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The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (detail), Francisco Goya (Courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri)

Why Managers Forgive Ethical Lapses of Tired Employees

Idea posted: September 2018
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Managers tend to excuse and forgive ethical lapses by employees who are fatigued or depleted, a new study shows — although if the employees brought the fatigue on themselves (such as from watching a late night sporting event rather than working late), managers are less forgiving.

Idea #715
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Source: Pixabay

How to Create Shared Value for the Firm and Society

Idea posted: August 2017
  • CSR & Governance

The new Creating Shared Value (CSV) mandate that calls for business to focus on both making profits and helping society is criticized as naïve wishful thinking. The interface of business and society is not always win-win. An international team of academics answers the critics with a CSV+ framework that covers all situations — even the win-lose or lose-win ones.

Idea #663
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Sustainability-driven Hybrid Companies Challenge Business Dogma

Idea posted: April 2017
  • CSR & Governance

The corporate world has embraced sustainability, but without challenging the basic rules of competition and economic success. Hybrid companies that blur the lines between business and societal/environmental missions prove that these rules can, and should, be challenged.

Idea #650
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The Cheats, Valentin de Boulogne, c.1619 (Courtesy: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)

Last Chance Cheating: A Gig Economy Challenge

Idea posted: May 2016
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Because short-term or contract employees are hired for a specific period of time, they know when the end of their time with the employer is near. A new study shows that as they approach this final period, departing short-termers will often cheat the employer in some way. The reason: it’s their last chance to make a little gain at the employer’s expense. 

Idea #605
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St Thomas Aquinas, Benozzo Gozzoli, 1468 -1484 (Courtesy: Musée du Louvre, Paris)

We Trust People Who Believe in Absolute Moral Rules

Idea posted: May 2016
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Most people live by a set of moral rules that guides their decision-making. For example: killing is never justified. What happens, however, if the death of one person could save the lives of many? Should the rule be ignored in this case? Many people would say yes — the consequences change the situation. A new study, however, shows that in the workplace, these ‘consequentialists’ will be less trusted than those who live by immutable moral rules.

Idea #607
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System change not climate change', 2009, UN climate talks in Copenhagen. Photo: kris krüg via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

How Social Movements Spark Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

Idea posted: April 2016
  • CSR & Governance
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Social movements change society’s expectations of a company, as well as influence the thinking and values of individuals in that company. Under ideological pressure from diverse categories of external and internal stakeholders, the company responds with a corporate social responsibility agenda. 

Idea #603
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Composition VI, Wassily Kandinsky, 1913 (Courtesy: The State Hemitage Museum, St Petersburg)

A Symphony of Agency and Stewardship Values Ensures Family Business Success

Idea posted: May 2015
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

Agency theory describes a contractual relationship between managers and shareholders who have divergent interests. Stewardship theory describes a collaborative relationship between managers and shareholders toward shared goals. Which works best for family businesses? New research reveals that a combination of the two, changing as the business moves through its lifecycle, offers the best recipe for success. 

Idea #518
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Amsterdam Gay Pride 2013 Vodafone boat (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Corporate Political Advocacy: Support Non-business-related Causes

Idea posted: April 2015
  • CSR & Governance

Some companies are unequivocally supportive of controversial political causes that are not even related to their industries — gay marriage, for example. Is corporate political advocacy, which goes beyond the responsible practices and community involvement of corporate social responsibility (CSR), appropriate in a business setting?  

Idea #508
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The Money Changers, Marinus van Reymerswaele, 1548 (Courtesy: Bilbao Fine Arts Museum)

How a Numbers-Crunching Culture Can Increase Unethical Behaviour

Idea posted: April 2015
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Adopting a calculative mindset to every problem — approaching every issue, either qualitative or quantitative, in a numerical frame of mind — can lead to dishonest or immoral decisions, according to new research. 

Idea #504
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Firms Are Not Adapting to the Millennial Workforce

Idea posted: February 2015
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Millennials bring technological savvy to the workplace, but also require focused managerial attention. According to the latest CFO Survey from Duke Fuqua and CFO Magazine, many companies — especially American companies — are not adapting to attract or retain millennials.

Idea #481
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A watercolour by Gustaf Tenggren, 1918-19. An alternative version was used to illustrate an edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales published 1922.

