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Negative feedback may trigger immoral behaviour among workers

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New York: Do you have a workplace atmosphere sans motivation and constant cribbing from your boss about performance? The negative feedback from seniors may lead to endorsement of immoral behaviour in employees, warns a study.

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“Strongly held professional goals, when combined with public criticism of our potential in that field, can have unintended effects on ethical behaviour for some,” said lead researcher Ana Gantman from New York University.

For the study, researchers conducted three experiments with students intending to enter business, law and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.

In the first study, business students took a mock aptitude test which purported to measure their potential in the field, with some told they performed well on the exam and others informed they did poorly.

The results, appeared in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, showed that those highly motivated to enter the business world and who were told they did poorly on the test were more likely to endorse the immoral act — breaking the contract — than were those who were informed they did well.

Similarly, in the second research, students who were determined to enter the legal field and told they performed poorly on the test, were comparatively more likely to say they performed these “immoral” behaviours.

The researchers conducted a third experiment involving students, who were told they were taking a test measuring their potential to successfully major in business or STEM fields.

Similar to the results for the first two experiments, those highly motivated to pursue business or STEM majors — and informed that they lacked the potential to excel in these majors — indicated that their personality was very similar to the successful example — in this case, possessing personality traits associated with immoral behaviour.

“If we can better understand the triggers of these behaviours such as when negative professional feedback leads to the compensatory endorsement of immoral behaviour, we might even prevent incidents of large-scale fraud in the future,” Gantman noted.

IANS

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