Employees are most likely to cut corners when they lack clear goals and feel overworked

Fans of the television show “The Office” probably enjoy the dry wit and dubious scenarios the show portrays. In all likelihood, they also like the program because they see their own workplace reflected in the show.

While many workplaces don’t go as far as the TV show, most people are familiar with firms that repeatedly attempt to alter strategy in the name of improved efficiency. According to new research from the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis, that kind of environment is a sure-fire way to encourage employees to take short cuts.

Judi McLean Parks

The research is based on a survey of 215 employees who were asked about their organizations. Those employees with low levels of cynicism did not display a tendency to cut corners; those who were overworked and whose firms kept revising its goals, were more inclined to pursue the most expedient way to get the work done — which isn’t always the most honest way.

“It links into the culture in most American workplaces,” McLean Parks said. “People feel they have to work 24-7. In fact, this country does work more than other countries and our workers are overloaded. All of that feeds the cynicism and impacts how people get things done.”