Though largely overlooked, tapping into employees’ emotions and personal values can produce powerful triggers for calling out wrongdoing in the workplace, from petty theft to embezzlement and sexual misconduct, U. of I. researchers say.
“It’s very difficult to encourage people to blow the whistle if you ignore the role of emotions and personal identity, which most company policies do at this point,” said Abhijeet Vadera, a graduate student who is studying the issue along with business professor Ruth V. Aguilera and former U. of I. professor Brianna Caza.
Past studies are fuzzy on why employees blow the whistle, exploring factors such as age, gender and time on the job, but providing inconsistent results, according to a report by the Illinois researchers that will appear in Business Ethics Quarterly.
They followed up that study with a survey of workers at an Indian manufacturing plant, which they say provides insight that could guide employers seeking to build a culture that encourages workers to report wrongdoing.
In the survey, 40 percent of respondents said they witnessed wrongdoing on the job. Half failed to report it, citing reasons such as doubt that management would act or fears of retaliation, including losing their jobs.
But for the half who blew the whistle, emotions trumped even the possible loss of income, said Vadera, who interviewed workers at the 1,500-employee cement manufacturing plant.
“When I interviewed whistle-blowers, almost all of them cried during the interview,” Vadera said. “The survey showed that people mostly blow the whistle because they are absolutely angry over something that they feel is unfair or unjust.”
Aguilera says companies can help breed a moral compass and emotional response to wrongdoing through regular, extensive training sessions that detail right vs. wrong – from stealing pens to misappropriating funds – and the consequences.
“Employers need to explain that wrongdoing can cause an Enron-type scandal that could sink the company, or eat into the revenue that covers payroll and raises,” she said. “Knowing the implications can bring their moral identity and emotions to the forefront, making them more likely to blow the whistle.”
Those trainings sessions also build a connection between workers and the company that can encourage whistle blowing, said Aguilera, a fellow at the U. of I. Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society.
“If I care deeply about my company, I’m more inclined to defend it and blow the whistle on wrongdoing,” she said. “If my job is just a paycheck, I’m more inclined to just say ‘whatever’ if I see something wrong.”
No ethics policy or compliance program will convince every employee to report wrongdoing, Aguilera said. But she says the timing is ripe to ramp up whistle-blower programs, based on studies that show employee outrage is mounting amid corporate misconduct that fueled the nation’s deepest recession in decades.
“Everybody has a different definition of right and wrong, but most people like to look at themselves in the mirror and think they are doing good things,” she said.
Vadera says connecting with workers’ emotions and personal identity has to be done in concert with a company ethics policy that clearly outlines how to report abuses, and then follows through.
Aguilera says most ethics policies are little more than “window dressing” to comply with federal law. Nearly 90 percent of ethics guidelines are common among Fortune 500 firms, even though every company has its own unique circumstances and culture.
“Training programs and capitalizing on emotions are only effective if you have a good system in place,” Vadera said. “If you don’t have a good system, what’s the use of encouraging people to report wrongdoing?”
Jan Dennis | EurekAlert!
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences