For my Case Study I chose to present when employees conduct personal work on the internet during their working hours. The main reason that I chose this is because these are situations that I have seen and dealt with on a day to day basis as a Finance Supervisor at Saganing Eagles Landing Casino.
As a Supervisor I am given a little more freedom then the average line-level employee, and some of my fellow Supervisors and former Supervisors that I have worked with in the past, have conducted their own personal work during company time on a regular basis. Now this can range from a wide span of items of personal work such as: browsing Facebook, searching for new cars, researching vacation destinations, or even printing off recipes. I have seen a wide variety of these events present themselves while employees are on the clock.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who experiences this at work either, a survey conducted recently by Salary.com found that every day at least 64 percent of employees visit websites that have nothing to do with their work. This is becoming a major problem for businesses as its costing millions of dollars! As we explore more into this case, we will see some of the ethical theories such as the Libertarian theory, Utilitarianism, Consequentialist theory, as well as Egoism come into play during these situations.
This is a tough problem to solve, especially with how easy it is to access the internet these days especially at work where computers are such a must in today’s society. Libertarians believe in living according to our own choices, free from the interference of others according to their own liberty and justice. Which in this case they believe they should be able to do what they want when they want even if it means personal work on company time.
I don’t believe this is morally right because I do believe you have an obligation to your employer and owe them the respect to do your job duties and what they fully entail, this does not bring the most good for everyone involved. I do believe that we can find a solution that can work for everyone, that also maximizes the best interest of everyone putting everyone on a fair playing field.
I don’t believe that an employment setting where there is always access to the internet will someone ever completely stop unless there were extreme consequences for this, but for instance in my line of work I feel there are a few ways to help monitor it because I feel this may be the most effective approach as well. At my job there is a lot of down time some days when it is slow in the office, so generally after work is done this is what leads individuals to checking the weather, looking up real-estate, or seeing who is winning the big game.
I believe there is a time and place for it, I’m not saying it’s right if you are doing it when it is super busy and you have spent 6 hours of your 8-hour shift on the internet because you shouldn’t be doing that, that’s the definition of abuse. But if you take 30 seconds and check the score of the game, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal as long as the item of research is not abusive or inappropriate. However, I think there are a few systems in place that I do agree with and I do think can help to minimize these activities and ways to monitor these activities.
First of all, we have an internet policy, this is to show that if you are going to web-sites not related to work, it can broadly forbid certain activities and site visitations and it shows the employer’s stance on personal time online at work. This also states that if you are found to be in the wrong in this area that you can be punished.
Secondly, we have multiple site blockers so employees are not necessarily given access to anything they want, this can help to minimize inappropriate sites that employees should absolutely not be accessing on company time. Lastly, we have internet monitoring where our boss can look back and see what all was visited, as well as cameras everywhere to monitor employees’ activities throughout the day that can also be used to monitor someone’s computer time.
I believe the best approach for my scenario is a Utilitarianism approach, Utilitarianism is the moral doctrine that says we should always act to produce the greatest possible balance of good over bad for everyone affected by our actions. So, in this case of monitoring the internet activity with different methods you are producing the greatest amount of good for everyone involved.
It is best for everyone because this is a way as an employer to still keep your employees happy by giving a little bit of freedom without acting as a Drill Sargent. While the employer also still can also keep tabs on employees to know that work is still being done and while knowing their employee just hasn’t been surfing the internet all day. Utilitarianism has long been associated with social improvement, this is why I feel it’s very fitting in this scenario.
Act utilitarianism, states that we must ask ourselves what the consequences of a particular act in a particular situation will be for all those affected. In this case that would be the employee surfing the internet for a lengthy period of time and how the employer and others would be affected by these actions. As an employee I would think the consequences bring more bad then good, so therefore surfing the internet for a lengthy period isn’t the right action to take.
