Monitoring and Performance: A Comparison of Computer and Supervisor Monitoring

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John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


This research addresses how computer monitoring affects the way individual workers perform on their jobs. The study tests the effects of a supervisor's physical versus electronic presence on individual worker performance. Forty‐two women were hired to perform a simple data entry task. The women worked in one of three conditions: (a) alone, (b) in the physical presence of the supervisor who monitored their work, or (c) computer‐monitored (electronic presence) by the data entry system without the physical presence of the supervisor. It was hypothesized that social facilitation effects would result from either the physical or electronic presence conditions. Electronic presence does seem to result in social facilitation, though the mean differences are not statistically significant. The results for physical presence are mixed. Profile analysis indicates that there are significant differences in the patterns of performance. When subjects work alone or with electronic presence, performance follows a steady pattern. When subjects work with physical presence, performance is somewhat lower than in the alone condition, except when the supervisor is actively monitoring, then individual performance is significantly increased. There are no satisfaction differences between the three conditions. The results of this research suggest that “Big Brother” is not lurking inside every computer‐monitoring system.