Why Your Backbone Matters at Work

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We tend to think of your 9-to-5 as a place where life is pretty straightforward: You have tasks, you do them, you report to your supervisor, you come back tomorrow. But people are people everywhere, which means we take our more complex and complicated problems with us everywhere we go. The workplace is full of opportunities to act in a moral manner — and, unfortunately, to wreak havoc by not doing so.

Researchers at Baylor University have just released a study on the importance of moral behavior by managers, especially on workers. In particular, the study zeroes in on the difference between an outwardly moral company and an internally amoral management structure.

"Amoral management, which is when a leader consistently does not respond to ethical situations, has a detrimental influence on employees," said lead author Matthew Quade. "Employees who work for amoral managers have less moral courage, which results in their engaging in higher levels of unethical behavior."

Quade defines moral courage in a work environment as "a willingness to correct coworkers; adherence to policies or procedures, even in the face of peer pressure to do otherwise; and a willingness to do the right thing, even at a personal cost." Failure to adhere to these principles doesn't just turn into poor morale or treatment among employees, but also spilling internal secrets about the business, fudging budget reporting, carelessness with work property, and misusing company assets and management.

We already know that employees tend to give back most for bosses who walk the walk on ethics, although ethics without management skills will also backfire. This is one more reason why bringing your best self to work will pay off most in life.