+Scott Watson

Friday, 15 May 2009

Spying or Simply Positive Performance Management?

Airbus are in the news due to a supposed 'spying scandal' . A previous management board allegedly spied on staff between 2005 and 2007 in what was deemed to be a positive step to identify and deal with instances of corruption amongst its ranks. The BBC reported that the checks were to see if any employees bank accounts had any links to those of the company's suppliers.

But is this a bad thing or a good thing? Corporate surveillance can be perceived as a distinct absence of trust for employees but on the other side of the coin, isn't it also a very positive step the company's former bosses took to ensure that their company's business was being run honestly and transparently? Not that it is an act of transparency to secretly 'spy' on staff - but I suppose that informing everyone in advance of such a project would defeat the whole object of the exercise!

In the instances of the Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat scandals, if the cameras have been focused firmly on the leaders of the organisations the fall-out would have been reduced significantly. But, as it is on most occasions the leader/s who authorise such a practice, they are unlikely to promote such a practice for themselves.

A certain Mr Madoff is also in the news. His alleged multi-million dollar fraud could have and some commentators say, should have been avoided if his company's accounts had been audited by a genuinely independent accountancy practice.

We may have to accept that in some situations, actively observing and indeed investigating employee behaviour (from the very top downwards) is a very good thing. Moving away from the old adage 'if you've nothing to hide, there's nothing to be concerned about' to 'it's in everyone's best interests that we all demonstrate transparency'. Remember in the UK in the 1970's where a car manufacturer British Leyland identified that some of its assembly line workers were stealing car parts from their employer - not to sell or indeed use the parts individually. At the expense of British Leyland, they were building their own cars at home!

Is there a difference between 'spying' and 'managing quality'? Is it the intention on which the action is based? If you don't trust your boss, isn't it likely we will view it as spying or micro management, whereas if we do trust our boss, we are more likely to view it as a genuine corporate requirement?

How do you perform when you feel you aren't being trusted? How would you respond if your employer was found to have been watching your every move?


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