Family photos in the workplace reduce unethical behavior

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Many people find it embarrassing to hang photos of their loved ones in the office. Women or the POC in particular fear losing “professionalism” as a result. However, a new study has now shown that personal photos in the workplace can have an unexpected positive effect, reports “Harvard Business Review”.

The study shows that working adults who put up family photos at their workplaces are less likely to behave unethically: those who show pictures of loved ones instead of landscapes, for example, are less likely to misappropriate expense reports or the cash register. This positive effect was already evident in a single photo of a loved one.

In order to check whether the photos actually reduced the unethical behavior of the employees or only influenced the assessments of their superiors, the researchers carried out a series of experiments.

Personalizing the workplace with family photos can save a company money

Students should evaluate which properties make a picture frame desirable for the consumer. Half of the participants used photos of their own families, while the others used photos of landscapes. With these photos in mind, they should, for example, solve a number of partially unsolvable math problems; for each problem they solved, they paid themselves a quarter of a dollar.

Statistically there should be no difference between the two groups, but the group with the landscape photos paid off more money than those who had their family and friends in mind.

The reason for this is that photos of loved ones seem to balance out the economic calculation – in the workplace, rationality, efficiency and self-interest are usually in the foreground. While this thinking is appropriate for work, it lowers compassion for others and increases immoral behavior.

According to the researchers, a certain personalization of the workplace through family photos could save costs for companies – every year companies lose an estimated five percent of their income due to unethical behavior and small frauds by employees. However, this requires an integrative culture in which all employees can personalize their workplace equally and without prejudice.


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