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Spy on Your Employees, Make The Great Resignation Worse

Illustration of woman on video screen.

By Danielle Boris 

While sitting at lunch with two male co-founders who started their company out of college, I saw the divide in management practices clearer than ever. The co-founders believed whole-heartedly in tracking their employees’ calendars and monitoring them for large chunks of blocked time.

“That way, we can assume they are interviewing and try to keep them,” they deduced.

Spy. Track. Monitor. Retain.

Everything inside me churned as I tried to pinpoint and explain why tracking employees is shortsighted and detrimental to the company’s success.

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Ask yourself: How dedicated or creative are you while someone is watching? Sit with that uneasy feeling of being watched. Has that ever sparked a breakthrough? No, of course not.

Surveillance strips us of our sense of autonomy. Trust shatters when we know someone has actively implemented software to monitor our behaviors.

As we move into the variations of what the workplace means in this part of the pandemic, the concept of “trust” continually surfaces as one of the most crucial principles of any relationship, including the leader-employee relationship. Lack of trust engenders workforce problems and the problems I faced in that uncomfortable lunchtime conversation.

ConnectFor founder Danielle Boris
ConnectFor founder Danielle Boris

Put plainly, tracking and monitoring employees is dehumanizing. Given that the goal of knowledge work is strong, creative outputs, surveillance is stifling—even if managers are well-intentioned.

Technology enhances our workplaces and lives, yet can contentiously hinder them. This hindrance is especially true for the push and pull between managers and employees. The Great Resignation highlights this tug-of-war like never before.

To combat the Great Resignation, I implore readers to recognize that work should be a labor of love, driven by what makes the employee excited and intrinsically motivated. Giving employees autonomy over when, how and what they work on improves retention, creativity and innovation. Managers need to connect with their team members to understand who they are as people, not just as productivity machines. Otherwise, “they do considerable long-term damage,” as researcher and author Daniel Pink articulates in his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” 

How bad can things get? A recent study found, “Excessive monitoring has negative psycho-social consequences including increased resistance, decreased job satisfaction, increased stress, decreased organizational commitment and increased turnover propensity.”

So, what did I say to the co-founders at this lunch?

The underlying concept is simple: Nobody does their best work when they do not feel autonomous. What’s more, if an employee wants to leave, coercing them to stay with a higher salary or work perks is a Band-Aid at best. As a leader, you have a larger problem, and that team member will just leave a little later down the line if you do not listen to what drives them and shift work to center around interest, passion and motivation.

Real change is made when leaders and managers pivot their approach to rekindle the enthusiasm for work that people crave every day.

Time will tell how these founders digested our conversation and my message. It will be reflected in their workforce.

Danielle Boris is founder of ConnectFor, a B2B SaaS platform that helps leaders align work with  their team members’ interests, passions and motivations, turning every project into a passion project.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias.

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