| Harvard Business Review
Ethical Breakdowns: Good People often Let Bad Things Happen. Why?
Companies are spending a great deal of time and money to install codes of ethics, ethics training, compliance programs, and in-house watchdogs. If these efforts worked, the money would be well spent. But unethical behavior appears to be on the rise. The authors observe that even the best-intentioned executives may be unaware of their own or their employees' unethical behavior. Drawing from extensive research on cognitive biases, they offer five reasons for this blindness and suggest what to do about them: (1) Ill-conceived goals may actually encourage negative behavior. Brainstorm unintended consequences when devising them, (2) Motivated blindness makes us overlook unethical behavior when remaining ignorant is in our interest. Root out conflicts of interest, (3) Indirect blindness softens our assessment of unethical behavior when it's carried out by third parties. Take ownership of the implications when you outsource work, (4) The slippery slope mutes our awareness when unethical behavior develops gradually. Be alert for even trivial infractions and investigate them immediately, and (5) Overvaluing outcomes may lead us to give a pass to unethical behavior. Examine good outcomes to ensure they're not driven by unethical tactics.
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