ARG-067

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

“A recent national survey found that the majority of workers with access to the Internet at work had used company computers for personal or recreational activities, such as banking or playing games. In an effort to improve our employees’ productivity, we should implement electronic monitoring of employees’ Internet use from their workstations. Using electronic monitoring software is the best way to reduce the number of hours Climpson employees spend on personal or recreational activities. We predict that installing software to monitor employees’ Internet use will allow us to prevent employees from wasting time, thereby increasing productivity and improving overall profits.”


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the prediction and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the prediction.


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 I sympathize with the vice president’s intention to enhance the staff’s working efficiency, I highly doubt that this recommendation is reasonable. To better assess the vice president’s proposal, I need answers to several questions, which concern, but may go beyond, the necessity and effectiveness of this policy.

Firstly, I need to know whether there is sufficient need to initiate the electronic monitoring software at Climpson Industries. 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, we still need to question whether such behavior has reached a point that has impaired their working efficiency and therefore jeopardized the overall profits of Climpson. If the answer turns out to be yes, then I agree with the vice president and wholly support the application of the electronic monitoring software; otherwise, 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 efficiency of this software in preventing people from wasting time is open to doubt. On the one hand, even if the software is implemented, 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. On the other hand, 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.

Even if the usage of the electronic monitoring software generates a subsequent conspicuous decrease of employee distraction, the question remains unanswered whether this software will further contribute to increased productivity and overall profits. Specifically we need to ask if the usage of this software will 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, then the predicted result of this recommendation are not guaranteed, and we may need to abandon the proposal.

To summarize, while I fully understand the vice president’s desire to boost the company’s overall productivity and profits, I withhold my approval of the recommendation until he/she can provide clear answers to the aforementioned questions.

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