Does Privacy Make Us Productive?

openDemocracy CC BY-SA 2.0

Modern-day organizations increasingly are seeking to create an “open” work environment—one that makes workers more observable—theorizing that transparency boosts performance. But a new study in Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ) finds this trend may be counterproductive.

Ethan S. Bernstein of Harvard University published “The Transparency Paradox: A Role for Privacy in Organizational Learning and Operational Control” on June 21, 2012 in ASQ.  Recognizing the prevalence of the trend in factories, the author provides field-based evidence that transparency is not “such a panacea” and makes a strong case for preserving worker privacy in the interest of productivity:

We typically assume that the more we can see, the more we can understand about an organization. This research suggests a counteracting force: the more that can be seen, the more individuals may respond strategically with hiding behavior and encryption to nullify the understanding of that which is seen.

Read the full article in ASQ by clicking here. To learn more about Administrative Science Quarterly, please follow this link.

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