Ethics and the Slippery Slope: Why Good People Do Bad Things

Idea posted: November 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Operations

An in-depth study of ordinary people over an extended period of time reveals how easy it is for ‘good’ people, starting with an initial small, self-justified deception, to quickly justify bigger and bigger indiscretions, thus falling down the ‘slippery slope’ to major unethical behaviour.

Idea #462
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Corporate Values: Translating Platitudes into Sustainable Practices

Idea posted: October 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

For organizational values to have an impact they must be turned into practices. Effective values practices are not stamped in place by top-down management pronouncements but rather emerge from precipitating events that draw concerned people together who seek preventive solutions. These solutions are eventually, after a period of contention and rework, manifested in concrete practices.

Idea #449
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How Competition for Customers Causes Unethical Behaviour

Idea posted: June 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Operations

Do you encourage a culture of competition in your organization in order to motivate your employees? This Idea shows that doing so may also promote corruption and unethical behaviour. In the face of local competition, firms operating in the New York air-pollution testing industry were found to be more likely to behave unethically. Read on to find out the implications of this finding for your organization.

Idea #397
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The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781, Detroit Institute of Art

How Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Unethical Behaviour

Idea posted: June 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Are your employees working longer hours? This is the case with most organizations today. Look deeper and you might find that they are sleep deprived as a result. This Idea suggests that such sleep deprivation can lead to more unethical behaviour at work, but there may be a simple, short-term solution: a cup of coffee!

Idea #385
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How Peers Influence Ethics: Good Eggs and Bad Apples

Idea posted: June 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance

A controlled experiment reveals that managers ‘adjust’ their ethics based on the behaviour they witness from peers. If a peer is honest, the observing manager becomes a little more honest, on average. If a peer is dishonest, the observing manager can become significantly more dishonest. 

Idea #386
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How Employees Win ‘Voice’ and Influence Decisions

Idea posted: June 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

High levels of engagement and commitment in the workplace could be both a cause and an effect of involving employees in decision-making processes. Research suggests that leaders ‘grant voice’ to followers who combine a need to influence the organization with a need to belong and take part — and that followers work better for leaders when they do.

Idea #391
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Detail from a poster by Eric Frazer, for the Post Office Savings Bank, 1942 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How a Culture of Integrity Boosts the Bottom Line

Idea posted: May 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change

A culture of integrity adds value to the firm. Research shows that the more employees perceive top managers as trustworthy and ethical, the better the financial performance of the firm and the more attractive the firm to potential employees. 

Idea #379
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The Misers, by a follower of Marinus van Reymerswaele, c.1490-1567, The Royal Collection Trust

Profits Vs Principles: Market Competition and Moral Transgression

Idea posted: May 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Competition sometimes has undesirable consequences. These could include ‘tolerance’ of moral transgressions that further the economic interests of the organization. New research suggests that in highly competitive markets, where the pressure to outperform is intense, leaders might be less likely to discipline ‘bad’ employees who are ‘good’ for the bottom line.

Idea #380
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“And dressed myself in such humility that I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts.” Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1. Painting of Henry IV, British School, 1620s, Dulwich Picture Gallery

How Humility in the CEO Improves Management Performance

Idea posted: May 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Humility on the part of a CEO can lead to highly beneficial results in their organization; humble CEOs improve top management team integration, which in turn increases middle managers’ perception of an empowering organizational climate, resulting in better work engagement, commitment, and job performance. Read on to learn more about why this trait is so important for CEOs to develop.

Idea #375
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Can a Leader Be Too Ethical?

Idea posted: May 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Ethical leadership reduces the risks of antisocial and selfish employee behaviour and encourages the kind of ‘pro-social’ behaviours that create value and promote the collective interest. There could, however, be a point at which it is counterproductive. Recent research suggests that leaders demonstrating particularly high ethical standards can weaken the psychological contract with employees through perceived ‘moral reproach’.

Idea #377
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Arshile Gorky Fiorello La Guardia at the opening of the Federal Art Gallery (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

How Conducting Appraisals Well Builds Ethical Behaviour

Idea posted: March 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

The annual appraisal interview has a lasting impact on the perceptions and attitudes of employees. Treat people with respect and you encourage the kinds of behaviours that create value for shareholders and stakeholders. Get the interview wrong, on the other hand, and you put the organization at increased risk.

