When `ethical` bosses break bad

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Washington D.C, Feb 13 (ANI): If you are an ethical boss, then ironically, you are more likely to become downright abusive, according to a recent study.

The Michigan State University research on leader behavior by Russell Johnson suggested that ethical conduct leads to mental exhaustion and the “moral licensing” to lash out at employees.

Moral licensing is a phenomenon in which people, after doing something good, feel they have earned the right to act in a negative manner.

Johnson, who and his team surveyed 172 supervisors over a several-day period in various industries including retail, education, manufacturing and health care added that ironically, noted that when leaders felt mentally fatigued and morally licensed after displays of ethical behavior, they were more likely to be abusive toward their subordinates on the next day.

Johnson said it’s not easy to be ethical, as it turns out being ethical means leaders often have to suppress their own self-interest, i.e. they must do ‘what’s right’ as opposed to ‘what’s profitable,’ and they have to monitor not only the performance outcomes of subordinates but also the means to ensure that ethical/appropriate practices were followed.

To combat mental fatigue, Johnson said managers should build in time for breaks during the workday; get sufficient sleep; eat healthy and exercise; and unplug from work outside of the office, which includes shutting off the smart phone at night.

Johnson suggested companies could consider formally requiring ethical behavior, adding that ethical behavior could also be formally rewarded with social praise or money. But the praise or bonus should come relatively soon after the ethical behavior in order to counteract the moral licensing, Johnson said.

The study appears online in the Journal of Applied Psychology. (ANI)

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