Why people might choose an unethical option.
from Why we behave the way we do at work
Personal value systems or worldviews that can undermine a company’s stated
values include beliefs such as those listed here. These need to be brought into the
open where they can be discussed and challenged …:
The end justifies the means
Some people cling to a value system that companies are essentially about profit
maximisation and will therefore turn a blind eye to how results are obtained.
If it’s not illegal, it’s OK
Some managers and employees find it convenient to use the law to justify doing
the minimum and they can choose to ignore the spirit of the law, which often is its
It’s not my problem
Some managers and employees fail to speak up or take appropriate action when
they see unethical conduct because they are reluctant to become personally
Employees can fail to consider possible negative impacts. They focus on best
possible outcomes and fail to take into consideration possible downsides. When
making business decisions, this means that they can fail to take appropriate
action to minimise potential harm. This can be both unethical and demonstrate
poor risk management.
The rules don’t apply to me
When you make the rules, it’s easy to think you are above the rules. Such has
been the case for those senior managers who have been found guilty of flouting
their own company’s rules for personal gain.
I need to look after myself first
Egocentric people put their own needs first and see nothing wrong with rorting the
system for personal gains. The recent spate of public exposures of Federal
politicians who were found to have fudged their travel expenses is a good
example of individuals putting their interests before the pub lic good.
Stakeholders are not my concern
Milton Friedman argued that the business of business was business. For some,
this was a convenient argument to avoid the need to consult with those people
who were being directly affected by the company’s policies. We have come a
long way since then. It is now widely recognised that companies have not only an
economic impact on people but also an environmental and social one. These
people are, therefore, stakeholders in those companies and as such have a right
to be considered. The environmental movement, the anti-tobacco lobbies and
other consumer interest groups have brought stakeholders’ interests to the
attention of management of some of the world’s largest and most powerful
companies. Through their sustained campaigns, they have demonstrated that,
whether they like it or not, public companies will be held accountable to the
communities they affect. Consumers, too, are endorsing a more responsive
approach and are willing to boycott the products of those companies that do not
match their value systems.
I can get away with it
Opportunities to put self-interest before that of the company exist in most
organisations. Employees managing personal portfolios on company time;
managers who take sexual advantage or b ully their staff; employees fudging the
numbers – all believe they can get away with it until they get caught!
Pressure of work makes me act this way
This is perhaps the latest excuse for behaving badly. Increasingly, (employees)
excuse bullying behaviour because of the pressures of work overload or the
perceived stress of their jobs. Bullying cultures are not only unethical but also
can be illegal under government legislation.
Source: Why Ethics Matters: Business Ethics for
Business people, Attracta Lagan, p44-48.
reproduced in the Ethics In Action k it OCPE