Trust or Control?

by Aug 15, 20220 comments

A recent New York Times  article titled, “The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score” describes how companies are monitoring their employees—counting keystrokes, measuring time taken for bathroom breaks and more. It describes radiologists who see scoreboards charting their “inactivity” time and even a hospice pastor who faked patient visits to avoid being penalized for not completing enough encounters.

This is a “chicken-or-egg” puzzle isn’t it? If we trusted employees and, more importantly, inspired them, would we need to “measure” them by the keystroke? And if this kind of surveillance is in the company’s DNA, and their leadership style, does it erode, and ultimately, destroy trust altogether?

This “Big Brother” approach is so alien to my thinking. The rule in my company (and my advice to clients) has always been:

  1. Take as much time as you need for vacation and personal matters – there will be no limits or measurements.
  2. Be prepared to work long and hard if necessary, even if it might occasionally intrude on your “down-time”, to meet client needs or unusual deadlines.
  3. The only measure we will use are a) Are you happy and inspired in your work?, and 2) Have we successfully completed each assignment or project?

This is a give-and-take approach, based on mutual generosity. Measuring the keystrokes, or employee time on the job, is a throwback to industrial era time cards that measured employee attendance, usually in factories. Have we not learned anything about the human spirit in the last 100 years?

We can look through the telescope both ways. Looking through the wrong end, the objective lens (the big end), we may see untrustworthy and lazy employees who will cheat their employer and goof off much of the time.  But looking through the correct end, the eyepiece lens (the small end), we see human spirits who always want to do well and contribute to something meaningful.

Which end of the telescope do you look through? How do you choose to view the world?