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Can childcare facilities and teddy bears really improve ethical behaviour at work?

7 Sep

This is not the kind of question I ask myself every day, but a Harvard researcher has carried out an experiment to test whether singing nursery rhymes, drawing, and having teddy bears in the office can improve employees’ ethical behaviour.

Of course, ethics have been in the news a lot recently, what with the phone hacking at News International and the question mark over who knew about it and who didn’t.

Having a soft toy in the boardroom, or having other childhood cues present in the workplace, subliminally emits a ‘return to innocence effect’, according to the research, which asked adults to play games, draw, and fill the office with kids’ toys. Apparently those who were surrounded by stuff from childhood told fewer lies, were less likely to cheat, and were more generous than the workers who didn’t have toys around them.

Also, having childcare facilities on or near the workplace also boosted the generosity of workers – as well as improving their work-life balance.

Is a cuddly toy the key to ethical behaviour, asks Adrian Gaskell on the Chartered Management Institute management community site, which flagged up this research. The responses he has received are pretty interesting, with someone suggesting that we would perhaps behave more like a role model if our children were present.

Either way, I like Adrian’s suggestion that more managers should get in touch with their inner child. It would certainly make meetings more interesting – but I wonder if it would have made those phone hackers think twice?


How Naughtie has shown we can laugh at our own mistakes

6 Dec

I am enjoying the sniggering-schoolboy coverage of Radio 4’s James Naughtie’s live blunder on air, when he inadvertently turned Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s surname into a class-A swear word.

Whether it was, as Naughtie said, “an awful verbal tangle courtesy of Dr Spooner”,  or whether it was a Freudian slip, it certainly brought some humour to the Radio 4 News at 8am.

Even a media doyen can make mistakes, yet be professional and carry on: he spluttered through the headlines in an attempt to contain his laughter, passing it off as a ‘coughing fit’ to spare his (and our) blushes.

And, in spite of a few snotty emails to the BBC, it seems that most people seem to be seeing the funny side (including the Culture Secretary, who was quoted as saying that he nearly fell off his chair laughing).

The situation only became uncomfortable when Naughtie kept apologising throughout the Today programme; I’m wondering whether one apology would have been enough, given that his gaffe was pure human error. I’m also wondering if he’ll have increased his chances of winning this year’s Radio Personality of the Year award…?


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