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Study: Corporate social programs may lead employees to dehumanize

(SergeyNivens / Depositphotos.com)

(SergeyNivens / Depositphotos.com)

Here’s an unintended result of corporate social responsibility programs: they can lead to workers dehumanizing the people they’re intended to help.

That’s according to research by Gareth Craze, a doctoral student at Case Western Reserve University’s Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab, and published in the journal Philosophy of Management.

“No matter how much these programs intend to help others, they relegate people to bottom-line business considerations that see people in terms of their utility to deliver on a corporation’s top goals: increasing shareholder value and making a profit,” said Craze.

Craze’s research pointed to different networks inside the brain that tend to be at odds with each other.

Making cost calculations for a social responsibility program would engage a part of the brain which is usually analytic, task-oriented and can lead to thinking that dehumanizes people by seeing them as data rather than fellow humans.

That sort of thinking also inhibits brain regions associated with empathy and openness. Earlier research by Tony Jack, an associate professor and leader of the lab, found that using one of these brain networks tends to deactivate the other.

To encourage empathy, Craze recommends that employees working on social responsibility programs spend time in mindfulness, meditation, yoga or spending time outdoors, as well as spending meaningful time with the people they plan to help.

“Real efforts to recognize the humanity of the people these programs intend to help,” he said, “can aid corporate employees planning these initiatives to consider others to be more than just numbers on a balance sheet.”


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