Around half of all employees say it’s OK for their employers to monitor work chats
We surveyed 1,156 professionals, from employees to business owners, to explore what they thought was appropriate in terms of employer reaction during times of company conflict or scandal. As Facebook’s own scandal unfolds due to its whistleblower’s claims over misinformation and profit over public safety, what does the public think about whistleblowing, or leaking confidential or classified information to save the public from harm? Is it OK for employers to ask their employees not to talk about ongoing conflict or scandal or monitor employee chats on work messaging platforms? Read on to explore the key takeaways of our study through a political lens and by job level.
- 62% of employees feel it’s appropriate for employers to ask them not to talk about active company conflict or scandals, compared to 56% of employers.
- 50% of employees say it’s appropriate for companies to monitor their employees via company messaging platforms, while 40% of employers agree.
- 46% of people surveyed think Facebook’s outage was intentionally meant to silence employees during the whistleblower scandal.
- By political affiliation, 58% of Republicans, 46% of Democrats, and 44% of independents agree.
- 49% of people believe it is unethical to leak classified/confidential company information, but this is circumstantial.
- By job level, 78% of employers and 42% of employees
- By political affiliation, 49% of Republicans, 44% of Democrats, and 49% of independents
- When is it OK to leak? 70% agree that it is ethical to leak confidential/classified company information if that information poses a physical danger.
- By political affiliation, 67% Republicans, 70% Democrats, and 71% of independents
- 68% feel it is ethical to leak company information if it’s intended to expose fraud against the public.
- By political affiliation, 66% Republicans, 68% Democrats, and 67% of independents
- 67% agree it is ethical to leak company information if the public is in danger of a data breach.
- By political affiliation, 67% Republicans, 66% Democrats, and 67% of independents
- Only 54% of people believe it’s ethical to leak company information to alert the public to being misinformed.
- What’s OK to censor, according to employers?
- 73% say it’s OK to ask employees to refrain from talking about delicate or confidential information employees may see while working. Only 48% of employees agree.
- 54% say it’s OK to stop employees from talking about an employee with COVID-19. Only 30% of employees agree.
- 63% say it’s OK to ask employees not to talk about company legal issues, and 66% of employees agree.
Can employers ask employees not to talk about certain work-related topics?
Is Misinformation a Crime?
Our study shows that people felt it was mostly ethical to expose confidential company information in order to protect the public from physical harm and to expose fraud or a data breach, but they didn’t feel as strongly about exposing company misinformation. Only 49% of Republicans thought this was a crime worthy of leaking company information, compared to 51% of independents and 55% of Democrats. In fact, nearly 30% of professionals surveyed said they considered it unethical to leak confidential company information for the purpose of exposing acts of misinformation. As the public grapples with Facebook’s handling of its whistleblower and a congressional review of internal company documents, the spotlight will amplify on misinformation as a crime and to what magnitude.
Methodology and Limitations
We surveyed 1,156 business professionals: 917 were employees, and 239 were business owners. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 84. The mean age was 38.
The margin of error for our sample size was +/-6%, with a 95% confidence level.
51% of our respondents identified as men, 48% as women, and 1% as nonbinary.
554 of our respondents identified as Democrats.
257 identified as Republicans.
218 identified as independent.
127 identified as “nonaffiliated,” Libertarian, and other affiliations.
Self-reported data have limitations including but not limited to exaggeration, telescoping, and selective memory. We didn’t weight our data or use statistical tests to identify statistical significance of our findings.
Fair Use Statement
If you’re interested in sharing our public opinion study on employee censorship, feel free to do so for noncommercial purposes only. We also ask that you link back to our original study to give our researchers credit for their work.