An interesting article today by John Harris on how modern employers can monitor their employees through tracking devices. It’s always happened – what else is clocking on? – but digital surveillance is less likely to be hoodwinked that a human supervisor. There are wearable devices that can detect when employees cluster for too long – known in my working day as chatting. (Most of Monday morning was taken up with it!) I’m all for efficiency when it comes to tasks and I dislike slacking at the wrong time . . . but wringing productivity gains out of your workforce like this is a way of wearing them out very quickly and replacing them with a new model. In effect, then, treating humans as mechanical resources. Or robots.
It chimes in with an email I received from Apple yesterday. On Thursday I went to the shop in Manchester with my out-of-warranty iPad to see if they could fix the lines that had recently appeared across a third of the screen. The iPad was still usable and I didn’t want to buy a new one. Rather to my surprise, the helpful young people I dealt with were all happy to give me a new iPad free of charge. (Well, newish – it may have recycled components. Which then leads me to wonder how they can afford to give free replacement iPads unless they’re actually pretty cheap to make. And would they have done it if I had not been so obviously middle class?)
Anyway, I digress. The email asked me to rate the experience: “How did x do?”. What on earth am I supposed to say? What happens if I rate him anything less than top marks? I couldn’t bring myself to do the survey – but is that now a black mark against x? He was perfectly fine. He was competent. He gave me a new iPad. What’s not to like? He was serious, he didn’t smile much (fine) and he advised me against not waiting in the shop for my iPad to restore completely, which a delicate flower may have taken as a negative comment (when it was actually very good advice . . . because, you know what, x, you were perfectly right!).
How long would my working life have lasted if my interactions had been rated in this way?!