Digital Control in Employment Relationships
Digitalization transforms the nature of work and employment relationships. New technologies like body-worn sensors, GPS tracking, and real-time data analysis by artificial intelligence allow to control employees to a greater extent than previously possible. This interdisciplinary project (sociology, psychology, economics) focuses on digital control, which refers to the monitoring and controlling not only of workers but also of employers and managers.
Since digital control has advantages and disadvantages for all actors involved, it will be subject to a complex negotiation process that may yield new social and legal norms how to handle digitalization.
We analyse how the core stakeholders of the employment relationship, i.e. employers and managers on the one side and employees and their representatives on the other, deal with the new possibilities of digital control. On the employer side, we examine the conditions and factors that affect whether and how organizations implement specific forms of digital control. We investigate under which circumstances employers and managers will have an interest in implementing digital control and how they anticipate workers’ interests and reactions.
On the employee side, we look at workers’ interests and at their reactions to the implementation of digital control. We investigate under which circumstances workers accept specific control technologies and if they get used to certain technologies. We also analyse if moderating factors like works councils, higher compensation, and technology characteristics play a role. Bringing together both sides, we study whether, when, and how conflicts about the implementation of digital control can be solved.
Methodologically, we employ a mainly experimental design which allows us to gather knowledge also on the interests of employees and firms that are not confronted with a specific technology yet. We use factorial designs (also called vignette studies) where we present and randomly vary hypothetical situations to employees, managers and works councils and enquire the conditions under which specific devices and procedures enabling digital control are accepted. The experimental vignette studies are complemented by a longitudinal field study to capture real-world experiences with digital control.