Posted at 10.14.2018
In this period of modernisation, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) play a vital role in businesses and companies of most sizes. The word ICT has progressed and evolved to add many aspects of processing and technology, and has indeed become very distinguishable. In this essay, the ways that the advantages of ICT affects power relations in the workplace will be discussed. First, a explanation of the phrases 'ICT' and 'electricity relationships in the workplace' will be provided. In what follows, I will establish the particular results that ICT straight brings to the workplace - namely monitoring, a big change to organization structure, increased communication as well as how it skills and deskills individuals. Explanation about how these effects eventually affect power relationships at work will then be provided.
The IT Association of America defines 'ICT' as "the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, specifically applications and computers". ICT requires converting, protecting, moving, keeping and receiving information. This is all finished with the aid of computer systems and software.
On the other hand, 'electricity' refers to the ability to translate affect or change lives. The actions of one person affect that of another. Relating to Foucault (1988), within the field of electricity relations, what one person does affects another, which affects one third, etc. The feature of power relations is that, as providers in the framework, some men can more or less determine other men's carry out, but never exhaustively (David Owen, 1994). Ability relationships precipitate all "the strategies, the systems, the mechanisms, those techniques by which a choice is accepted and by which that decision cannot but be taken in the manner it was". Foucault continues on to say that "Electric power relations are multiple; they have different forms, they could be in play in family relations, or within an institution, or an supervision - or between a dominating and a dominated class". In this essay, it can be summarized that power relations in the workplace means the ability to affect how other folks within the work environment do work.
The benefits of Scientific Management, also called Taylorism saw an era where managers strived for control over workers. The advantages of ICT to the place of work has allowed professionals to practice methods of worker surveillance that contain never been seen before. ICT has given professionals the capability to pry on the personnel by doing things like keystroke counting, tuning in in on telephone conversations (to monitor quality of service provided by staff), telephone call accounting (registering information about the time, duration, vacation spot and cost of phone calls), entry and exit control buttons using "smart cards" (which give information on staff whereabouts), electronic cash registers and product scanning systems (provides information on who deals with what merchandise, level handled and how effectively), the reading of e-mail and the use of camcorders for video surveillance (After ILO, 1993, pp. 12 - 13).
In the past, managers were only in a position to monitor the performance of whole departments by monitoring things such as number and quality of products produced. However, new information technologies have empowered employers to gather highly detailed performance related data regarding not only the work but each individual worker itself. This can now be done on a minute by minute basis and frequently without the worker being aware (Gandy, 1993; Lyon, 1994).
The information gathered by professionals is almost all of enough time too overwhelming to undergo stringently. Power relationships become relevant when this huge information about employee performance is collected. This is because managers must now determine if or how to use the info gathered on staff member performance. Due to the economic demands to become more efficient and more profitable, professionals are pressured to use the information accessible to hopefully enhance performance and efficiency of staff (Susan Bryant, 1995). Professionals or employers can take courses of action based on the employee performance information. For example, reprimanding specific employees for dismal performance or changing standard operating strategies. One of the side effects of this is that it legitimizes decisions to further intensify worker surveillance for the good thing about success and efficiency.
Modern surveillance at work can be modelled after Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon - the prison organic designed whereby prison guards can watch prisoners without having to be watched again (Zuboff, 1988). Nevertheless work place security using ICT differs from Bentham's Panopticon because staff are sure that they are being watched all the time. The constant 'presence' and 'unverifiability' that employees experience through work environment security may have significant positive implications on the way they work (Zuboff, 1988, p. 321).
A occurrence that Zuboff identifies as 'anticipatory conformity' often happens because of the mere life of surveillance. Since workers know they are consistently being observed, a culture of personal discipline will take place to 'reduce the risk of unwanted breakthrough'. This is interesting because it allows change in the way workers work without management having to take extra action. This worker 'self willpower' helps establish Foucault's debate (1979) that ultimately, individuals become 'bearers of their own monitoring'. (Lyon, 1994, pg. 133) Even though workers don't willingly self self-control themselves, it is highly likely that as a result of readily available system made information about each other's performance, peer surveillance and intervention will get to them before management treatment will (Laabs, 1992; Lyon, 1994). As employees are more and more familiar with security methods, employees may be able to escape with doing less by working around existing systems to avoid detection. However, such occurrences are considered to be less likely to happen in comparison to fads of conformity (Zuboff, 1988).
It may also be argued that security encourages personnel to work harder also to become more successful as their work are now more easily acknowledged by management. Which means that individual workers will be rewarded for putting in extra work. Furthermore, employees are less likely to be put at fault for the wrongs of others. This trend also happens automatically as a result of existence of monitoring at work without any immediate involvement from management (Zuboff, 1988).
The last two things show the way the life of ICT at work (that allows for worker monitoring) may allow for management to relax control over workers and at exactly the same time expect positive results while having to exert less specialist or 'vitality' in the workplace.
