Wonder if the behavior of your executives has any affect on the behavior of your rank and file? Wonder no more. Dan Ariely – professor at Duke and author of bestsellers Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality (must reads, btw) provides some interesting study results that probably won’t make any difference in a company – but should. I say it won’t make a difference because those that get away with bad behavior fool themselves into thinking it is isolated and doesn’t really affect anyone else.
It’s not hurting anyone right?
If you’re read this blog for any period of time you know how much I think social proof and concensus affects behavior in an organization. To add more fuel to that fire Ariely offers a post today on the impact of seeing others cheat has on a groups behavior (hint – it’s not a good thing…) Here’s a quote from the post.
“In the research my colleagues and I have carried out on dishonesty, we’ve found repeatedly that people become more likely to lie and cheat after witnessing the dishonest behavior of others.”
The complete outline of the research is here but the net-net is that when we see others get away with something we are more likely to take the same path. There is a bit of silver lining though. If we believe we are members of a different social group than those cheating, it has less effect and if we are “rival” groups it actually influences us to be less dishonest than in general.
If you have executives that get away with minor transgressions (think miss-classifying dinners on expense reports, lying to clients, general boorish behavior) you will get more of that same behavior in the rank and file.
Truth be told – it isn’t just executives. If the general population behaves this way it is evidence the behavior is acceptable and normal. Ignoring bad behavior is the same as advertising it.
This also works in the positive. Highlight behaviors you want and you’ll get more of them.
Seems our parents knew what to do after all – punish bad behavior and reward good behavior.
Only wish our companies did the same.
Originally posted on on Incentive Intelligence