decision making

Varying Tasks to Increase Compliance

A new study illustrates how providing variety in job-related tasks for workers contributes to rule adherence and stymies unethical decision making.

The paper “Reducing Organizational Rule Breaking Through Task Variety: How Task Design Supports Deliberative Thinking,” is authored by Rellie Derfler-Rozin, ES collaborator Celia Moore and Bradley R. Staats and published in Organization Science.  The authors discuss the positive implications of this research for designing roles and responsibilities in various organizational settings, and the beneficial outcomes for both workers and businesses.

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Ethical Decision Making: Easy in Training, Harder in Reality

Over the course of a workday, people make innumerable decisions ranging in degrees of severity, from critical to mundane. Often times, choices are made in a vacuum and are considered for only as long as it takes until the next intellectual dilemma or distraction demands our attention. A recent piece by Eugene Soltes in Harvard Business Review explores the difficulty around  ethical decision-making, while also exploring the gap between attempts to train or educate people on organizational ethics and the real-world pressures people face when face with an ethical dilemma (or even recognizing that they may be in an ethical quandary).

Soltes, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, points to a variety of executive misdoings by ostensibly smart and talented— not to mention prominent— leaders that illustrate that even those under scrutiny and fully aware of their responsibility for shareholder funds can act in self-serving ways that, in retrospect, they realize are obviously unethical. And, as Soltes writes, in hindsight the fact that these were adverse decisions are not lost on  these individuals, but in the moment they failed to consider the impact or consequences.

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Never Black and White: Eugene Soltes Exposes the Gray

White collar criminals typically conjure images of dark boardrooms, wealthy conspirators and syndicated, international crime rings. Yet, in a new book, Eugene Soltes shows white collar crime is less a cause of pernicious plots and more a product of a lack of focus, proximity and context.

What distinguishes Why They Do It from others on the subject is Soltes’ extensive use of almost 50 interviews with those convicted of white collar crimes- which he defines as individuals in high social standing who committed crimes while doing business. The main takeaway is that corporate leaders are more or less normal people, who are as susceptible to the same conflicts of interest and ability to rationalize decisions made in the moment as the rest of us. By virtue of their position, however, their decisions can do harm not only to themselves but also all with whom they do business.

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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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Biases and Decision Making

From the things we say to the actions we take each day, our world- and that of business- is comprised of thousands of decisions, both big and small. How we come to make those decisions is the result of intuition and analysis and, in most cases, influenced by biases that we may or may not be aware of. 

We know about blind spots in decision making, mostly because of the work of ES collaborators Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel. A recent graph published in Business Insider: Australia, and included below, depicts additional biases that all would be wise to learn and attempt to obviate when analyzing ideas and programs.

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Professionalism and Ethics: A missed connection?

What does professionalism mean to you? Often, people who identify as a professional think of themselves not only as knowledgeable in their discipline, but also rational, objective and serving a higher purpose (e.g., the client’s needs). These are laudable goals, but new research shows that these characteristics could actually lead to people making self-interested, and ultimately unethical or damaging, decisions.  

In a paper on Professionalism and Moral Behavior, Maryam Kouchaki of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, tests the hypothesis that an emphasis on one's professional identity has a greater likelihood of an individual engaging in unethical behavior. This is an important inquiry in light of ethical failures in companies where lawyers and accountants often act as “gatekeepers” on ethics and compliance issues vis a vis corporate practices. Based on evidence from her lab studies and employee surveys, Kouchaki concludes that priming professionalism may actually lead to increased misbehavior.

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Featured Collaborator of the Month: Daylian Cain

I study judgment and decision making, or, as I like to say, “why good people do bad things, and why smart people do dumb things.” Much of my work is on conflicts of interest and how they are problems not only for the intentionally corrupt but also for well-meaning professionals who fall prey to unintentional bias.

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The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See

The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See  

By Max H. Bazerman

Simon and Schuster (2014)

Summarized by Bryan Turner

 

What if you had the ability to make better decisions and all you had to do was to make slight adjustments in how you analyze issues?  Well, this ability (noticing) exists, and The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See shows you how to cultivate it.

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Featured Expert of the Month: Max Bazerman

Interview with Professor and Author Max Bazerman 

What is the main research themes for which you are known?

I believe that I am best known to different groups of scholars for different chunks of work. 

Perhaps the research of mine that other scholars first noticed was my integration of the field of behavioral decision research (aka behavioral economics, behavioral insights, etc.) for a managerial audience. Many leading scholars had their first exposure to the field by reading my book Judgment in Managerial Decision Making (now in its 8th edition, with Don Moore). I published the first edition in 1986, when business schools were not yet paying attention to the revolution created by the insights of Kahneman and Tversky.

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