Managers Have Great Influence, According to Ethics Study

March 4, 2016 7:00 am Published by

It’s a question I am asked repeatedly. How do you get managers and employees to be better givers of appreciation and recognition? After all, they’re all busy with their jobs. Surely we can’t expect more from them.

disgruntled manLet’s examine some research carried out on how to instill ethical behaviors in a corporation. This appears to be significantly harder than trying to teach others to give recognition. We’ll see what we can learn and apply from these findings.

Personal Example is a Winner

A study by Drs. Avshalom M. Adam and Dalia Rachman-Moore in the Journal of Business Ethics concluded that the example from managers had the greatest influence on employees’ behavior. Their example had even more impact than what they said or what was written in the typical company code of ethics. The results demonstrated a clear case of what I call a “monkey see, monkey do” response.

Most of the businesses studied typically used formal approaches to implement any ethical code of conduct. These approaches consist of training, online courses, and various rules and procedures with self-regulatory enforcement.

The authors measured the perceived effectiveness of all approaches to determine which was the most influential method. Employee attitudes made up part of the analysis.

Employee attitudes were determined by their reported degree of “personal ethical commitment” and the “employees’ commitment to organizational values”. Results showed more informal methods like “manager sets an example” or “social norms of the organization” yielded greater commitment of employee attitudes than formal methods of training and courses on the subject of ethics.

Help Managers Set the Example

From the learning field, and my own practice in teaching people how to give meaningful and effective recognition, management’s involvement before even going into training programs has a far greater impact on transfer of learning back to the workplace.

John P. Kotter, an Emeritus professor of the Harvard Business School, also identified management support and involvement as probably the most effective way to make any transfer of learning successful. Managers can do this with their personal involvement, their example and with the reinforcing of new knowledge and skills.

From this research one can imply that senior leaders’ example impacts their middle managers actions, and in turn middle managers can influence employees. Imagine the difference this could make in employee recognition practices along with the proper use of established programs.

Example is, and always will be, the best teacher.

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March 4, 2016 7:00 am

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