I saw an interesting, thought-provoking, Tech piece in the Telegraph this week: ‘How HR departments impose tech tyranny in the woke workplace’.

Emotional monitoring and behavioural policing in the office ‘will arrive in the office sooner than many realise’ the article predicts. Wearers of a Fitbit-like device could ‘press one of two buttons to tell their boss their emotional state’.

Last year, Amazon introduced a Fitbit-style wearable called Halo. As the article describes; ‘Halo infers your emotional state, but also goes quite a bit further. It polices your tone, too. If the Halo’s algorithm judges that you’re being too assertive, it gives you a ticking off.’

The thought of my emotions being “objectively” analysed (well objectively based on a Californian algorithm) without context worries me that Orwell’s world is closer than we think.

However, whilst not something I am comfortable with, after giving it some more thought, I wondered if this might be something that a future workforce would actually not object to, perhaps they’d even encourage it – so much of their world is monitored already via various gadgets and tech.


In fact, I embarked on some market research with a sample group of one – my 17-year-old daughter.

Is the harvesting of emotional data – aka affective computing – a step too far?

My daughter’s comments and my own were as follows:

“Unnecessary and a nightmare. Feelings should be kept private.”

“Could it start an emotional divide?”

This is a valid point as the workplace strives to overcome ageism, sexism and racism; seeking to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“Would it be a benefit in the hiring process…?”

“Or could it be abused by unscrupulous bosses in the hiring process…?”

“Could it enable business to choose teams that work best together, to increase productivity…?”

“Could it be used to drive out (potentially older) members of the team whose approach doesn’t ‘fit’ the algorithm? You’ve been grumpy/curt/assertive three times this month – see HR.”

“Who decides what ‘normal’ is – your employer design it to ‘fit’ the company culture or an algorithm designed by Californian techies?”

“Would we see KPIs and targets based on your emotional interactions with your teammates…”

“Where does it end?”

But as large corporations seek to explore the competitive advantages that big data can deliver – Microsoft, Amazon and Deloitte were asked to comment in the article – I ask myself could this be commonplace in the future…even outside of California?

Leon Penny
CEO Synergy Group