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Benjamin Drury - June 26, 2024

Fired for using a computer mouse the wrong way.

Last week, Well Fargo fired over a dozen people for using a computer mouse the wrong way.

Obviously, that’s not the entire story.

Some employees in the bank’s wealth and investment management division, who work remotely were caught using mouse jigglers to fake productivity and summarily dismissed.

In 2022, as the world was getting back to the office, Wells Fargo, like most organisations, adopted a hybrid working policy, allowing some staff to work from home part of the time. Part of the rules around this shift entailed installing tools to monitor employees work, such as tracking keystrokes, eye movements, mouse use, taking screenshots and monitoring which websites are visited during work hours.

As always, when monitoring technology gets more sophisticated, so do the tools to circumvent the watchers and stick it to the man! That’s where “mouse jigglers” come in. They allow employees to make their computers appear to be active and in use when the employee is off doing something else – watching Netflix, playing tennis, down the pub.

Unfortunately, for these Wells Fargo employees, US financial laws mean that all banks’ places of work need to be registered and inspected regularly to protect consumers. This includes those places where people work remotely.
And the employees got busted.

You have to wonder though why it is that a bank with all it’s advanced metrics and output measures, decided that measuring productivity by the movement of a mouse and key-strokes was the best way to go.

Surely, when creating this monitoring policy someone must have asked the question, “how does mouse movement directly relate to productivity? Wouldn’t measuring the actual output be more useful?”

I also wonder, if you have to monitor people to this degree to get them to do the job, perhaps you’ve not got the right people and they are clearly not motivated to deliver. At that point, you might think about addressing the engagment problem rather than ensuring their mouse is moving sufficiently.

A company spokesperson said, “Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards and does not tolerate unethical behavior.”

Spoken without a hint of sarcasm from the exact same Wells Fargo that was fined $3 billion when executives pressured bank employees to aggressively cross-sell products and open thousands of accounts without customers permission just so they could enhance sales and revenue and meet certain arbitrary performance targets.

Cheating to fake productivity. Sure seems like a cultural/systemic issue to me. It seems super harsh to fire employees for doing (in a much more localised way) what the senior leaders did previously.

What do you think? Should they have been fired or not?

Posted in Culture, Leadership, ProductivityTags:
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