When Big Brother Is Watching: Goal Orientation Shapes Reactions to Electronic Monitoring During Online Training

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Web-based training is frequently used by organizations as a convenient and low-cost way to teach employees new knowledge and skills. As web-based training is typically unproctored, employees may be held accountable to the organization by computer software that monitors their behaviors. The current study examines how the introduction of electronic performance monitoring may provoke negative emotional reactions and decrease learning among certain types of e-learners. Through motivated action theory and trait activation theory, we examine the role of performance goal orientation when e-learners are exposed to asynchronous and synchronous monitoring. We show that some e-learners are more susceptible than others to evaluation apprehension when they perceive their activities are being monitored electronically. Specifically, e-learners higher in avoid performance goal orientation exhibited increased evaluation apprehension if they believed asynchronous monitoring was present, and they showed decreased skill attainment as a result. E-learners higher on prove performance goal orientation showed greater evaluation apprehension if they believed real-time monitoring was occurring, resulting in decreased skill attainment.

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