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Researcher finds morality lacking in business


Brigid Veale
7 December 2007
Personal morality is sadly lacking in Australian business, costing workers job satisfaction and businesses money, according to a Southern Cross University researcher.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) graduate Pieter Kriel has concluded that the absence of personal moral values in the workplace is harmful to the psychological wellbeing of workers and, while cautioning that his study sample was small, he believes this 'elephant in the room' can no longer be ignored.

A former electronics engineer, now management consultant and teacher based in South Australia, Pieter set out to develop Australia’s first validated index for measuring Quality of Work Life (QWL).

He adapted a subjective wellbeing index devised by staff at Deakin University and asked workers aged over 18 to rank their work satisfaction according to elements of trust, democracy, co-operation, justice and self-actualisation.

“Market economists have traditionally argued that moral elements such as these have no role to play within business, yet my evidence suggested that they are vital ingredients of work satisfaction and good business,” Pieter said.

“These moral issues have an evolutionary basis and are to a large extent hard-wired into the human psyche. Yet, my measurements indicated that the levels are unhealthily low within Australia. Moreover, when personal moral values and business practices come into conflict, business needs take precedence. This results in increased levels of stress and stressed workers are known to be less productive, so this could have vast economic implications.

“Traditionally, this kind of problem has not been represented in dollar terms, thereby hiding its impact on the bottom line. Economists have conveniently ignored it, at considerable cost to both organisations and workers.

“Fortunately, some enlightened employers are now waking up to the cost of a stressed workforce. They know that in order to attract and retain talent, morality and ethics need to be recognized within the modern business context. Providing workers with a psychologically healthy work environment should be part of the triple bottom-line measurement and is in itself a moral obligation.”

Pieter is now hoping that another researcher or research institute will step in to conduct a larger study and develop his index further.