ARG-012

The vice president of human resources at Climpson Industries sent the following recommendation to the company's president.

"In an effort to improve our employees' productivity, we should implement electronic monitoring of employees' Internet use from their workstations. Employees who use the Internet from their workstations need to be identified and punished if we are to reduce the number of work hours spent on personal or recreational activities, such as shopping or playing games. By installing software to detect employees' Internet use on company computers, we can prevent employees from wasting time, foster a better work ethic at Climpson, and improve our overall profits."


Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


In this recommendation, the vice president proposes the usage of electronic monitoring software at Climpson Industries. He/she further predicts that such software would help preclude the employees from wasting time and thereby increase their productivity, in turn contributing to an overall increase in profits. While the conclusion is valid to some extent, the reasoning of this argument is unconvincing due to several unsubstantiated assumptions which, if proven wrong, will seriously challenge the author’s conclusion.

Firstly, the author’s conclusion highly relies on an assumption that there is sufficient need to initiate the electronic monitoring software at Climpson Industries. However, this assumption is potentially problematic. While the vice presidents refers to a recent national survey which shows the tendency of most workers to spend work time on personal or recreational activities, I question whether this also occurs at Climpson. If the employees at Climpson are highly self-disciplined and will in all circumstances refrain from participating in distracting activities, then the vice president’s recommendation is deprived of a significant premise and is thereby unreasonable.

Even if some employees at Climpson do spend some time engaging in personal or recreational activities, the author’s solution could still be unnecessary due to another unwarranted assumption that such behavior has reached a point that has impaired their working efficiency and therefore jeopardized the overall profits of Climpson. However, if it turns out that the employees’ behavior is not negative enough to influence the company’s profit, the suggestion might need further consideration.

Granted there are a significant number of employees at Climpson who are distracted by non-working activities, which supports adoption of the electronic monitoring software, the author’s conclusion could be challenged because of another unsubstantiated assumption concerning the efficiency of this software in preventing people from wasting time. Will the employees try various means to avoid detection? In all likelihood, they would. If the employees manage to elude the monitoring software, then the effort to prevent them from wasting time on personal or recreational activities will have been in vain. Also, even if this software impedes employees from becoming distracted by online activities, will they choose to waste their time in other ways instead? These may include snoozing or chatting. We cannot know the answer to this. Employees who are by nature sluggish will always be reluctant to work without distraction and any policy against their sloth will likely be futile. In these cases, the author’s assumption will be challenged and the solution will be invalid.

Even if the usage of the electronic monitoring software generates a subsequent conspicuous decrease of employee distraction, the author’s conclusion still lies on another assumption that this software will further contribute to increased productivity and overall profits. However, this assumption will be challenged upon several questions. Will the usage of this software provoke discontent or resent from the employees? Will this later lead to a subsequent decline in the staff’s productivity? In addition, is the cost of installing this software prohibitively high? Will software maintenance require additional cost? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the author’s assumption will be undermined and then the predicted result of this recommendation are not guaranteed, and we may need to abandon the proposal.

Consequently, while the author’s conclusion appears appealing, the questionable assumptions discussed above may deprive it of its feasibility.

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