Can an employer’s mission statement predict whether the EEOC will come knocking on the door?


Language organizations used in mission statements and other internal communications have a direct correlation with equal employment in the United States. Opportunity Commission (EEOC) coercive measures, researchers found.

“We kept noticing those references to acting first and asking questions later… implying that this type of goal-chasing had something to do with unethical behavior, but they didn’t really surrender. not realizing that they were touching on the “mode of regulation theory,” “Dana Kanze, assistant professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, told HR Dive.

Kanze was the main author of a to study published at the end of last year and recently published a Harvard Business Review article with his co-authors discussing their findings.

A causal relationship

The theory of modes of regulation distinguishes the state of mind of an organization on a spectrum between two poles: locomotion and evaluation the first being the urgent pursuit of goals and the second using thought and consideration before acting. Kanze and his co-authors found that companies with overly “locomotive” language in their mission statements are more likely to face enforcement action from the EEOC.

“There’s a reason every business has a mission statement; it’s a cultural artefact, ”Kanze said. “These are tangible and intangible manifestations of culture, and it’s really one of the only things we need to do textual analysis on, but it’s emblematic of how a business pursues its goals, and it stems from weaves through a business’s day-to-day business in so many different ways.

The researchers conducted two separate assessments. First, with a sample of 559 franchises, they used text analysis to determine where a company’s mission statement fell on the spectrum, then cross-examined that list with a database of EEOC actions from 2007 to 2017. They concluded that “franchises with mission statements emphasizing locomotion (‘do it’) rather than evaluation (‘do the right thing’) were much more likely to be accused of discrimination. “

Second, after identifying a correlation between locomotion and discrimination, the researchers conducted a series of controlled experiments to determine if there was a causal relationship between the two. They enlisted 717 US-based online participants to act as franchise directors, presented them with a high-powered or high-valued mission statement for the company, and then asked what action they would take in a certain number of scenarios.

“For each scenario, participants had to choose between an option that directly violated EEOC regulations and another option that was a viable alternative recommended by the EEOC,” the authors wrote in HBR. “We found that locomotion mission statements quadrupled the chances of participants choosing an illegal course of action.” When asked follow-up questions about the factors in their decision-making, subjects who read the locomotion mission statement reported that they felt the need to make a decision as quickly as possible.

A balanced approach

While companies may want to avoid being known for discrimination or other negative experiences in the workplace, mindset of locomotion has led to the explosive growth of today’s corporate titans, with the “go fast and break things”Mantra being a case in point.

“There has been 20 years of research on this that shows that locomotion is associated with a lot of really favorable outcomes for businesses in general,” Kanze noted. “Our sample was consistent with predicting growth and longevity. … By all accounts, locomotion is meant to be that type of really positive way to pursue your goals and indicative of transformative leadership.

The authors therefore do not suggest that employers completely avoid the language of locomotion, but rather integrate the two types of language in a balanced approach, which they say “motivates conscientious action”.

“While past interventions have attempted to say [not to] don’t make any mention of the bottom line mentality… it’s actually a really interesting finding that keeps you as a company on the path to achieving those bottom line goals, ”Kanze said.

Business leaders may wish to rate their messages in job postings, onboarding materials, and internal training materials, for example. “Motivational messages work implicitly, we have to weave [assessment language] into the fabric of how these organizations motivate employees to make decisions, ”Kanze said, stressing that it’s not enough to create additional codes of ethics or punish one person to lead by example.

“If you develop yourself in this way at all costs, you aren’t thoughtfully considering and evaluating all of the potential ramifications,” Kanze said. “Fortunately, what we’ve seen is that the Facebooks and Ubers of the world have actually changed their models and missions themselves.”

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