The Ethics-Productivity Dilemma


Professor of Organization and Strategy 
Olin Business School
Washington University in St. Louis
One Brookings Drive Box 1133
Saint Louis, MO 63130

PhD/MS   University of California, Berkeley
BA/BS      University of Puget Sound
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
Google Scholar Profile

My work revolves around the psychological and economic motivation for both productive and value-destroying behavior. The same economic and psychological mechanisms that impact employee productivity also influence ethics and misconduct. The Ethics-Productivity Dilemma is how to design organizational policies that increase productivity without accelerating the unethical behavior that often accompanies it. 

I am fundamentally interested in why employees act in ways we know to be destructive to the organizations and individuals around us, and what environmental, social, and financial factors bring us back into the fold of productive behavior. These issues are among the micro-foundations of organizational strategy, and encompass the emotions and biases of psychology and the incentives and intended rationality of economics.  We are economic, yet also social and emotional creatures who struggle through our own biases.

I am fascinated by the choices we make each day in interacting with our organizational and social environments.  Mostly, I focus on the socially destructive ones: the choices to break rules and laws, lie, cheat, free-ride, and game incentive systems. I am also interested in emotional responses to and psychological costs of financial incentives and wealth.  These include generally negative responses such as envy and greed, but can also include helping behavior or empathy.

© Lamar Pierce 2017