Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, June 1, 2015

“Ethics may be a moving target for some”/ gender and pay

Feb. 16 “Ethics may be a moving target for some”: I cut out this Globe and Mail article by Wallace Immen on Jul. 20, 2012.  This is a job article, but it’s also a psychology article.  It’s about psychology tests about how people cheat at work, and they don’t feel remorse because it’s not really hurting anyone or affecting anyone in a bad way.  If they show the consequences of it, then people won’t cheat.

I remember on the TV show Dollhouse, a character says: “You can’t always predict or control the consequences.”  I have written about this TV show The Sausage Factory before.  It’s where Gilby and Zack get a job at a video store. 

Gilby lets teenage boys rent out porn tapes even though it’s against the rules.  Gilby wasn’t really hurting anyone.  It’s not until the end one of the teenage boy’s dad comes in and was about beat up Zack because the dad thought Zack was letting teenage boys rent out porn tapes.  Here’s the whole article:

Of course you’re an ethical person. You’d never become a rogue trader or run a Ponzi scheme or engage in questionable business practices.
But a new study has found that many people who think of themselves as ethically upright may feel no remorse about fudging results if they don’t think they’re hurting others.

In fact, getting away with things such as overstating billable hours or taking a little off the top for themselves can result in an emotional rush the researchers called the “cheater’s high.”

The findings have important implications for managers at a time when budgets are squeezed and pressure to meet goals may be increased, said Nicole Ruedy, co-author of the study.

“One of the big implications is that employers should highlight that unethical behaviour not only cheats the company but can do potential harm to others,” said Dr. Ruedy, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking at the University of Washington.

The research, which she conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, as a doctoral student, involved a series of experiments. In two of them, groups of students were given scenarios in which other people had cheated on tests or had a choice of lying or telling the truth about the number of hours they worked. In a questionnaire given after the experiment, the participants predicted the cheaters would feel remorse about what they had done.

In other tests, groups of students were given tasks in which they could make more money by overstating their results. They were allowed to score themselves after the test by comparing their results to an answer sheet.

Forty-one per cent of the participants cheated by writing in additional answers after seeing the score sheet. When given written tests of their emotions after the experiment, the cheaters showed statistically significant boosts in positive feelings compared with the non-cheaters.

But the fact that they showed no higher levels of “negative emotions,” such as guilt or shame, than those who were honest suggests that people don’t feel remorse if they feel no one else is being harmed, the researchers concluded.

This suggests that leaders need to be more direct in making people aware that their unethical behaviour has real costs and effects on others, Dr. Ruedy said.

“A code of ethics is not enough. People have to be made aware of the real cost of their unethical behaviour,” she said. If unethical behaviour is becoming an issue, an effective approach might be to have a town hall meeting that highlights not only the increased costs the company faces but the potential effects on others.

For instance a leader might say: “We’re in this as a team. Unethical behaviour could hurt the other team members through damage to the team’s reputation or lost sales. That could result in potential job losses,” Dr. Ruedy suggested.

Putting in an elaborate monitoring process or a surveillance system could actually have a negative effect by making cheating feel like a game employees can win if they’re clever enough, she added.

One startling finding of the experiments is that people can actually get a kick out of being under suspicion of cheating.
One group was given a test that included trick questions that hardly anyone could get right. If people who self-scored their tests claimed to get them right, the researchers told them they were suspicious about their high scores. But in the follow-up emotional tests, those who were caught out didn’t actually register any higher on feelings of guilt or remorse.

In fact, “after we alerted them to the fact that we were aware they could be cheating there was a slight increase in self-satisfaction. We found that very disturbing. We’re still trying to absorb that and asking why they could feel better,” Dr. Ruedy said.

The study was conducted along with Celia Moore, an assistant professor of the London Business School, Francesca Gino an associate professor at Harvard Business School, and Prof. Maurice Schweitzer of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It will be presented in August at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Boston .

An implication of the findings is that “people under pressure as they are today might more easily find justifications for unethical acts than they would when we had greener pastures,” Dr.. Ruedy said. “It might also give them a boost emotionally when they are feeling down about other things in their lives and they are feeling pressure to meet ambitious goals.”

That means leaders should also examine whether they are setting the bar so high that it is becoming an incentive to cheat to achieve the goals, she suggested.

Leaders should make the case that people are ultimately responsible for monitoring their own behaviour, she said.

“Reflection can have a good dampening effect on unethical behaviour. When it becomes clear that they may cause harm to someone else, they won’t be as likely to give in to temptation.”

Gender and pay: I cut out this article “Gender plays role in pay raises” by Wallace Immen in the Globe and Mail on Jul. 20, 2012.

With corporate budgets squeezed, employees may feel lucky to get any sort of raise. But new research suggests women should question whether they're getting their fair share.

A study of 184 managers involved a scenario in which they were told they had a set amount of money to distribute to employees, who had identical skills and responsibilities.

Half the managers were told they might have to give the worker an explanation about the amount of the raise; in other words, they might have to negotiate. This group of managers, both men and women, consistently gave much smaller raises to female employees. In fact, raises for men were nearly 2.5 times larger than those for women, said Maura Belliveau, who did the research at Emory University in Atlanta and is now an associate professor of management at Long Island University in New York.
The second group of managers were told they would not be able to explain their decisions. They gave equal raises to men and women.

Ms. Belliveau said the findings highlight a common notion that women are paid less than men for the same work because "women don't ask."

"Whenever research reveals disparities between men's and women's pay, there is a common retort: The gap 'must' be due to unobserved differences in men's and women's willingness or skill in negotiating for pay," she said. "Although some gender differences in negotiation exist, this study reveals women incur a major disadvantage that precedes any negotiation."

By flagging 70 per cent of the money for men, the first group of managers ensured men would not need to negotiate, as they already had a sizable raise, she said. If female workers tried to negotiate, they were at a disadvantage because most of the money was going to men.
"That's an extremely challenging task, even for a skilled negotiator," she said. "Managers and HR professionals need to closely monitor pay data in their organizations to ensure that the burden of low raises is not disproportionately placed on women."

The study appears in the journal Organization Science.


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