Tips To Help Employees Reduce Unethical Decision-Making

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “Tips To Help Employees Reduce Unethical Decision-Making”

Do you pride yourself on being one kind of person at work and another kind of person at home? Many people do. They may feel they need to be the tough negotiator at work, but then want to be more flexible at home and allow their children to do whatever they want. 

The problem with being a chameleon is that playing by the rules in different roles can get tricky. This dilemma makes it difficult to act ethically, especially at work. That’s one of the findings from the research done by Maferima Touré-​Tillery, assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School. She was joined by Alysson Light, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia for this project. 

Analyzing Identities Across Roles

In their study, Touré-​Tillery and her co-​workers asked adults to identify different roles they played, such as parent, marathoner, or accountant. Study participants also indicated whether they were the ‘same person’ in these roles. Finally, they had to choose adjectives that matched their behavior in these roles.

An individual who chose "aggressive" as the adjective to describe their behavior in both an accountant and a marathoner capacity would be seen as consistent across roles. Some individuals selected vastly different adjectives. For example, they called themselves rule-​following accountants but aggressive marathoners. 

Behavioral Differences Induce Stress

Trouble arises when people exhibit these kinds of differences. If a marathoner is extremely aggressive, they might take a shortcut to win a race. In their role as a rule-​following accountant, the individual may not cut any corners when it comes to something like calculating overtime. After a while, the less-​than-​moral behavior exhibited during marathons can cause a person to feel bad about themselves. Those feelings can quickly morph into stress and impact job performance.

The Kellogg School researchers suggest that corporate leaders might want to adjust their policies to improve work-​life balance for employees. “Specifically, you are helping them merge their identities as parent and worker — so they might behave more morally across the board.”