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Microsoft Businesses Patents

Microsoft Patent Aims To Curb Obnoxious Employee Behavior 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-cubicle-is-not-soundproof dept.
theodp writes "GeekWire reports that a pending Microsoft patent for monitoring workplace behavior would do Dwight Schrute proud. Three Microsoft inventors propose curbing obnoxious workplace habits in an equally obnoxious fashion — using a computer device for monitoring and analyzing workers' interactions over video conferences, telephone, text messages and other forms of digital communication to look for patterns of negative and positive behavior, and assigning behavior scores to employees based on what the system finds. Bad behavior, Microsoft explains, might include wearing dark glasses in a video conference, wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting, cutting off others during conversation, prolonged monologues, and even how one nods one's head in agreement, shakes one's head indicating disagreement, and makes hand gestures."
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Microsoft Patent Aims To Curb Obnoxious Employee Behavior

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  • Orwell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AtomicSnarl (549626) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:34AM (#38097858) Homepage
    Cue the Big Brother - thoughcrimes comments.

    So, really -- what's the point of this? PC enforcement? Social modeling? Productivity improvement? Lawsuit prevention?

    If it isn't about productivity, it is probably a drag on the organization.
  • by mapkinase (958129) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:42AM (#38097960) Homepage Journal

    "Bad behavior, Microsoft explains, might include wearing dark glasses in a video conference, wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting, cutting off others during conversation, prolonged monologues, and even how one nods one's head in agreement, shakes one's head indicating disagreement, and makes hand gestures"

    I suspect for many of those they have no clue how to implement it, yet they are already patenting it?

  • by TWX (665546) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:53AM (#38098114)

    I once saw another incident. A lady of probably 35 years was, for some reason, kneeling on her guest's chair at her own desk while talking on the phone. Her whale-tail was sticking up well above her pants. I looked at the other lady in the office, probably in her mid sixties, and once I had her attention, pointed at the whale-tail. She got up, walked over to the woman on the phone, grabbed the whale-tail, yanked it back about six inches, and snapped it against the woman's lower back. The younger woman immediately reacted by thrusting her lower body forward, got an incredulous look on her face turning beet red, and concluded her phone call quickly and left the room.

    I was agog. After the victim left, I said to the lady, "You're the only person in this office who could get away with that!" to which she replied with a smile, "I know!"

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:54AM (#38098134) Journal

    Ok, call me old fashioned, but why on earth would you need to have a piece of software to pick up on inappropriate behaviour from employees? Isn't this what a line manager is supposed to be for?

    Now, ok, some of the behaviours mentioned in TFS might be considered inappropriate; but even these are situational. In fact, I remember one day last summer, when I was on annual leave and got a call from the office asking me to drop in urgently, because a senior manager needed some advice in a hurry on an issue that only I knew about. I was up in town already when I got the call, so I was able to get into the office in about 15 minutes. I was casually dressed (jeans and a t-shirt - it was a hot day) and when I went into the meeting, I gave a monologue. That was, after all, the whole point of me being there. But was any of that inappropriate in the circumstances? Of course not. In fact, I got credit for going into the office on what should have been a day off. But this little office-spy routine they've got going here would have flagged me up for at least two violations.

    I've had to deal with staff conduct issues before. It's never a pleasant experience, but if you want to do it properly, you have to be clear about the impacts that the behaviour has had. So, for example, "You were rude to colleague x in a meeting. I know that she was being difficult, but you didn't handle this well. As a result of this, we haven't agreed any of the actions that we needed to and we've put objectives a, b and c at risk. We'll also need to get somebody round to extract the traffic cone and see if we can lure the weasels back out of the ventilation ducts." Something like that.

    I suppose I can see where an IT system like this does come in - as part of the "ass-covering" section of a formal disciplinary process. I can see the attraction for risk-averse employers (particularly in the public sector), where it might be considered useful to have a print-out saying "Employee Y was inappropriately dressed for meetings on the following dates..." during a tribunal process. But that's about bureaucracy and process - you only find yourself in that kind of situation once the relationship between employer and employee has actually broken down. It's not about actually improving conduct within the organisation in any meaningful way.

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