Don’t be a creepy boss.

Employee spyware is toxic.

First, consider 3 principles:

  1. If you track something, you’ll see it improve. It works for team OKRs. It works for Fitbits. This is well-documented and generally a good thing.
  2. “Getting what you ask for” !== “getting what you want.” This is a fundamental challenge with any metric. There’s always distance between the measure and the underlying phenomenon. So, just because a metric improves, doesn’t mean underlying behavior has changed for the better.
  3. Nothing good comes from treating people like robots. Grossly violating employee autonomy is a quick way to turn them against your cause. Treat people like humans. This is especially important to consider when defining goals and metrics.

How does this play out with Screenshot Tracking?

  1. Screenshot or activity tracking implies that both of these behaviors will be rewarded: a) moving the mouse around while looking at “serious” things, or b) doing actual work. Because “moving the mouse” is easier than “doing actual work”, expect to see more “moving the mouse.”
  2. To the extent that “moving the mouse” conflicts with “doing actual work,” (e.g. reporters get less credit for untracked behavior like calling sources), expect to see more “moving the mouse.”
  3. And, finally, now that employees are pissed off by the now-apparent gaping void of trust, they have even less of an incentive to optimize their performance in good faith, so expect to see more “moving the mouse.”

Screenshot tracking “almost uniformly led to worse work”

It’s not just Screenshots

It’s not just tracking programmers.

What’s different about GitHub Insights?

  1. If you track something, it’ll improve.
  2. “Getting what you ask for” !== “getting what you want.”
  3. Don’t treat people like robots.

Takeaways:

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Indie Data / Design / Feedback Geek. Former founder nodd.co, notch.me and unblab.com.

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