FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Technology as Tyrant

It's an article of faith in information technology that becoming increasingly wired will liberate us from the drudgery of the workplace. For some of us, that's come to pass. But for many others -- especially those farther down on the corporate totem pole -- technology is becoming a new "ball and chain" that dehumanizes employees and increases stress.

Technology has already allowed management to become further detached from unskilled workers and, rather than create new "flat" organizational structures, has reinforced traditional top-down hierarchies. James Hoopes, a professor of business ethics at Babson College, points out that in many organizations, particularly in sales and retail, some workers are effectively managed by computer. RFID tags will only increase this level of control of workers, as management will be able to thoroughly track employees' whereabouts at all times.

Hoopes suggests that businesses need to develop new ways of emowering employees, such as setting up "whistleblower" hotlines through which employees could complain and report abuses. He also notes that "e-tyranny" may lead to a rejuvenation of the labor movement in America, as well as a less business-friendly atmosphere in Washington. This kind of backlash may be nudged along by the labor shortage and struggle for employee retention that many HR consultants predict within the next few years.

Source: CIO.com