Impact 2018 – ECI Annual Conference – Day 2

The keynote speaker for Day 2 was Neel Doshi, co-author of Primed to Perform.

Based on the review of 100 years of social science studies and their own research, Doshi and McGregor demonstrate that how “why we work determines how well we work.” While it may appear that this book is about business performance, it has a lot to do with ethical performance.

People show up at work for various reasons. A few of us feel like we’ve won the lottery and do a job that we thoroughly enjoy. We simply can’t believe that we’re getting paid for this! Some of us do work because of its noble purpose or for the potential it creates. Meanwhile, many of us go to work under pressure, either emotional or financial. Finally, some of us go to work because… well… we don’t really know. This is the only thing we’ve ever done. What else are we going to do?

The low end of this spectrum (not knowing why we work) is called inertia. From a performance perspective, these employees do the bare minimum. From an E&C perspective, these are folks who, when asked why they do things a certain way, respond “I don’t know. We’ve always done it that way!” They don’t see the risks. They don’t care. They won’t raise their hand when something’s wrong. They are extremely dangerous to the organization.

Moving up on the spectrum are those who work because they are pressured to do so. Their focus is not on the work itself but on relieving the pressure. Thus, their performance suffers. From an E&C perspective, we have long known that these employees are more likely to engage in fraud or other wrongdoing if given the opportunity and a rationale (the three points of the fraud triangle).

As we move closer to the high-end of the spectrum, we find people who care more about the work itself than about external pressures. Those who care tend to perform better. From an E&C perspective, absent significant pressures, they are unlikely to engage in wrongdoing.

The lesson for organizations is this: how responsible are you for creating pressures in the workplace? Are you creating scorecards and weaponizing the data? Are your sales people compensated solely on commissions? In addition, are you creating potential for your employees? Can they see the impact of their work on the end-customer (purpose)? Are the jobs designed to maximize enjoyment of the work itself?

The science shows that getting this right will improve performance and the bottom line. And, as a significant benefit, it will also improve the ethical culture of the organization.

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