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Monday, June 15, 2015

Understanding ordinary unethical behavior: why people who value morality act immorally

by Francesca Gino
Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Volume 3, June 2015, Pages 107–111

Cheating, deception, organizational misconduct, and many other forms of unethical behavior are among the greatest challenges in today's society. As regularly highlighted by the media, extreme cases and costly scams (e.g., Enron, Bernard Madoff) are common. Yet, even more frequent and pervasive are cases of ‘ordinary’ unethical behavior — unethical actions committed by people who value about morality but behave unethically when faced with an opportunity to cheat. A growing body of research in behavioral ethics and moral psychology shows that even good people (i.e., people who care about being moral) can and often do bad things. Examples include cheating on taxes, deceiving in interpersonal relationships, overstating performance and contributions to teamwork, inflating business expense reports, and lying in negotiations.

When considered cumulatively, ordinary unethical behavior causes considerable societal damage. For instance, employee theft causes U.S. companies to lose approximately $52 billion per year [4]. This empirical evidence is striking in light of social–psychological research that, for decades, has robustly shown that people typically value honesty, believe strongly in their own morality, and strive to maintain a positive self-image as moral individuals.

The entire article is here.