Annie Wheeler

Taylorism is the science of dividing specific tasks to allow employees to complete assignments as efficiently as possible. The practice of Taylorism was first developed by Frederick Taylor who desired to obtain the most efficient practices in the workforce. Seeking to eliminate soldiering, or the deliberation to slow a task for difficulty purposes, Taylor used scientific methods to assign workers to tasks they performed best(Gilliom and Monahan, 2013). According to Lanz (2013) “Division of labor has been an important source of productivity gains since the first human beings engaged in hunting and gathering” (p. 194). Taylor sought to attain a higher level of economic prosperity by his methods of division.

Surveillance techniques like Taylorism are used in large corporations to observe workers and make sure employees are not wasting company time by slacking in their tasks. By viewing the efficiency levels of each employee, companies can achieve the optimal success rate. Observation improves the dedication of employees to their work. Taylorism connects to the surveillance culture because employees are constantly under the pressure of being watched. Surveillance in the workplace can begin the second an employee drives into the parking lot. Gilliom and Monahan (2013) state, “Currently about 75 percent of employees at American companies are subjected to regular surveillance at the workplace, while employees who use the Internet at work stand a 33 percent chance of being exposed to constant surveillance” (p.93). There are multiple avenues of surveillance from being surveilled in the parking lot, scanning into the building, and to being watched over the Internet. The around the clock surveillance or lack thereof influences how hard employees work and spend their time (Hartzband & Groopman, 2016). Taylorism fails to care about the dignity of the human being as surveillance has the potential to imply a state of distrust between employees and their employers. Employees who surveil can negatively affect trusting relationships between employers and employees. Additionally, surveillance in the work environment places emphasis on achieving success and often puts success over care. Employees are challenged to work harder under the awareness that they are being watched.

An example of Taylorism in the modern-day workplace is the practice of timing emergency departments in hospitals and determining the shortest possible amount of time to attend to a patient. Hartzband and Groopman (2016) state, “physicians’ sense that the clock is always ticking, and patients are feeling the effect” (p. 107). Physicians in certain clinics are only allowed to attend to the needs of patients for a very short period of time (Hartzband & Groopman). In shortened periods of time, doctors lack the ability to make decisions that listen to patients’ preferences. Benefits of scientific management in hospitals are that more patients can receive care, communication becomes more concise, and diagnoses occur more rapidly. There are also negative setbacks to scientific management such as improper diagnoses, and lack of empathy towards the patient to receive the care they need.


Gilliom, J., & Monahan, T. (2013). SuperVision: An introduction to the surveillance society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hartzband, P. & Groopman, J. (2016). Medical Taylorism. The New England Journal of Medicine, 374, 106-108. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1512402

Lanz, R. (2013). Offshoring of tasks: Taylorism versus Toyotism. The World Economy, 36, 194-212. doi: 10.1111/twec.12024


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Key Concepts in Surveillance Studies Copyright © 2019 by Annie Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book