March 25, 2014
A new report into the judgements of managers has concluded that they are significantly more prone to responding in a ‘robotic’ way to moral questions than the general population, relying on handed-down rules rather than their own ethical standards. The report, Managers and their Moral DNA, was commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in conjunction with personality testing website Moral DNA. It found that nearly three quarters of managers (74 percent) lack empathy and do not fully consider the moral consequences when they take decisions, which is 28 percent higher than the general population. The report also claims that managers are 4 percent more compliant with rules and 5 percent less caring in their ethical decision-making at work than in their personal lives, a figure that tallies with other results from the Moral DNA database according to the report’s authors.
The willingness to follow rules and orders that conflict with what one might consider ethical when away from the workplace reflects somewhat the findings of researchers such as Stanley Milgram, who famously researched how people would circumvent their own morality when given instructions to do so by an authority figure.
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The good news in the report is that older workers are less likely to adhere to rules that conflict with their own experience and ethical standards. Managers in their 50s score 27 percent lower on obedience and 12 percent higher on reason compared to their 20-something colleagues. Similar results were found in more senior managers, who score 6 percent higher on rationality and 15 percent lower on obedience at work than more junior managers. Similarly, women are more free-minded than men at work and score 5 percent higher than men on the ethics of care as measured by the Moral DNA scorecard.