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Why Employees Make Bad Decisions: Applying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to Compliance

by Rethink Compliance

· behavavioral psych,behavioral science,psychology,article

Whenever there's a compliance scandal in the news, one of the first questions to come up is, "Why did they do it?"

Fundamentally, we're asking ourselves, “What motivated this employee or team to act unethically?”

Like many of you, the Rethink Compliance team likes to geek out on behavioral science and psychology. To be effective as compliance professionals, we have to understand what motivates what we do. Why do employees make unethical decisions? How can we persuade them to make better decisions?

That's why we're excited to share this article from Suzan McGinnis, senior director of advisory services, in the latest issue of ethikos magazine, "Can Choices Be This Simple: Survival or Status?"

If you're an SCCE member, you can read the full article here.

Suzan teams up with Jinger Gustafson, assistant professor and department chair of educational leadership at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to explore why employees make ethical — or unethical — choices. Using Maslow's hierarchy of needs, they explore how survival and status factor into ethical decision-making at work.

Suzan tells the story of how a trip overseas opened her eyes to the way company culture can influence employee behavior. Work plays a large role in our lives. "The fact for most of us is that a job is our livelihood and, for some, our family, extended family, and community,” she writes.

When Suzan saw how much our needs for safety and status influence our decision making, she was inspired to "recalibrate [her] thinking and future approach to ethics training."

One of our mottos here at Rethink is, "Start with your audience." It's easy to get caught up in what you want to tell employees about a compliance topic and forget about what else might be going on in a person's life. Human needs for things like safety and status fundamentally motivate what we do in and out of the office (or home office). An effective compliance program acknowledges those needs and connects with employees on a human level.

Want to develop a compliance program that connects with employees? Or maybe just geek out with us on behavioral science? Schedule a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts.

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