The introduction of ICT has allowed us to communicate at almost same speeds - a subject of mere seconds - whether or not were a few meters or a few a long way away from the other person. In the past two decades following a birth of resources like e-mail and ultra fast internet connections, the work environment has experienced a substantial change in operating procedures and composition for this reason improvement in communication capacities.
Firms can now function over a transnational basis. Managers from firms have the ability to operate from their house countries and never have to incur the financial, physical and opportunity cost of giving their home country (or at least less often). The ability to communicate over distances with such great rate has allowed managers to run things a large number of a long way away on a real time basis. The complexity of a company may change from that of vertically intricate to horizontally complicated because of the ability of professionals on top of the hierarchy to communicate with more folks at a larger ease. The need for extra layers of hierarchy to delegate jobs becomes needless because of better communication technology.
Workers at the lower end/lower part of hierarchy could find it easier to pitch ideas because there could be less 'red tape' to undergo before their idea can be proposed. Alternatively, CEOs may find that instructions are conveyed to their subordinates more evidently and effectively because these instructions need not be offered to way too many degrees of management before it grows to everyone.
The ability to talk to ICT could also have an impact on the 'centralization' of a firm. A centralized firm is one where decisions in the organization are concentrated at one point. The benefits of ICT can be a catalyst to the decentralization of a firm (John Bratton, 2007). With ICT, it is a lot easier for mature management to solicit information and ideas from workers down the hierarchy. This is because, as mentioned, the method of communication make conveying and soliciting a concept easier than before. Prior to this, a physical ending up in high level management would be needed to pitch a concept; meaning it would nearly be impossible for a minimal rank employee to add any suggestions to the firm. With the improved capacity to communicate among staff and management, mature management might be inclined to provide more decision making autonomy to employees since their type would be more accessible. It has a major impact on power relationships in a company because communication may enable control to be laid back as decision making suggestions will come from both edges of the hierarchy.
Having said that, the comprehensive use of e-mail and electronic communication at work means people hardly ever ever have to meet (Argyll and Cook, 1976). Not bodily meeting takes away the ability to analyze the personal construct of others (Adam - Webber, 1981). Personal construct theory handles a range of professional communal skills that allow people to review relationships from different perspectives and make judgements about people's personalities and meanings. These skills are drawn from physical discussion with individuals. The effects of the are adverse because little or no consideration will be studied about individuals' feelings and personality.
Deskilling is thought as a reduction in the proficiency had a need to perform a specific job, which brings about a corresponding reduction in the wages payed for that job (Bratton, 2007). In the Taylorist context, the deskilling argument targets the section of mental and physical labour and the splitting up of complex jobs into smaller, more discrete ones. The 'logic' of capitalist creation requires the frequent transformation of techniques of production. This involves an increase in mechanization, automation which results in the displacement of skills (Penn & Scattergood, 1985). The labor force becomes even more degraded and deskilled.
For instance, junk food or retail outlets have digital tills that scan, calculate and tell the cashier how much money to return to the client as change. The cashier's job is repetitive, not at all hard and easy to monitor because everything is electronic. The main goal of this is to not only ensure staff member efficiency but to increase the degree of control the management has over staff. Very little is taken into consideration about worker satisfaction or fulfilment. Harry Braverman notes that the goal of the labour process under capitalism is to create managerial control for maximization of efficiency and success (Glenn and Feldberg, 1979). Because of the fact that personnel under this problem only concentrate on specific tasks, they lack the skills to do things out of these job requirement, perhaps because they have neglected and therefore have overlooked about those skills.
On the other palm, why don't we consider the 'enskilling' debate. Enskilling is referred to as changes in work often involving technology that result in an increase in the skill level of personnel (Bratton, 2007). Many individuals would have been retrenched credited to technology making certain manual jobs automated. However, for many who still have their jobs, their job scope could have increased. ICT permits more folks do more things. For example, an editor in a posting house in the 1970s would only have enough expertise and minutes in a day to be in fee of reading and editing and enhancing palm written manuscripts whilst having to send them backwards and forwards to the author through traditional snail mail.
With ICT, manuscripts may be written, edited, and transmitted digitally; which will save you time. ICT also helps it be easy enough for the 21st century editor to acquire other practical skills such as training video editing and graphical design; tasks that would have previously been kept to specialist in those domains. In addition, one would be would be required to exercise a great many other discrete competencies such as backup editing and enhancing, marketing skills and negotiating potential (Barry, Chandler, Clark, Johnston, Needle, 2000).
Here, it is possible to notice a rise in skill variety, activity identity and task opinions. The increased skill of the employee allows managers to provide more autonomy to them. This effectively means that management may loosen its control over personnel relaxing power relationships between management and staff. However, some have argued that 'enskilling' of employees allow managers to control workers to an increased extent because tasks are actually centralized on less individuals compared to when these were spread out over large amounts of people in clinical management.
I have viewed how the release of ICT to the work environment has caused a rise in worker surveillance, a greater capability to converse and the 'enskilling'/deskilling phenomena. I have then shown how the mentioned effects of ICT have influenced power relations within the work place by modifying the magnitude (increase and cut down) of control, authority and impact management has over individuals.