SMITH BRAIN TRUST — When employees break the rules at work, it might not be mischief. It might be monotony. A new study finds that employees whose tasks are organized in a more routine and repetitive way are more likely to fall prey to ethical lapses and break rules to make their workday easier. But there's good news. The researchers found that shaking up the order in which employees perform tasks — even without changing the tasks themselves — can reduce rule-breaking.
But how exactly does that work? Changing up the order of tasks to be performed encourages a more deliberative mindset, rather than an automatic or intuitive one, explains Smith School assistant professor Rellie Derfler-Rozin, lead author of the study, which recently appeared in the journal Organization Science. The deliberative mindset, the study says, "supports rule compliance," whereas the "automatic pilot" mindset opens the door to making more ecocentric, viscerally attractive, hedonic and self-serving choices.
“What was surprising, but also encouraging, for me was that such subtle changes to task structure in the field and a subtle manipulation in the lab, that does not change the content of the tasks, but merely the order of the subtasks, could create such an effect. It suggests that organizations can create a difference by making simple changes to job design. Tapping directly to people's motivation is a much harder task, that in many cases creates backlash and reactance," says Derfler-Rozin.
Derfler-Rozin conducted the research with professors Celia Moore from Italy’s Bocconi University and Bradley R. Staats from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Rellie Derfler-Rozin is an assistant professor of Management & Organization at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. She received her PhD in Organizational Behavior from London Business School.
Research interests: Social and organizational factors that affect people’s decisions in organizations; social and environmental factors, as well as ethical decision-making, managerial discretion, hiring decisions and trust.
Selected accomplishments: Research has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Organization Science.
About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.
Other fearless ideas from: Rajshree Agarwal | Ritu Agarwal | Leigh Anenson | Kathryn M. Bartol | Christine Beckman | Margrét Bjarnadóttir | M. Cecilia Bustamante | Rellie Derfler-Rozin | Waverly Ding | Wedad J. Elmaghraby | Rosellina Ferraro | Rebecca Hann | Amna Kirmani | Hanna Lee | Hui Liao | Wendy W. Moe | Courtney Paulson | Louiqa Raschid | Rebecca Ratner | Rachelle Sampson | Debra L. Shapiro | Cynthia Kay Stevens | M. Susan Taylor | Vijaya Venkataramani | Janet Wagner | Yajin Wang | Yajun Wang | Liu Yang | Jie Zhang | Lingling Zhang | PhD Candidates
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.