Monday, April 23, 2007

Ethics

We all bear responsibility for our own ethical behavior. Period.

That said, when we are in positions to direct others' behavior and when our actions can be shown to lead to less ethical behavior, we have a signal to act. I've written before about the challenges long hours at work can make and about the benefits of having a few lazy employees. Professor Sandy Piderit has written about it.

Now Deloitte & Touche USA LLP has published Deloitte & Touche USA LLP Survey Finds Strong Relationship Between Work-Life Balance and Ethical Behavior.

Is it as simple as having everyone in your company work 40 or perhaps 37 or 35 hours a week? No, it's clearly not that simple. Customers deserve the goods and services they paid for. Employees and the community need jobs, and we can't provide secure jobs if we sacrifice all our productivity gains and more to shorter hours. Unforeseen, short-term crises do arise. Besides, the length of the workweek clearly isn't the only factor affecting ethics in the workplace. As I said before, that's ultimately up to each of us.

But it does mean that there's yet another factor to put on the side of the scale that weighs against longer hours. It does mean that decisions aren't as simple as the calculation that "if 40 hours a week are good, then 80 must be twice as good." We as managers and consultants do bear responsibility for thinking about such things and for balanced decisions that take these factors responsibly into account.

Part of thinking responsibly is thinking skeptically, so I encourage you to provide any disconfirming evidence you might have. I'm not looking for anecdotes ("Sam only worked 30 hours a week, yet he stole more paperclips last year than you could believe!"), for I'm sure they exist. I'm looking for valid studies and good, statistical reasoning.

Thanks to Chief Learning Officer magazine for pointing this out.

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