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Here's How To Keep Unethical Co-workers At Bay

Are you worried you'll be asked to do something unethical at work? Well, it might be time to update your email signature!

A new study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School concludes that a little bit of quiet moral branding can keep our co-workers from asking us to participate in unethical behavior at work.

In one experiment, the researchers asked a group of study participants to read two emails from fictitious senders. One email included an ethical tagline in the signature at the bottom, while the other did not include one.

Then the study participants were asked to send an ethically-challenged, somewhat deceptive response to both parties with the promise of a monetary reward for doing so. So, what happened?

The study participants were much less likely to deceive the fictitious emailer who included the ethical tagline in their email! They decided to take the high road, too. As The Chicago Tribune reports:

The studies suggest that seeing a moral symbol increases a person's own moral awareness, plus it creates the perception that the displayer of the symbol possesses a high moral character and is therefore less likely to fulfill an unethical request. That's important, the researchers say, because it shows that employees have power to influence office behavior from the bottom up.

So if you desire more ethical dealings at work, then add a high-minded ethical quote to your email signature. Or find any number of other good ways to telegraph your resolute moral fiber in today's cutthroat corporate workplaces. No word on whether a garlic necklace would work in a pinch.


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