Reducing Organizational Rule Breaking Through Task Variety: How Task Design Supports Deliberative Thinking

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2016.1094

In this paper we argue that task design affects rule breaking in the workplace. Specifically, we propose that task variety activates deliberative (Type 2) processes as opposed to automatic/intuitive (Type 1) processes, which, in turn, helps prevent individuals from breaking rules in order to serve their own hedonic self-interest. We use data from the home loan application processing operations of a Japanese bank to establish the phenomenon in the field. We document that increased task variety at a daily level is associated with lower levels of rule breaking in the form of violating corporate break time policies (Study 1). We further explore the relationship between task variety and rule breaking in three lab experiments, using different operationalizations of rule breaking (Studies 2, 3a, and 3b) and provide direct evidence for the mediating effect of deliberative thinking in this relationship (Studies 3a and 3b). We discuss implications for rule compliance in organizations, behavioral ethics, and work design.

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