Corporate Snooping

H-P’s recently deposed chairman Patricia Dunn has aplogized to employees for measures taken on behalf of the company to locate sources of media leaks. A memo issued to employees Tuesday admitted the company had targeted two employees, members of its own board, and even some folks outside the company.

“As reported, doubt has been raised as to whether the investigative techniques were appropriate,” Dunn said. “These techniques were practiced on a number of individuals including certain directors, two employees and a number of individuals outside the company, including journalists. I extend my sincere apologies to those individuals who have been affected.”

Now that corporate snooping has brought down one the chairman of one of the highest ranking companies in America (and may lead to convictions for some involved), will other like-minded enterprises reconsider their own practices of prying? We know of companies that monitor phone calls and even count computer keystrokes.
I find such practices to be a waste of time and resources, not to mention absurd.  As one former boss said to me, “Of course people make personal phone calls at work. That’s why they come to work!”

Granted, few of those calls are to the New York Times. But companies measure productivity in a variety of ways, and vary greatly in terms of the environment they create for their employees. I think the lesson is that work and life are stressful enough, without the cold eyes and warm breath of a corporate master over your shoulder. If as a manager you don’t feel your employees are doing their best, the first place you should look is in the mirror.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow