Being Ethical Requires Energy

stressed worker People of all walks of life and professions have to make a myriad of decisions based on ethics every day. Resisting unethical temptations requires effort and energy. Throughout the day, our energy wanes, and so does our self control. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), people are more likely to behave unethically when their energy is low.

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HBR conducted two studies to test their theory, which stated that morning people (those who naturally wake up early in the morning) are less ethical later in the day and night owls (those who naturally stay up late at night) are less ethical in the morning. The first study was conducted in morning sessions, in which participants had to self-report on how many matrices they could solved as each would help them earn more money. In this case, the night owls were more likely to behave unethically.

In a second study, HBR held sessions early in the morning and late at night. Each participant took part in a die rolling test in which they had to self report the number rolled, and would get paid based on the number that was reported. Morning people reported getting higher rolls in the late-night session than they did in the morning sessions. Additionally, night owls reported higher rolls in the morning sessions than they did at night.

The below graph displays the how ethical behaviour is affected by energy levels.

Low Energy, Low Ethics Chart

"The important organizational takeaway from these findings is that individual may be more likely to act unethically when they are 'mismatched' –that is, making a decision at the wrong time of day for their own chronotype. Managers should try to learn the chronotype (lark, owl, or in between) of their subordinates and make sure to respect it when deciding how to structure their work," the HBR article reads.

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When structuring your day, keep in mind your natural body clock and how that might impact your own behaviour. If you are a morning person, you will have a harder time resisting temptation at night, and a night owl will feel the same in the morning. Pay attention to your energy levels and, especially for solopreneurs and freelancers, create a schedule in which you are performing your most important work when you have high energy levels.