Trust is More Effective than Employee Monitoring

The world of work as we know it is rapidly changing – and it may never be the same as it once was. With many people in various industries moving to hybrid or fully remote roles, many organizations are making use of new employee monitoring methods – and it’s affecting their culture in a negative way.   

No one likes to be monitored constantly, yet many leaders turn to monitoring, believing it will improve their efficiency. More often than not, it does the opposite. It creates an experience that limits employees’ potential. This is why it is critical to build and maintain trust in your organization.

Employee monitoring is using methods or technologies to gather information about people’s work activities. Companies choose employee monitoring for many reasons, but it’s often used in hopes of better productivity and performance. Examples include:

  • Software installed to track a person’s typing speed, applications used, and keyboard keys pressed
  • Telephone monitoring to record phone calls
  • Email monitoring to look at messages sent or received by employees
  • Tracking an employee’s location
  • Requesting remote employees keep their cameras on during work hours

As many people shifted to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic, usage of employee monitoring technologies boomed. Companies were forced to balance letting their people work remotely but also ensuring productivity. So, many turned to employee monitoring software. 

In fact, 60 percent of companies with at least 1,000 employees that responded to a Gartner survey used monitoring technologies by the end of 2021. In 2020, it was 30 percent. 

Risks of Employee Monitoring

Employee monitoring often leads to micromanagement, which harms productivity. When your people are micromanaged, it signals to them that they can’t be trusted to do their job without management watching their every move. Your people will then believe they are incapable of doing well and that their work doesn’t matter. 

However, when you trust your people to do their jobs well, you create an experience for them that leads to the belief that they are more than capable of completing their work. This leads to deeper engagement, accountability, and ownership. This ultimately motivates your people to go above and beyond, creating a work environment where people constantly ask, “what else can I do?” 

Also, when your people don’t feel trusted, they may resent your managers and leaders. Your people may question why they should perform well. In turn, they’ll become unengaged, which means they are more likely to leave your company. This lack of  retention negatively impacts your bottom line.

Employee monitoring also impacts well-being. When constantly monitored, it creates an experience where your people feel scrutinized, heightening their stress and anxiety.

In fact, a study of more than 700 AT&T employees found that employees who were monitored found their working conditions stressful. They also reported more anxiety, depression, and fatigue. When your people aren’t well, they can’t perform their best at work. 

Trust Builds your Business

Organizational trust happens when leaders are confident that their people can do their jobs well and on time. It’s also recognizing that each person has their own way of meeting expectations. When you create a culture of trust, you don’t have to turn to employee monitoring. That’s because trust can bring results that monitoring often fails to achieve. 


For example, trust improves productivity and the quality of your people’s work. In high-trust organizations, managers set clear expectations and allow their people to meet those expectations based on their own approach. This gives people autonomy, which creates a greater sense of personal responsibility and ownership. When your people are more responsible for their work, it empowers them to be more accountable by meeting goals and delivering their best work.

This is all found true in a study by Paul J. Zak, author of “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies.” The study found that when comparing people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies reported: 106 percent more energy at work, 50 percent higher productivity, 13 percent fewer sick days, 76 percent more engagement, 29 percent more satisfied with their lives, and 40 percent less burnout. All these factors contribute to productivity.

Trust also improves your people’s well-being. When you trust your people instead of micromanaging them, it gives them autonomy. Studies show that when people have autonomy, it improves emotional and mental stress. It also leads to higher job satisfaction.

How to Create a Culture of Trust

Embrace Flexible Work

The Covid-19 pandemic forced many people to work remotely. This underscored an important revelation: people can perform well outside the office. It made people realize they don’t need to be in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to excel.

For example, if one of your employees needs to leave the office mid-afternoon to pick up their kids from school, but plans to finish up tasks when he’s home later, that shouldn’t cause too much concern. You should trust that they can manage their own schedule while still meeting expectations.

Establish Cultural Beliefs

By defining, disseminating, and reinforcing your organization’s Cultural Beliefs, you ensure that your people behave in accordance with those beliefs. When you can create that kind of alignment, it diminishes the need for monitoring, because you already know your employees are behaving in a way consistent with the organization’s values.

Focus on Results

Widely disseminating your targeted Results to your entire workforce does two things: one, it helps your employees see the bigger picture; two, it allows them to feel a deeper connection to the work they do every day, increasing engagement. 

Lead with Accountability

Accountability builds trust. When your leaders are accountable by consistently following through with their promises and actions, it shows they act in good faith for the organization and its people. Your people will see that and believe it. This motivates them to also demonstrate accountability. Thus, it limits the need for employee monitoring, which is typically used to ensure people are accountable.

Leading with Trust

When you place your trust in your employees, each individual – from the C-suite to the front lines – feels a sense of pride and ownership, which leads to an important belief: not only do they matter to the organization, but they also have control over how they achieve the targeted Results. Creating a culture of trust can transform your business. We have the right approach to help you achieve that.

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