Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

People who feel anxious are more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, according to University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Anxious individuals were more willing to:

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

People may engage in unethical behaviors because circumventing rules provides more options and greater control over outcomes, surmised University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
This experience can lead to feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

Once people do experience ethical lapses such as cheating, they can experience a cheater’s high,‘ described by University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
Separately, University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as this as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Ruedy’s team demonstrated that cheaters experienced emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of the guilt and bad feelings these participants predicted.

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Almost 180 people completed an anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word in four minutes and rated their current affect – positive and negative – both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers could be compared from imprints between their answer sheets with their self-corrected responses to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

Cheating was frequent: More than 40% cheated by writing in additional answers to increase their earnings — and reported significantly greater positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team signaled to more than 203 volunteers in another almost insoluble anagram task that researchers knew that participants may be providing inaccurate reports, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted and showed higher levels of self-satisfaction (feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, superior) than people not confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating:  Cheaters didn’t feel substantially better when they earned $2 per correctly unscrambled word.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest the importance of moderating ambient anxiety in organizations, both to increase employee quality-of-life, and to reduce unethical workplace behaviors that could undermine individual careers and organizational reputation.

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Besides offering perks like onsite daycare, yoga, and mindfulness practice, organizational leaders can increase role clarity by:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation, and supporting with collaborative workspaces.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

Related Posts:

Twitter: @kathrynwelds
Google+LinkedIn Groups Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

©Kathryn Welds

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s