“Big brother is watching you”: surveillance via technology undermines employees’ learning and voice behavior during digital transformation

Julia M. Kensbock*, Christoph Stöckmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the digital age, the ability of organizations to create innovation is more important than ever before. By taking an employee perspective to digital transformation, we examine two important and inter-related cornerstones of organizational innovation—employees’ intrinsically motivated learning (i.e., their learning orientation) and employees’ willingness to speak up and raise constructive suggestions (i.e., their voice behavior). We conducted a survey study with 100 employees working in industries that are currently disrupted by digitization. Supporting the idea of self-determination theory, our findings show that digital transformation triggers employees to engage in an intrinsically motivated process during which they adopt a learning orientation, which consequently motivates them to express voice behavior. However, this beneficial process is counteracted by perceived surveillance via technology. When employees feel that digital transformation is accompanied by increased surveillance, they are less likely to adopt a learning orientation and therefore less likely to engage in voice behavior. Theoretical as well as practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-594
JournalJournal of Business Economics
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021

JEL classifications

  • m12 - "Personnel Management; Executive Compensation"
  • o15 - "Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration"


  • Digitization
  • Digital transformation
  • Surveillance
  • learning
  • Voice Behavior

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