Tag Archives: lying

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:

  • -Participate in unethical actions in hypothetical scenarios,

-Engage in more lying and cheating to make money.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kouchaki


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

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 a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Then, they rated their current affect – positive and negative – both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

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

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

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team signaled to 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 and showed higher levels of self-satisfaction (feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, superior).

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 more money on an anagram task.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

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

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

Organizational leaders can reduce anxiety by increasing role clarity through:

  • 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?

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Collaboration Can Encourage Corruption, Lying

Damon Jones

Damon Jones

Many corporations encourage collaboration and make it part of culture statements and annual performance reviews.
Cisco Systems, for example, defined collaboration as “working across boundaries, building teams, managing conflict, earning trust, and recognizing good performance,” part of the CLEAD performance management and development system.

Mark Greenberg

Mark Greenberg

Ability to collaborate develops in childhood and is associated with positive life outcomes, demonstrated in a two decade longitudinal study of more than 750 Americans from kindergarten into adulthood by Penn State’s Damon Jones, Mark Greenberg and Daniel Max Crowley.

Daniel Max Crowley

Daniel Max Crowley

They found that kindergartners whose teachers rated them highly on social competence dimensions including:

Ori Weisel

Ori Weisel

Although collaborative settings may boost honesty due to increased observability, accountability, University of Nottingham’s Ori Weisel and Shaul Shalvi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev showed that collaboration among equals can trigger corruption by lying, misreporting, and exaggerating performance.

Shaul Shalvi

Shaul Shalvi

They experimentally evaluated performance between 280 partners on a die rolling task for which they earned cash.
Player A privately rolled a die and reported the result to player B, who then privately rolled and reported the result.
Both players were paid only if they both reported the same results — for example, if both reported rolling “6”, each earned €6.

Robert S Feldman

Robert S Feldman

Players tended to inflate potential profit by misreporting actual outcomes, demonstrated by the proportion of reported matches.
The probability of rolling the same number in each round was one in six, or an average of 3.33 times in 20 rounds.
However, teams reported an average of 16.3 matches—nearly five times the expected number, demonstrating likely misrepresentation to achieve financial payoff.

Participants also lied even when they did not benefit, provided their partner benefitted.
Wiesel and Shalvi explained that “people are willing to pay the moral cost of lying even if they don’t stand to get any material benefit—the only benefit is the joy of collaboration.

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

When partners’ payoffs were not aligned, they were less likely to inaccurately report performance.
This finding suggests that participants were more likely to engage in “corrupt collaboration” when lying was financially advantageous to themselves and their partners.

Lying, one component of “corrupt collaboration,” occurs many times each day, according to University of Massachusetts’ Robert Feldman.
In fact, he found that two people getting acquainted lied an average of three times in ten minutes.

James Tyler

James Tyler

However, lying may not be detected in collaborative situations.
Feldman asserts that “no single or even combination of verbal or nonverbal behaviors accurately indicate when a person is lying… Most people have no better than a coin-flip chance of telling a lie from the truth….And many of the cues we think are associated with lying are unrelated to deception.”
This view is more pessimistic than  Paul Ekman’s contention that lying can be detected.

Andreas Reichert

Andreas Reichert

Besides being potentially difficult to detect in collaborative situations, lying can be contagious.
For example, volunteers were more likely to engage in their own deceptive behavior toward others as a result of being duped, in research by Purdue’s James M. Tyler, Robert S. Feldman of University of Massachusetts with Andreas Reichert of University of Konstanz.

Greg Willard

Greg Willard

Corrupt collaboration practices like lying may persist due to financial and other benefits.
In fact, people who lie also demonstrated more confidence, higher  achievement goals, positive affect, and composure during a stressful mock job interview scenario by Harvard’s Greg Willard and Richard Gramzow of Syracuse University.

However, when liars knew that their embellishments would be verified, their performance – and their prevarications – were reduced over time.
This finding suggests that visible monitoring seem to curb the potential downsides of collaboration in the workplace.

Richard Gramzow

Richard Gramzow

Despite collaboration’s purported positive effects on innovation, this teamwork approach can be accompanied by a side effect of enabling willful and reckless “corruption”, lying, and exaggeration.
However, this darker side of collaboration can be reduced by verifying the trust instilled in others.

-*How have you maximized the benefit of collaboration and team work while reducing the likelihood of developing “corrupt collaboration”?

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