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Playing Nice; Patented?

Microsoft patent
Lets employers monitor
If workers play nice

Microsoft has applied for a patent for a system to monitor employee workplace behavior.  The application was filed in May, 2010 but only recently came to light.

The application is entitled “Organizational Behavior Monitoring Analysis and Influence.” It describes a method by which:

Desired and undesired behaviors and applicable organizational contexts are defined and action plans developed. The behaviors are then monitored through communication sessions between members and analyzed for comparison to the action plans such that feedback may be provided at individual and/or organizational levels to influence the behaviors.

“Desired” behaviors include giving employees “positive affirmations,” which would be detected as follows:

Rules may be defined in an XML schema that includes following elements:

[0040] a. Rule Name–e.g. Positive Affirmations

[0043] d. Rule Description via Clauses. Examples: [0044] i. MESSAGE contains “thanks” [0045] ii. OR MESSAGE contains “great job!” [0046] iii. OR MESSAGE contains “nice job”

Undesired behaviors include “cutting off others during conversation [and] prolonged monologues,”  calling subordinates during lunch and after hours, “wearing dark glasses in a video conference,” and “wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting.”

The process could monitor and evaluate “communications between two members … or between multiple members,… for example video conferences, online presentations, [and] group instant messaging conversations.”

The process is designed to be employed “for a variety of goals including, but not limited to, increased efficiency, increased participation, awareness of cultural practices, increased empowerment and engagement of employees, career growth, and trust improvement.”

The trust produced by the invention is intended to enhance happiness and innovation within an organization:

[I]mprovement of trust within an organization, or in other words autonomy and empowerment of the members, relies on improving interactions, influencing positive behaviors, and discouraging negative behaviors in concrete ways, which in turn may lead to increased levels of innovation and member happiness.

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