Background Note | HBS Case Collection | October 2011 (Revised October 2012)

A Note on Moral Disengagement

by Sandra J. Sucher and Celia Moore


Moral disengagement is a process that enables people to engage in negative behaviors, from small misdeeds to great atrocities, without believing that they are causing harm or doing wrong. When Conrad Black, the fallen Canadian mogul convicted of multiple counts of fraud and obstruction of justice, claims that he "would never dream of committing a crime in a thousand years," moral disengagement is what allows him to make that claim and believe it. This note provides an overview of the eight mechanisms of moral disengagement as first described by Albert Bandura, and provides examples of how they operate in our daily lives.

Keywords: Moral Sensibility;


Sucher, Sandra J., and Celia Moore. "A Note on Moral Disengagement." Harvard Business School Background Note 612-043, October 2011. (Revised October 2012.)