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Management Idea | Teddy bears can make your firm more ethical

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-05-2014 Sunil B.S.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces an uphill task to root out corruption, needs to do nothing more than to change the desk of his ministers and bureaucrats and place a teddy bear in their room to make them act more socially and bring down corruption in our country.

Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to victory in the Lok Sabha polls with a campaign against various corruption scams unearthed during the tenure of the preceding Manmohan Singh government, which was plagued with scandals that included wrongful allotment of 2G telecom spectrum and coalfields, and charges of graft in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Adults are less likely to cheat and more likely to engage in so-called pro-social behaviour when there are reminders of childhood, such as teddy bears and comics, present in their room, according to a study conducted by researchers led by Francesca Gino of Harvard University. Such childhood memories trigger the feelings of moral purity in us, the researchers say. Posting pictures of children in cubicles or having child-related music in elevators would also encourage us to act better, they say. The number of cheaters dropped by almost 20% when the subjects were near toys or engaged in activities like watching cartoons, the researchers found.

A similar study by a group led by behavioural researcher Andy J. Yap of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that big desks and chairs can cause people to feel more powerful and behave dishonestly. Yap’s study involved a series of experiments which examined the impact that people’s ergonomic environments had on their ethics. It tested whether being put into an expansive or a contracted posture would affect people’s honesty. Expansive postures, which project high power, involve open, widespread limbs that fill up space. Whereas we tend to pull our limbs in under contractive and closed postures, which project low power.

Open postures boost our feelings of power and those feelings can cause us to act dishonestly, the study found. People who work in larger workspaces and seats, which encourage expansive postures, were more likely to cheat on a test, the researchers said. The study also showed they were more likely to steal from overpayments that they were intentionally given as part of the experiment.

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