SHOCKING as it may sound, bosses occasionally ask underlings to do unscrupulous things. In a study in 2013 by Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI), a non-profit body, 9% of American employees said they had been pressured by managers to undertake a task that compromised their ethical beliefs. Standing up for yourself can be bad for your career. When Countrywide, an American mortgage broker, leant on its staff to commit fraud by passing on defective loans to the government, it fired those who spoke out. Indeed, according to ECI, 21% of employees who reported misconduct at work said they faced some sort of retaliation from their firms.
So perhaps it is better to ward off a dodgy request by signalling to your boss that such an approach would be unwelcome. New research by Sreedhari Desai of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to be published in the Academy of Management Journal, suggests one potential strategy. Just as vampires in gothic fiction can be kept at bay with a brandished crucifix, so too, it seems, can evil bosses.