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Adultery, ethics and creativity

Dr Richard Bunning, Teacher

Faculty Blog

The frequent, ongoing and high-profile cases of unethical behaviour in the world of business are of considerable concern to organisations and their stakeholders. Consider the $5 billion fine of Barclays, Citibank and others in 2015 for currency manipulation. Or last year’s revelation of Volkswagen’s falsification of emission tests. And what of the corruption among the various top-level leaders within FIFA? The list goes on.

So it goes without saying that organisational leadership needs to ensure the highly ethical conduct of its workforce.

Or does it? A provocative study by Greiser et al. (2016) gives us pause for thought.

The researchers developed a simple way to identify unethical behaviour: from a base of some 47,000 employees, they identified those who were active on a website for people who wanted to commit adultery. They reasoned that both the unauthorised use of company IT resources and the interest in committing adultery were unethical behaviours.

However, they also found that these same individuals tended to exhibit behaviours consistent with creativity and risk-taking!

The authors, in the paper entitled Fifty Shades of Corporate Culture, point out that ‘it is difficult to engineer a perfect corporate culture due to potential trade-offs between employee creativity, risk-taking, and integrity’.

As always with ethics, there are no easy answers …