We study corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a potential governance tool for reducing employee misconduct. A baseline study of full-time U.S. workers indicates that CSR reduces participants' stated intentions to lie to their employer and that this result is driven by an increased sense of moral obligation: individuals appear to feel worse about behaving badly when they perceive their employer to be doing good. To examine the causal effect of CSR on actual employee misconduct, we implement a randomized field experiment on Amazon Mechanical Turk in which workers are hired to complete a job designed to elicit workers' willingness to lie to their employer. We manipulate whether the workers' employer engages in CSR, and, as a point of comparison, whether the worker is required to sign an honor code pledge. We find CSR to decrease employee misreporting substantially, with effects similar in magnitude to those of an honor code pledge. Given the challenges of measuring employee misconduct in practice, a notable contribution of this study is the way in which our experimental design allows us to cleanly observe the extent to which employees lie to their employer in a real work context and thus estimate the treatment effect of CSR on employee misconduct.
Burbano, Vanessa, and Bennett Chiles. "Social Responsibility and Employee Misconduct." Columbia Business School, October 2018.
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