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Empowering Workers Can Backfire, Lead to Unethical Behavior

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Workers who were not empowered had a higher probability of cheating than those who were.

Credit: Getty Images

While it makes sense for companies to empower their employees, a study from North Carolina State University warns that institutional obstacles that make it harder for workers to do their jobs well can actually lead to unethical behavior.

"We found that there are other things leaders need to do if they want to garner the benefits of empowerment and reduce associated risks," says Brad Kirkman, co-author of "The Hidden Dark Side of Empowering Leadership," published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, and Distinguished Professor of Leadership in the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State.

Empowerment by itself isn't enough, Kirkman says. "We found that . . . empowered employees felt pressure to pay back their organization, but when they were thwarted from doing so, they said they would behave unethically in order to do so."

From North Carolina State University
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