Someone who is opposed to this approach may argue that as an employer no matter what this is not okay and that the employee is only caring about themselves by going on the internet on company time. They may state the obvious that you’re at your job to do work for your employer as that is what you are getting paid for, as you are not getting paid at your job for your own personal enjoyment.
The opposing argument could argue that mandatory disciplines must be in place up to termination and maybe even minimized internet access up to removal of access to the internet without permission of a superior. They would say that the employee is using the theory of Egoism, as this view equates morality with own self-interest. If an employee was looking up new cars at work because his just broke down on the way, this would be in his own best interest therefore resulting in the theory of Egoism.
Egoism makes personal advantage both in the short term and the long term the standard for measuring an action’s rightness. Egoism can also tell us that when the act will bring us pleasure or in some way promote our own good then the action is right. Which in this case could be someone browsing the internet for a new car, looking for a new house, or even checking to see if Michigan beat Ohio State. These are all actions that bring us enjoyment or satisfaction in our own personal lives depending on the individual and what brings them pleasure or happiness in their own personal lives.
Another argument could also be made that the consequentialist theories have come into play. Consequentialist theories determine that the moral rightness of an action is determined solely by its results. Which in this case could mean that someone was to look up inappropriate material and get in trouble from their boss then it would be morally wrong.
Or in the case that someone was looking up car parts to fix their car to be able to come to work on time for their next shift or circumstances similar then it would be morally right. If its consequences are good, then the act is right; if they are bad, the act is wrong. In response to Egoism, I could see how someone may think that Egoism is involved and why an associate should absolutely not be abusing their internet privilege.
But my response would be as a Supervisor I think it’s necessary to give workers a little bit of freedom especially when it’s with things that are not in your control. With how easy it is to access the internet on a computer, phone, or tablet it’s nearly impossible not to be near some form of internet access. As for the Consequentialist theory I understand the thought process as well and I actually think that it does somewhat come into play for this scenario, and I could agree with their argument.
As consequentialists determine what is right by weighing the ratio of good too bad that an action will produce. In this case an employee who would be accessing the internet on company time would have to determine whether or not their action and websites they are visiting are producing a good or a bad outcome. If someone were to be on the internet for hours at a time and avoid work duties then this is a bad outcome, if someone were to check the weather conditions for five minutes so they could inform others as well as their selves to drive safely home in icy conditions then I believe this is a good outcome.
With the Utilitarianism approach you are able to give that freedom as well as still have a form of discipline in place when these conditions are abused, as work comes first. This approach works best for everyone, if Utilitarianism suggests that after assessing as best we can the likely results of each action, not just in the short term but in the long run as well, we are to choose the course of conduct that brings about the greatest net happiness. This theory is going to be a better system for everyone in the long run then if a Supervisor or further superior were to tell an employee they are monitoring every second of their internet access which could also be exhausting for the employer as well.
Even up to no internet access at all which could result in problems as a lack of resources in some scenarios, or worse discipline up to termination for the employees. Obviously if this becomes a worse problem then further action should be taken and this is why a policy is in place for the employer to enforce these disciplines. Harsh discipline could also hurt the employer because maybe this individual was a good worker, and it could also make the company short staffed causing problems at work.
In conclusion as I have previously stated, I’m not sure if there really is a perfect solution to this problem. With technology on a continuous rise almost daily it seems, if it isn’t the internet it will be an application or something else that can be downloaded that blocks employer’s knowledge of their internet use or something along those line. This is why I feel the best solution seems to monitor the situation with a policy and to the best of their knowledge and best of their abilities.
Also, as an employee you have to have the moral standard to know when enough is enough and that you may be going overboard and abusing your internet privilege. Maybe if you have down time at work, you can set a time limit on how long you should limit yourself to look something up on the internet after you have done all of your daily tasks have been completed. I still think that every situation has its flaws and there is no perfect fix, and there will be people who always abuse this. To me the Utilitarianism approach works best for everyone involved, and this to me should be the best method going forward.
- Shaw, William H., et al. Moral Issues in Business, 56-60, 114, Cengage Learning, 2016.