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When Employees Feel Grateful, They’re Less Likely to Be Dishonest

David DeSteno: Sizable majorities of people admit to having behaved dishonestly at work. It’s for this reason that employee dishonesty bonds, which function as an insurance policy to repay business owners for the losses incurred by employees stealing from them, are growing in popularity. When intervention strategies can’t reduce dishonesty enough, employers are forced to hedge their losses.
My colleagues and I, however, believe that there might be a different way to address the problem — one that works from the “bottom-up.” What I mean by this is a strategy that doesn’t rely on people remembering to try to control selfish impulses, but rather one that automatically strengthens people’s ability to resist temptation. Since our past work had revealed that feelings of gratitude work in just this way — that they effortlessly enhance patience and self-control — we wanted to see if gratitude would also reduce dishonest behavior. To examine this question, we conducted two experiments, the results of which will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

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