exactly when and where employees are subject to being recorded, who may monitor those recordings, and how corrective actions may be applied as a result of such recordings. Restrooms are presumed out of bounds, but every work area must be considered potentially open areas for electronic surveillance, including parking lots.

The choice to video tape activities is an admission that everything the organization would like to monitor can’t successfully be tracked by its management staff, so technology is being used to help management extend its powers of observation. The weakness is that video shows visible behaviors, but not actual results. That is, to the camera, a person taking a nap and a person solving a problem might look the same.

“How should employees behave when they know or suspect they’re on camera?” Pretty much the same way they act when the supervisor is watching – which ideally should be the same as when the supervisor is out of town. Just do the job.

Reality is that most recordings are stored for a while and then recorded over without ever being seen. Nobody has time to review every recorded moment. For the most party, images aren’t used in an attempt to discover people doing wrong; they’re reviewed only for confirmation when there’s another reason to suspect a misdeed and the recording is needed as proof.

If an employee doesn’t create suspicion, their recorded activities are boring and will be ignored, then taped over. If it hurts your ego to be ignored by the cameras, then make a habit of waving to them.

Not just cameras

If you worry about being recorded, remember that cameras aren’t the only devices in the snooping arsenal. If your company really wants to know what you’re doing, it can get a much sharper picture of your day by monitoring your computer activities. When you work on a company-provided computer linked into a company network, every word you type, every e-mail you send and receive, and every file you delete become part of your work record and can be screened for inappropriate behavior.

If you use a company cell phone, vehicle, or fax machine, they have that many more tools to track, diagnose, and be ‘intrusive.’

How should you act with all these technological tools potentially aimed in your direction? Exactly the way you want to be perceived by your employer, with or without spyware: on-time, loyal, honest, dedicated, productive, respectful, and looking sharp! Each of us is happiest when we just act like ourselves. The few who engage in unlawful or inappropriate activity call attention to themselves with results that make them targets of video analysis.

Video surveillance is part of the contemporary landscape and will become even more prevalent as the technology gets better, smaller, and cheaper. If you complain about cameras, it will only make the organization wonder why their presence matters so much to you. Let a camera hold no more interest than a smoke detector. You know it’s there, but it doesn’t make any difference unless there’s a fire to detect.
– by Gregory Lay, Accidental Career editor