What tradies really think of being watched at work

A carpenter’s clip of a client watching over a young tradesman at work has triggered a passionate debate online about etiquette on jobsites.

The Melbourne chippy captured the rather ominous footage and shared it with a renowned national social media page for tradies earlier this week.

The short clip shows a man with his hands in his pockets keenly watching a tradie hard at work, sometimes standing less than a metre away.

“No words were exchanged the whole time,” he wrote with the footage.

In a surprising twist, a number of tradies took to the comments section to defend the act and applaud the client for keeping the worker honest.

Tradies reveal what they think about you watching them work

“I must be the only one that loves when the client is there with me on site,” one tradie wrote.

“When I have a customer standing there with me I get them to help carry gear for me or hold stuff or go get stuff from my cat, it’s great, it’s like having an assistant.”

Another added: “If you have confidence in your ability, it should be no worries for them to see what you do.”

“I like it because I get to showcase exactly the extra effort that I go to get everything perfect.”

“If you’re nervous when the client’s watching you gotta be doing something wrong,” wrote a third.

One client even confessed: “I’m guilty of this, but it’s because I’m interested in learning stuff and getting a kick out of helping, not at all because I don’t trust them.”

While many were supportive of the client’s act, others said it was poor form.

“Price goes up for an audience,” joked one while another added: “Benefits of roofing”.

Tradies discuss getting unwanted observers to buzz off

The topic was broached last year on a Reddit thread dedicated to construction workers as anonymous tradies toiled over how to ask for some space.

An electrician asked: “I know the saying is something like, ‘If you watch me, I charge you double’, – But how do you politely tell a client/customer not to watch you work?”

“I work as an electrician that does service calls. Some of my clients feel they have to watch over my shoulder while I work. I’m not sure why they do this?” they continued.

“Sometimes accidents happen that can cause an arc flash. I would hate for them to be looking at the device I’m working on, and it blows up.”

Another said making it an issue of safety was a go-to move.

“The people that get too close or want to help you just say, “Hey, this is dangerous and liability for my insurance. You gotta stand back, sorry man” or something of that nature,” they said.

One agreed that approach usually worked – whether it’s a legitimate concern or not.

“I have my own carpentry business, and that is the way to go. If I don’t want them to be around, I simply say that I need them 10 feet outside my work area per my insurance company’s requirements,” they wrote.

“Yeah, it’s BS and not true, but it works.”

Another said actually engaging the watchful client can work, too.

“I accidentally discovered that if I stopped working and spent my billable time just chatting with them rather than getting things done they moved on,” they wrote.

“You can pay me to work or you can pay me to chat.”

Why some people hate being watched at work

There’s actually a name for the dreaded feeling of unease that comes with being watched while completing work tasks.

The Hawthorne Effect, a term coined from a series of studies conducted at Illinois’ Hawthorne Works plant in the 1920s and 1930s, refers to workers modifying their behaviour in response to being observed in both positive and negative ways.

Numerous studies support its existence, but scholars debate its magnitude and implications.

Some argue that the effect is significant and can lead to artificially enhancemented performance, while others suggest its impact may be more subtle and contextual.

Studies suggest the Hawthorne Effect can manifest positively, including through increased motivation, productivity, and improved attitudes towards work when individuals know they are being observed.

On the flip side, some studies have shown that the awareness of being observed can induce stress, anxiety, and self-consciousness among individuals, resulting in performance anxiety and a reluctance to take risks.

President of the Australian Psychological Society, Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe, said the impact of increased oversight in the workplace is nuanced.

She acknowledged the role of oversight and transparency in measuring performance and enhancing productivity but cautioned against excessive intrusion.

“Oversight and transparency are useful mechanisms to measure performance and increase productivity, but it can limit individual performance if it is too invasive and onerous,” Dr Davis-McCabe told news.com.au, speaking broadly on the topic of oversight in the workplace.

“Nobody wants to work with someone looking over their shoulder 24/7.”

Dr Davis-McCabe said poorly executed oversight can make workers and customers feel “frustrated” and “undervalued.”

As for those not on a worksite, Dr Davis-McCabe emphasised a need for updated workplace laws to better reflect the modern work environment.

“With many workers now working from home we also need to modernise workplace laws to reflect this new way of working and what reasonable monitoring of employees is,” she said.

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