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Feeling All The Feels: The value of emotional culture at work

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, says an old adage. In today’s economy, companies would be wise to continuously tend to their hives in order to maximize and motivate their worker bees.

A recent study published in Harvard Business Review examined the importance and benefits of fostering an “emotional culture” at work and its findings reinforce much of the buzz within behavioral and organizational psychology: that employees thrive in environments where joy, love and fun are the predominant cultures, as opposed to anger, fear and hostility.

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Featured Collaborator for January: Robert Frank

Interview with Robert Frank, the H. J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management, author and New York Times columnist

What are your main areas of research?

When I was recently asked to offer a short course based on my work, I chose “Rivalry and Cooperation” as my title, since these two themes have dominated my research for more than three decades.

My focus on rivalry springs from the fact that humans evolved under extremely competitive conditions in which local rank was often the best predictor of who would survive and prosper. When there wasn’t enough food to go around, for example, the lowest-ranked individuals were most likely to starve, and in early polygynous societies, high-ranking males were most likely to claim multiple wives. So rivalry—competition for relative position—has always been a central feature of human interaction. This strand of my work has explored the consequences of concerns about relative position for a range of important outcomes, including the kinds of things we buy, the kinds of jobs we prefer, the behaviors we choose to regulate, and the tax systems we adopt.

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Your Permanent Record: Blacklist for ethics gaining steam

Bad ethics should not be forgotten in the new year- or any other- as bankers and regulators discussed creating an ethical blacklist for individuals working at regulated financial institutions, at the NY Federal Reserve‘s recent culture conference.

This signals new enthusiasm for a provocative proposal originally suggested in 2014 by Bill Dudley, President of the NY Fed: When an employee leaves a company, the organization would have a mandate to report information relating to his/her misconduct to a central database. Concerning hiring decisions, all firms would have a reciprocal duty to check the database against their potential hire list. The goal is to stem the tide of bad apples that bounce from firm-to-firm, negatively influencing stability, profits and planning.

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Taking the Pulse of Employee Satisfaction to Predict Future Earnings

Do miserable employees serve as harbingers of a drop in their company’s stock price? What is the true value of an employee’s smile?

Researchers Andy Moniz from the Rotterdam School of Management and Franciska de Jong of Erasmus University addressed these questions at a session based on their recent paper in Advances in Informational Retrieval as part of the Economics of Culture Conference put on by the New York Federal Reserve in November 2015. The authors have taken a new approach to an enduring question within business: What is the best way to evaluate corporate culture?

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Ethical Systems Year End Letter from Jon Haidt

Dear Friends, 

Ethical Systems reflects on a year marked by tragedy and triumph, major ethics news and new research. We began 2015 by receiving IRS recognition of our organization as a 501c3 non-profit, and filing our first 990 report. Finally, we can begin raising money to fund our operations. What started as an informal collaborative network of researchers has blossomed into an official organization uniting researchers and business leaders who want to change the business world by “making ethics easy.”

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2015 Collaborators in the News: A Year of Many Achievements

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Earthquakes and Shaky Ethics: The Perils of Construction Corruption

A study in Nature shows that our planet has a lot to teach us about business ethics. While we know that ethics pays, what is also now clear is that the absence of ethics can kill.

Nicholas Ambraseys of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London and Roger Bilham from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder compared deaths from earthquakes and found that “83% of all deaths from building collapse in earthquakes over the past 30 years occurred in countries that are anomalously corrupt.” This is all the more staggering when you consider that the researchers removed any contributing factors, such as poor building materials, from their analysis.

The construction industry is an industry both highly valued and highly susceptible to corruption. Governments, regulators, businesses and workers all have a vested interest in reducing and eliminating bribery and other practices that put people at risk. Without a systemic approach to reducing corruption and improving ethics, it won’t just be buildings that crumble; trust, stability and the long-term viability of a governmental body also risk imminent collapse.

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Point-of-Risk Compliance

This piece is cross posted from ES collaborator Jeffrey Kaplan's "Conflicts of Interest" blog with permission.

Marketers have long known that “point-of-sale” display of products can be a powerful advertising tool. But can its logic be put to work for promoting compliance and ethics?

I was recently asked by a client to fill out a vendor information form and noticed that in addition to seeking information from vendors the form required the employee proposing the hiring to certify that any conflict of interest involving the vendor had been disclosed and okayed by management and the C&E officer. While I know that many companies have some form of COI certifications (see prior posts), I can’t recall having seen one on a vendor information form of this sort before – even though the common sense of such a “point-of-risk” compliance approach seems pretty obvious. Indeed, it is hard to think of any reason why a company wouldn’t do this.

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Featured Collaborator for December: Ann Tenbrunsel

Interview with Ann Tenbrunsel, the David E. Gallo Professor of Business Ethics at the Mendoza School of Business at the University of Notre Dame, and co-author of Blindspots

What are your main areas of research? 

My work has focused on why individuals behave in ways that deviate from their values and are not aware that they are doing so. Within that domain, I have focused on how the situation leads to "ethical fading" in which people do not realize they are in fact presented with an ethical decision. If you don't realize you are faced with an ethical dilemma, then your ethical values and principles wont be part of the decision process. I have examined individual level factors-- temptation, forecasting errors, construal level, moral self-image and power-- as well as organizational level factors-- business framing, sanctions,perceived retaliation, organizational cultures of justice and respect, formal and informal communications-- that may influence unethical behavior.

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Reforming Culture and Behavior in the Financial Services Industry Conference

The Reforming Culture and Behavior in the Financial Services Industry Conference last week at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York* demonstrated that today’s financial industry understands the need for culture and behavior change in order to run a more ethical company. After spending many years focused on implementing compliance programs, there is now an complementary understanding of the role of ethics and its important function in shaping culture and reputation. The financial industry, however, must confront the bigger challenge of finding ways to actually change behavior.

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