Business ethicists claim that the recent spate of business leaders, especially bankers, who have admitted to unethical behavior, is not surprising. In fact, these experts explain that when rewards are high and risks are low, the brain often gives the green light to cheat. So how to stop unethical corporate cultures that arise from such a natural human response?
Mark Frame, a psychology professor at Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in workplace psychology, says to begin by communicating solid business values to stakeholders. “If you advertise that you are trying to be ethical, you’re going to wind up hiring more ethical people. It’s kind of that field of dreams thing: If you build it, they will come,” he says.
But words must be followed by actions, so the next step is to thwart unethical behavior. Operating under the tacit rule that “it’s okay as long as we’re not caught” is insufficient. UC Berkeley professor Barry Staw says companies need to make their stance clear: When employees cross a legal line, they will lose their job and possibly be reported to authorities. Such a strategy invokes fear of punishment over reward for good behavior.
Making ethical choices may not be innate, but people can be taught why making moral choices is ultimately in their best interests, says Dave Mayer, a management professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He tells his students that the best way to test whether an action is ethical is to ask oneself: Is what I’m planning to do the right thing or is it simply in my own self interest? If the answer is the latter, it’s probably not the best way to go.
Write a persuasive essay based on the case study that answers the following three questions:
- If you were in a corporate culture, and you witnessed cheating, what would you do?
- How can a business create a culture that encourages its workers to be ethical?
- Do you think that ethics begins at home? Explain.
Be sure to include explanations of how your essay incorporates the ideas of Cialdini and others. Use references and citations.
SLP Assignment Expectations
Write a persuasive essay using guidelines from Cialdini, Conger, and/or Bowman. Include an explanation of which guidelines you used. Use proper reference and citation style.