Every year unethical conduct costs employers billions of dollars. But much of the time unethical behavior can fly under an employer or supervisor’s radar.
So what signs should companies look for when evaluating employees? A study published last year by the Journal of Business Ethics suggests that employees who have difficulty managing their anger are the ones to watch.
“At every level of an organization, every employee is experiencing emotion, so it’s universal, and emotions are really powerful — they can overtake you and make you do things you never thought you were capable of doing,” lead study author Daphna Motro said in a statement. “We found that anger was associated with more impulsive processing, which led to deviant behavior, since deviant behavior is often impulsive and not very carefully planned out.”
The researchers found that “anger increases unethical behavior”, even when an employee’s anger isn’t the result of issues in the workplace. According to the study, this can range from minor actions like being late or leaving early, to more extreme actions like stealing from the company.
The study “Investigating the Effects of Anger and Guilt on Unethical Behavior: A Dual-Process Approach” was primarily conducted by the University of Arizona.
“Pay attention. An employee might be angry, and they might not be angry at you or anything that you’ve done specifically, but just pay careful attention,” Motro said. “Maybe tell them to take a short break and wait for them to cool down.”
Studies like these have led employers to implement emotional and physical wellness programs in their workplaces. This can take the form of simply a quiet room where employees can go to relax; weekly massages or yoga sessions; or can extend to seminars specifically related to anger management or dealing with stress.
In addition to ensuring employees are performing efficiently and ethically, employers who devote resources to addressing issues like anger management with their employees are also able to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all.