SpyI’d like to say that it reminds me of being a teenager, but even my parents – a conservative Catholic blue-collar couple from the exurbs of New Jersey – weren’t this strict. In a recent post for TLNT, Eric B. Meyer of the law firm Dilworth Paxson suggests that employers who suspect an employee is faking sick for a day off should try to catch them on social media.

Meyer points out that a sizeable chunk of the workforce – 28 percent – has called in sick when they were actually feeling just fine and dandy. This fact may make employers want to go into NSA-style surveillance mode, tracking the moves of each and every one of their employees, but here’s the problem with that reaction: if 28 percent of workers have falsely called out sick, a staggering 72 percent have not. What’s more: those 28 percent of workers who have faked sick in the past may have only done so once or twice – there’s no reason to believe they’re always lying.

We end up with a sad state of affairs: the vast majority of people the vast majority of the time are not fabricating illnesses to get out of work, and yet people like Meyer suggest that employers spy on their employees to ensure that every reported illness is legitimate.

Is there a quicker way to destroy employee morale than to treat every worker in need of a day off as a possible felon?

In an age where more and more employees are asking for the freedom to work on their own schedules, businesses who operate according to Meyer’s panopticon model will lose out on top talent. If you treat your employees like truant school kids, they aren’t going to care about giving you their all — nor will they necessarily want to even work for you. With employee engagement at an historic low – some say that 70 percent of employees are disengaged from their work these days – employers can’t risk scaring off the best and brightest with intrusive surveillance practices.

Besides: even if employee engagement were at an all-time high, do you think spying on your employees – treating them like potential criminals, essentially – would be okay? If you answered “yes” to this question, my guess would be that you haven’t seen how innocent people have reacted to NSA surveillance in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

My point is this: less than a third of your employees have faked sick to take off from work. Why should we approach this as such a devastating issue? Why should we spy on employees to make sure they’re telling the truth? Not only does spying violate their basic human rights, but it also gives employees reason to jump ship and search for employers who treat them better.

We also need to consider why employees are lying about illness in the first place. Are we creating environments where employees feel they need a “doctor’s note” – however fabricated – to take time off? If so, why are we doing that? Why aren’t we making it easy for employees to get the time off that they need? Maybe they want to catch their kid’s dance recital, or maybe they need car repairs, or maybe they’re just stressed beyond belief and need some time to recuperate.

Whatever the case, the vast majority of your employees are not lying about their reasons for taking off of work. We need to create environments that allow employees to take the time they need – environments where employees don’t have to lie just to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Think Meyer is right to suggest social media snooping? Think again. The workforce has by and large shown us that it deserves to be trusted. Now, employers need to prove that employees can trust them.

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in Employee Morale]