Your Boss Is Spying On You, What To Do About It

boss spyingBy Donna Fuscaldo

Your boss may be spying on you and chances are you'll never know it. From keystroke loggers to hidden cameras, employers around the country use different tactics to keep tabs on their employees, all of which are perfectly legal if you're using the company's gear.

"In large companies it's pretty rampant in terms of monitoring," says Josh King, general counsel at Avvo, a legal and health website. "If the employer is interested in doing monitoring, there's not a whole lot they can't do legally." According to experts, employers believe they are justified in using these big brother type tactics to prevent against things like lost productivity and leaks of company secrets.

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"There is no more employee loyalty. Employees are not loyal to the companies they work for and employers don't feel the sense of a long term relationship with the employees," says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. The tough job market has prompted people to stay in jobs longer and take ones they normally wouldn't, creating an environment of unsatisfied workers which isn't lost on the employer, he says. "Companies feel they need to guard against duplicity, wrong doing or disloyalty," says Jaffe.

Employer spying tactics vary

So how are the bosses spying? Since employers own all the computer equipment, they have the right to monitor email, instant messages, documents and the websites employees visit. The companies can even listen in on phone conversations and put cameras in work areas as long as they own it all.

According to Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist and blogger for PsychologyToday, there are many workplaces that have cameras set up, but it's rare in an office setting. Cameras are more likely to be found in factories where companies are trying to gauge productivity. As for electronic spying or monitoring, Bonior says it's focused on websites and email. "Certain corporations are very paranoid about what kind of intellectual property they might lose," she says, noting that information landing in the hands of competitors is also a concern. For a lot of companies, however, spying is simply about the bottom line. "Companies are very concerned with wasting time. A lot of companies justify it by saying we don't have that much money. It's either lay off people or increase efficiency," says Bonior.

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Employees aren't void of rights

Although employers have the right to monitor workers, the employees also have privacy rights. That means a boss couldn't sift through his underlings email without a business justification. What's more the employer needs consent from its workers to monitor their behavior in the workplace.

With many applications moving to the Web, what the boss can look at is also getting murkier. According to King of Avvo, an employee may be using a company computer to check his email, but is going to his private Gmail account. Not to mention that work doesn't stop at the office. Many people are using their own devices after hours to conduct business, which is why King says excess monitoring isn't a good idea mainly because it sends the wrong message that the employer doesn't trust its employees.

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How to protect yourself

If you work for a company that you think is spying on you, the best defense is to stop any behavior that could cause you problems at work. Don't send personal emails from your company account, take part in inappropriate instant messages or spend office hours checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds.

The office also isn't the place to make excessive personal phone calls or complain about the boss on a company issued Blackberry. If you have to conduct non-related work during office hours, do it on your own smartphone or tablet computer. If that's not an option, send the email via your Gmail or Yahoo account.

"Recognize that you are in a fish bowl," says Jaffe. "The boss has every justification for looking at what's on his property."

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"Recognize that you are in a fish bowl," says Jaffe. "The boss has every justification for looking at what's on his property."

Well this pretty much sums up the idea of why employee monitoring tools like the Time Doctor Software are put up in companies. I used to be intimidated by the fact that I used to be one of those who were monitored at work but once you get to be an employer yourself, you'll definitely understand its importance.
Although employers should really consider informing their employees of the monitoring in order to do away with problems regarding employee behavior and overuse of privileges.

October 25 2012 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's worse when neighbors have cameras pointed at you or your home, there's nothing you can do about it. Laws need to change

July 17 2012 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is a nice personal email : To MyBank - ref money. I've been working here forever. My boss is a terrific guy but he never gives me a raise. I'm getting tired of driving that 1992 Geo Metro with the coat hanger radio antenna and sharing the 1962 single-wide trailer with 7 Mexicans and two goats.
I'm sorry my checking account is over drawn.

June 25 2012 at 5:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a retired Naval Officer so the only boss I have is the government and I KNOW they spy on us. So I use my common sense, keep my nose clean, and don't worry about it.

June 25 2012 at 3:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am the boss.. I have owned the company for years and have a nice size staff, I do NOT spy on my people.. if they can't do the job and I can't trust them they dont' belong in my employ. I dont even friend them on FB but if they friend me it is fine.. HOWEVER I do notice since we have mutual friends on FB some of the postings.. one girl was venting about work, she didnt know I could see it, so I sent her an email teling her I was sorry she was unhappy and I would like the two weeks notice if she was leaving. she fell ALL overself.. no , I didn't let her go but I wanted HER aware to be careful what you post.. you NEVER know who will see it or where it lands.. But if you have to monitor your people to the degree described here you obviously have some issues in your HR dept, start there..

June 24 2012 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Patrizia's comment

I wish more bosses had that attitude. You showed her that you weren't picking on her, and cared enough not to fire her, but that you did have a right to expect the same kind of loyalty to you that you were giving her.

June 24 2012 at 10:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I heavily monitor my employees. Video cameras monitor the office. Employees must use personal access codes to enter therestrooms. All internet access is restricted posession of a personal cell phone during business hours is a fireable offense. I pay for benefits so all employees have to sign a form that allows me access to their personal medical records. Employee contracts allow for random drug and polygraph tests. If they dont like it the can leave.

June 24 2012 at 4:51 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dhawx01's comment
Arnel Associates LLC

You must be joking! Code to enter the restroom, access to medical records! You belong to a psych ward!

June 24 2012 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Arnel Associates LLC's comment

Ever heard of H.I.P.A. ? (Health Insurance Portability Act that is...)

It limits access to medical/health records SO MUCH that I wasn't allowed to see my unconsious wife (friend called ambulance, brought to hospital unconsious), because I was not on a visitor's list THAT HAD TO BE APPROVED BY MY WIFE! I even brought our marriage certificate and a current MR and Mrs bank statement which matched my ID's.

Unless the HIPA laws and regulations have been modified, looking at those records is looking for major trouble.

June 25 2012 at 5:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down
Hi Susie

Wow! You must be such a pleasure to work for. Sounds to me more like a prison, no sorry they have more rights.

June 24 2012 at 11:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

you know this has been going on for years now but tick for tack if they are doing this to people then why cant the people do it to them after all what are the hideing think about it

June 23 2012 at 6:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you work for Siemens, You are being watched, big time.

June 23 2012 at 6:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

These stories offer useless solutions. "Don't do anything wrong" then you won't get into trouble. LOL. Really?

June 23 2012 at 5:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Give them something to talk about, of course! Don't forget to use that middle finger for

June 23 2012 at 1:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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