Microsoft planning to weed out annoying workplace habits with software monitoring

By Tom Warren, on 21st Nov 11 11:17 am with 18 Comments

A new software patent filing by Microsoft appears to show that the software maker is planning to eradicate annoying workplace habits with software.

A new software patent application, originally filed in May 2010, reveals Microsoft’s grand plans to monitor employee behavior and create scorecards based on their habits. The software would pick up bad habits such as cutting off conference calls early or turning up to meetings late. Todd Bishop at GeekWire discovered the patent on Thursday and notes that video conferences, telephone, text messages and other forms of digital communication would all be monitored.

Microsoft describes its idea in the patent filing:

“[In addition] to an email or voice conversation, other forms of interaction such as gestures, mannerisms, etc. in a video conference may also be analyzed and reported (e.g. nodding one’s head in agreement, shaking one’s head indicating disagreement, hand gestures, and similar ones). Additionally, patterns of communication may also be detected (in addition to distinct phrases or mannerisms).

For example, cutting off others during conversation, prolonged monologues, and comparable ones may be included in the category of behaviors to be discouraged. Similarly, a time of day, or day of week of initiating a conversation and likewise patterns may be of interest to the analysis (e.g. a supervisor calling his supervisees frequently during after hours or at lunch time, or when they are busy may not recognize that habit until shown by the application). The patterns may also be pivoted on the relationship. If an individual calls a direct report during lunch, it can have a stronger negative impact on the score than if they call a peer (though they both may be construed as negative and have a negative score impact). …

As discussed above, scores may be computed based on phrases, as well as gestures, mannerisms, and patterns. Mannerisms may include visual cues such as wearing dark glasses in a video conference, wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting, and similar ones.”

It’s not clear whether Microsoft is baking this technology into any current products. The software maker regularly files patents against ideas and software that never makes it out of Redmond’s walls. If this scoring card ever comes to life then it could work like Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE service. Gamers using the Xbox 360 console can rate each other based on their interactions.

Sample scorecard for Microsoft's employee monitoring software

  • spragued

    People will decry this as a Big Brother intrusion (which it is), but it’s also a step toward the automation of worker management. Say goodbye to the white collar middle management drones!

    • Simon1

      Ya I agree. Privacy is disappearing these days anyway.

  • William Moore

    one thing to keep in mind is that persons workplaces habits are already monitored and what they do with company computers is normally monitored as well. The expectation of privacy with what is done with say company phones, e-mail, computers ect. is a misnomer. We should expect any company caring about the quality of the employees they keep to look at such things and dismiss the ones that misuse such company assets. That being said aside from criminal activity ones personal life is no business of an employer in my option. What we are looking at here is not an invasion of privacy though because this is not scoring ones personal life but rather their professional one. When you are at work your time and actions belong to them it’s that simple. When you are not they don’t.

  • HTD

    What. The.

    • Sebastian Swann

      Phuck ?

  • Anonymous

    This is a tad overboard Imo.

  • Test1ngi23

    This is the Microsoft I know and love! /s

    • Anonymous

      Minus 10 points for sarcasm

    • Guest

      Yeah, if they had that then, they’ve have fired you even sooner.

  • Anonymous

    We need every single action monitored for our own betterment. Kudos to Microsoft to leading the wave.

    • Guest

      Too bad they can implement it to automatically get rid of web site trolls.

  • oolong2

    This appears to be part of the next  iteration of “Microsoft Performance Point Server”.

    The thing to keep in mind is that it’s entirely up to the companies whether they’d want to implement the option or not. 

    Some companies only care about basic information about their employees, other companies go all “big brother”.  If they are the latter,  chances are they are already doing some kind of video monitoring on employees and using some kind of monitoring software on their computers, etc.

  • Anonymous

    So I guess nobody here has done a 360 review, taken a myer’s briggs test, thomas kilmann, or any other management review tool to assess how you think, act and handle different situations and people. I can see this program being utilized for just that type of feedback review.

    • Guest

      Bad assumption. Sure, the software might help. But it is really the kind of business MS wants to be in? I see it as having more potential for negative press than revenue. Ask yourself a basic question: is this software you’d want? I think most would answer no.

    • Anonymous

      So your are assuming that this patent will actually become a real product? It won’t…but it doesn’t hurt MS to patent the ideas to make money on licensing. But you must not have thought about that.
      I was responding to the ridiculous “OMG! big brother” comments. From people’s comments it appeared to me that a lot of the commenters have never been reviewed on that kind of level before. If my job is to sit on video telecon’s or telecons in general…i would have no objection from someone running this software program to analyse my posture, hand movements, tone. Hell I’ve been on review/Trainings where they video taped me reacting to different situations and different personality types. Its all simulated but that’s kind of the beauty about this patent. They could do this during a real live environment. That way I could better see what I was doing right or wrong and improve as an employee. Which helps me further my career. So to answer your question is this software I’d want? yes.

  • teusje

    where can I order this piece of software?! #needitashell

  • Fate-Kun

    I would love to see this patent make it and even added to work place environments, if it’s anything like XBOX Live then I’ll be reporting even the nicest guy with the Report Abuse button, users over use that enough as it is, so why not troll at the office with a Microsoft certified application ~Thumbs Up~

  • Anonymous

    Just because this is filed for a patent it doesn’t mean its implementation is eminent.