Tag Archives: affect

Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

Anxious people were more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, in studies by University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kou

Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

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

Engaging in unethical behaviors may offer more options and greater control over outcomes, found University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
Unethical behavior was also associated with feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

People can experience a cheater’s high‘ instead of guilt, found University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Cheaters reported emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of guilt they predicted in Ruedy’s research

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Nearly180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Participants then rated current feelings from positive to negative, both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers on the task were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

More than 40% of these volunteers wrote in additional answers to increase their earnings, and reported significantly positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

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

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also showed higher levels of self-satisfaction and feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, and superior.

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest that organizational leaders can increase employee quality-of-life and diminish unethical workplace behaviors by clarifying roles, which reduces anxiety.

Leaders can reduce employees’ anxiety by:

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman:

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

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

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©Kathryn Welds

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