Idea #350
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David Garrick in the title role in Act V, Scene 3 of Shakespeare's Richard III, by William Hogarth, 1745 (Courtesy: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)

How Valuable is Integrity for Mid- and Top-Level Executives?

Idea posted: March 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

Too many headlines in recent years have paid testament to the fact that leaders can be prone to ethical lapses. Perhaps this is why integrity is today, more than ever, considered to be a fundamental character strength for managers at all levels of an organization. In this Idea, however, integrity is shown to be relatively less important for middle-level executives compared to other character strengths, such as social intelligence.

Idea #352
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Justice, Fairness and Employee Engagement

Idea posted: March 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Learning & Behaviour

Employees’ perceptions of justice in their organization can impact important outcomes and should not be ignored. In this Idea, positive changes in distributive, procedural, and interactional justice are linked to job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Read on to find how these can be built upon in your workplace.

Idea #334
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John Barrymore as Svengali and Marian Marsh as Trilby, a poster for ‘Svengali’, 1931, produced and distributed by Warner Brothers

Choosing a Venture Capitalist: The Ethical Dimension

Idea posted: February 2014
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship

New and young businesses often depend on equity finance from venture capitalists. This does not, however, mean that they’re indiscriminate in their choice of venture capitalist fund. Recent research suggests that, in certain circumstances at least, entrepreneurs will spurn offers from equity investors who have a poor reputation for ethical behaviour.

Idea #332
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Investment Banking: Technology and the Decline of Trust

Idea posted: February 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Finance
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership & Change

‘Up or out’ promotion policies and reward systems that encourage ‘star’ bankers to ‘shine’ by taking unacceptable risks were significant factors in the 2007-2009 financial crisis. But they need to be viewed in a broader context. The seeds of trouble were sown decades previously, when a trend towards ‘transactional’ models, powered by technology, began to transform investment banks.

Idea #325
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Changing Attitudes to Business Ethics: Insights from South Africa

Idea posted: February 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour
  • Marketing
  • Operations

The past 20 years or so have seen a marked change in attitudes towards ethics among South African business-school students. Recent MBA graduates have stronger opinions on what is ‘wrong’ and what is ‘right’ business behaviour and are more likely to think in terms of moral absolutes. This has significant implications for business schools and educators — and for companies and employers.

Idea #319
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Oilholics Anonymous Club. Allegory of the oil corruption

Reflective Leadership to Counter Corruption in Emerging Markets

Idea posted: January 2014
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Marketing
  • Operations

Corruption remains a major obstacle to doing business in rapidly developing countries such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. It destroys value, distorts markets and encourages executives to work in their own rather than shareholders’ and stakeholders’ interests. Solving the problem depends on a new approach from companies: ‘reflective leadership’.

Idea #307
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Chery A1 - service/repair shop in Ukraine (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Reasons for Product Recalls: Safety on the Line

Idea posted: December 2013
  • Strategy
  • CSR & Governance
  • Operations

Product recall is an increasingly common problem for manufacturing industries. But its causes are rarely researched. Most studies concentrate on its effects. The  financial impact of withdrawing a product from sale has been examined in detail; the PR ‘fall-out’ much discussed. This Idea shifts the emphasis to the ‘plant-level drivers’ of recalls — and reveals the ‘systematic’ and operational reasons for quality-control failure and serious product flaws.

Idea #285
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The Fall of Icarus, Carlo Saraceni (c.1580-1620), Museo e Gallerie Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

CSR: Pride Comes Before a Fall

Idea posted: November 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Leadership & Change
  • Learning & Behaviour

CEOs with a strong record in corporate social responsibility (CSR) are more likely to engage in less ethical behaviour further down the line, despite maintaining an appearance of morality. Leaders should, therefore, be aware of their propensity to fall from grace and boards should closely monitor their behaviour, especially if the CEO in question is currently ‘on a pedestal’, with recent CSR achievements to their name.

Idea #273
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Fair Trade logo

Premium Pricing Socially Responsible Products

Idea posted: November 2013
  • CSR & Governance
  • Marketing

Are consumers willing to pay a premium for socially responsible products? According to two researchers from NYU’s Stern School of Business, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Specifically, consumers will pay a higher premium for socially responsible non-durable products, and a higher premium for products that reflect a social commitment to humans, such as fair labour practices, as opposed to products that benefit animals or the environment.

Idea #269
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