Turn Off ‘Automatic Pilot’ Mindset to Boost Compliance
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.
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.
Read more: Reducing Organizational Rule Breaking Through Task Variety: How Task Design Supports Deliberative Thinking is featured in the Journal of Organizational Science and is highlighted in the Harvard Business Review.