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Artificial Intelligence signals the arrival of Big Brother 

Blair Mcpherson

Artificial intelligence, fuelled by a harvest of large quantities of data, gives bosses the means to monitor in detail how staff are using their time and when they are wasting time. Contributor Blair Mcpherson Former Director, author and blogger.

The ability to record strokes on a key board, when emails are received, read and responded to gives a minute by minute record of staff behaviour. It can also lead to the assumption that an individual who takes their hands off the keyboard for five minutes isn’t working.

Checking up on staff to ensure they are working has always been seen as part of the managers role. Of course, some managers work on a higher level of trust than others and some are more concerned with results than hours spent at the computer. There have always been managers who didn’t trust their staff and assumed that without close monitoring they would skive off. 

As a senior manager I had a boss who required his PA to take info from the diaries of his senior managers and display them on a large white board their appointments and meetings for the week broken down hour by hour. Gaps made it look like you weren’t busy, so I had to book out time in my dairy for reading emails and report writing. Any further gags were filled with “TT “my code for thinking time!

I find it hard to accept the clams of those selling this technology that it will result in better allocated work load and responsibilities and therefore, less stress. I can see comparisons being made and conversations being had with those who the data indicated are less productive. Result, more pressure more stress.

Technology can’t replace people management skills – when to delegate and when to step in. A good manager knows when a very productive member of the team has a dip in performance due to personal problems and that the best response is support not criticism. 

And all managers give the ambitious very capable member of the team a higher work load in the knowledge they will deliver just as they care full select what they give to the team member who’s work always needs checking. If staff feel valued they usually respond positively to being trusted. I can’t see this technology making managers more trusting. But my old boss would love it. 

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