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Eller College Home > Our Stories > Governance and Social Responsibility > On the Road to Recovery

Our Stories

Governance and Social Responsibility : NSF Funding Supports Management Research in Ethics

March 2012

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Can ethics violation reporting trends be predicted?

It’s just one of the questions management professors Lisa Ordóñez (Levine Faculty Fellow) and Stephen Gilliland (department head and director of the Center for Leadership Ethics), aim to answer with support from the National Science Foundation and EthicsPoint. The latter, one of the largest providers of ethics hotline services in the country and a founding sponsor of the Center, is making ten years’ worth of anonymous reporting data available for study to Ordóñez, Gilliland, and doctoral student David Welsh. The work is part of a larger research agenda by the Center for Leadership Ethics at the Eller College.

“We will be looking at trends. For example, did reports of financial violations peak after the Enron scandal?” Ordóñez explained. “Ultimately, we want to develop an ethics index to use as an indicator of change in the ethical climate of business.”

The project is a natural extension of Ordóñez’s work in decision making. In a previous paper, she demonstrated through lab experiments the dark side of goal setting: the closer participants got to achieving a set goal, the more likely they were to exaggerate their results. The paper intrigued her colleagues Maurice Schweitzer of the University of Pennsylvania, Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, and Max Bazerman of the Harvard Business School.

“We ended up working together on a paper that got a lot of attention,” she said. “There is no question that challenging goals can boost on-the-job performance, but we argued that goal-setting has become over-prescribed.”

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