4 Ethics LapsesThey’re More Common Than You Think

Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules.

– Wayne Dyer

For most of us, hearing or reading about corporate scandals involving unethical decisions (think Enron) is not only alarming, but it’s also outrageous. “Who would ever behave so unethically?” we ask ourselves. But the truth is that ethical people make unethical decisions all the time.

By definition, ethics draws a line in the sand between right and wrong. It’s one part morality and one part codified principles and conduct that govern human behavior and decisions.

So, what’s all the buzz with business ethics, and why are there still ethical lapses?

Where Ethics Lapses Begin

The average person’s moral compass guides decision-making toward an ethical north. But decisions can quickly go south because they’re influenced by external pressures that sometimes override internal points of reference.

While unethical behavior occasionally comes from egocentric tendencies, more often than not it occurs because of a fear of some consequence. Employees also adjust their behavior (and justifications for their behavior) based on their environment. For instance, some employees find they can’t compete with the top performers who are cutting serious ethical corners and figure the only way to survive or beat them is to join in. They see that others aren’t just getting away with devious behavior but are also rewarded for it. The message of “it’s how things are done around ...

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