Money on the Mind

downloadThe Money on the Mind video was an eye opener for me.  The video features the work of two Berkeley researchers who were investigating the apparent link between wealth and unseemly behavior.  The authors noted a few interesting points.

  1. Individuals with a higher level of income tend to have a lower level of concern for others.
  2. Individuals with a higher level of income tend to have higher incidences of unseemly behavior.
  3. Individuals with a higher income are more likely to lie, endorse unethical behavior, and lack empathy in comparison to those with a moderate or low income level.

These results have been highly challenged by the research community due to the liberal nature of Berkeley and how the results disparage the wealthy and powerful.  Berkeley has fired back with a documented 30 studies and more than a thousand participants in which these results were duplicated.

The question I am faced with today is how does the content of the video relate to decision making within an organization?  I have pondered my response for a few days, discussed it with my spouse, and here is what I have decided.  The results of the study translate very specifically to decision making in the workplace.  As an individual takes on positions of increased responsibility and pay, they begin to act differently.  In my experience, the majority of these individuals begin to exhibit the same type of behavior that the Berkeley scientists documented during their study.  The individuals conduct themselves in ways that make others think they don’t care about them or will do, or say, whatever is necessary to get the job done.

These individuals often forget how they felt when they were on the front line, or that they did not get to the position of power themselves.  They forget that it wasn’t only their talent that allowed them to excel in their position.  When individuals behave like this, they tend to lose the loyalty and trust of their employees.  Employee performance diminishes, chances of unethical behavior increases, and generally the culture of the company spirals downward.

We know there is a problem, but can we do anything about it?  Knowing the facts is half the battle.  If individuals who possess wealth, power, and decision making ability read these studies and can truly place the magnifying glass in front of themselves they might be able to see how their own behavior has been modified by those status changes.  These individuals might be able to change their behavior to go against the grain of those around and before them.

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