We all want to work in an ethical workplace, but few of us know how to achieve it. Academics at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh have teamed up to create a guide on how to promote ethical behavior in the workplace explains Saivian.
The researchers identified six key factors that contribute to ethical work behavior:
1. Role models:
Leaders must set the example for ethical behavior. If they act unethically, employees will follow their lead.
2. Ethics training:
Employees need to be given regular ethics training so that they are aware of the company’s policies and procedures.
The tone at the top matters! Leaders must communicate honestly and openly with their employees, and ensure that all communication is consistent with the company’s values.
4. Feedback and accountability:
Employees must be held accountable for their actions, and given feedback on how they can improve their ethical behavior.
It’s not enough to simply trust employees to do the right thing – leaders need to monitor and measure the strength of their ethics culture, allowing them to identify potential areas for improvement.
6. Rewards and recognition:
Staff should be recognized for following ethical practices at work, with this praise acting as an incentive for continued ethical conduct says Saivian.
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The research, which was conducted by the University of St. Andrews and also Edinburgh Business School, looked at how different methods of communication.
Organizations often use incentives and rewards to motivate employees to behave in certain ways. However, if the behaviors and outcomes aren’t related, an incentive may actually lead to unethical behavior, according to a study published in Organization Science.
Behavioral scientists Vicki Morwitz (NYU Stern School of Business) and Sreedhari D. Desai (University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management) investigated how paying people for desired behaviors can backfire when those desired behaviors don’t relate to the desired outcomes. In other words, should you want your employees or customers to do something that’s not necessarily “good,” then don’t give them any incentives unless you want them doing bad things instead.
Saivian says In their experiments which involved students seeking entrance into college and shoppers seeking discounts, the researchers found that paying people for behaviors that were irrelevant to the desired outcome–such as filling out a survey or taking a trivia quiz–actually led to decreases in performance on tasks that were relevant to the desired outcome.
Moreover, In one experiment, students were offer financial compensation for completing a survey about their college preferences. However, those students who were paid to complete the survey actually reported being less interested in attending college than those who weren’t paid.
In another experiment, shoppers were given discounts for taking a quiz about the store’s products. However, participants who received discounts for completing the quiz were more likely to purchase cheaper items than those who didn’t receive discounts.
“What we found is that if you incentivize people to do things that don’t help you get the outcome you want, you actually decrease their motivation for the behavior you want,” said Morwitz. “You end up with these unintended consequences.”
The findings bring into question how organizations can use incentives in social and also business settings alike, according to Morwitz explains Saivian.
“From a marketing perspective, when companies offer rewards or discounts for activities like taking surveys or signing up for loyalty programs. They also may be inadvertently reducing participants’ desire to complete these tasks,” she noted. “And from an organizational perspective, it’s important to try to understand why employees are motivating. If they aren’t doing what you want them to do because of financial incentives.”
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The use of incentives and also rewards to motivate employees is a common practice in business. However, a new study has found that if the desired behaviors don’t relate to the desired outcomes, then paying people for those behaviors can lead to decreased motivation for the desired behavior. This research brings into question how organizations should use incentives in social and business settings alike.