The Importance of ‘Don’t’ in Inducing Ethical Employee Behavior
|Published:||February 28, 2011|
In a new study, HBS professors Francesca Gino and Joshua D. Margolis look at two ways that companies can encourage ethical behavior: the promotion of good deeds or the prevention of bad deeds. It turns out that employees tend to act more ethically when focused on what not to do. That can be problematic in firms where success is commonly framed in terms of advancement of positive outcomes rather than prevention of bad ones. Key concepts include:
- In general, there are two ways a company can encourage ethical conduct among its employees: either the promotion of good actions and outcomes or the prevention of bad ones.
- Through several experiments, the professors found that inducing a prevention focus will lead to ethical behavior more than inducing a promotion focus.
- In encouraging ethical behavior among employees, it behooves firms to consider focusing on preventing negative outcomes, not only in creating a code of ethics but also in setting goals and framing task directives.