Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The effect of ethical responsibility on performance

Stein, Caroline and Untertrifaller, Anna (2020): The effect of ethical responsibility on performance.


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In a laboratory real-effort experiment, we study the effect of responsibility on performance. Specifically, we analyze whether being responsible for an ethical or unethical work environment affects workers’ performance. Using a specific randomization technique, we can separate the responsibility effect from a possible selection effect. We find that workers who prefer to work in an ethical work environment perform better if they are also responsible for it, compared to a situation where it was imposed on them. We do not find this positive incentive effect of responsibility for workers that prefer an unethical work environment. Moreover, we observe that if an unethical environment was imposed, workers who prefer an ethical environment perform worse than those whose preference are aligned with the environment.

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