How do you make adults behave better at work?

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Make sure there are reminders of children there.

Researchers at the Centre for Ethics at Harvard have found that when people worked in the presence of children’s toys or reminders of children or if they engaged in children’s activities or if there was a creche on site they behaved more ethically and in more pro-social ways.

In laboratory experiments participants in a child-related environment cheated less at games, were more generous, and in word games chose more virtuous words than those in a normal setting.

In the real world they found that companies which had 5 or more day-care centres, nurseries or kindergartens within a 2 mile radius of their HQ gave significantly more to charities.

The researchers think that being in the vicinity of children or being reminded of children aged up to 9 years of age – and maybe their presumed innocence – makes people behave better.

They suggest using coloured fonts in e-mails or having children’s music in the lifts. Thinking about it you could have crayons instead of flip chart markers and encourage people to have family pictures of children in their cubicles. Perhaps more primary colours?

They are now interested to see if the same effect would apply to diversity and reducing discrimination. They also admit there is a dark side in marketing where they found children being used to market soda, in cigarette adverts, shaving products and fast food. Think Ronald McDonald!

Source: HBR September 2011


One thought on “How do you make adults behave better at work?

    virtuos and beautiful said:
    September 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I think when people see children, they want to act their best to be a “good role model.” However, I am not too sure about having kid songs, they are a bit too upbeat and educational about the basics to simply play in the office. I would not want to hear the ABC song while sending an e-mail at work.

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