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Article by Professor David De Cremer in Harvard Business Review identifies six traits of employees that can predict ethical behaviour at work.

Six traits of prospective employees including duty orientation and proactivity can help predict ethical behaviour at work, according to a new article in Harvard Business Review by David De Cremer, KPMG Professor of Management Studies at Cambridge Judge Business School.

David De Cremer

Professor David De Cremer

Hiring committees should look for people who will notice when something unethical is happening, and people who show conscientiousness and moral attentiveness are more likely to do so, the article says.

People with a strong sense of duty orientation tend to be motivated to take action when they see a problem, while employees who show customer orientation tend to be more ethical “because they value the others’ needs as highly as their own and create fewer conflicts of interest.”

Assertiveness, while sometimes grating, helps to build ethical cultures because it can break through groupthink, while people demonstrating proactivity feel less constrained by situational forces and are quicker to blow the whistle on unethical acts.

Screening based on these traits can help companies develop “a blueprint of the kind of employee they are looking for who will endorse, shape and push an ethical culture,” the article says, but “whether they will speak up ultimately also depends on the extent to which the broader organisation legitimises their behaviour.”