Benjamin Kessler

The science of management has long revolved around the question “How?” at the expense of “Why?” Widening the discussion to include ends as well as means also opens the door to the most troubling moral and ethical conflicts.

Annette Simmons

Some leaders tend to have a large circle of concern: They’re thinking about the effects of their decisions on a large group of people, now and into the future. Others think in a smaller circle: who they have to please and how to get it done. A leader’s ability to be strategic is a function of having bigger circles of moral concern. But that quality … [ Read more ]

A Framework for Leaders Facing Difficult Decisions

Many traditional decision-making tools fall short when it comes to the complex, subjective decisions that today’s leaders face every day. In this piece, the author provides a simple framework to help guide leaders through these difficult decisions. By interrogating the ethics (what is viewed as acceptable in your organization or society), morals (your internal sense of right and wrong), and responsibilities associated with your specific … [ Read more ]

How to Build a Company That (Actually) Values Integrity

Canned codes of ethics that ask employees to check a box to certify that they’ve read the material and third-party online ethics training courses might be all that is required to comply with the law, but they don’t move the needle. Employees see them mostly as a nuisance they have to suffer through.

Business leaders need to do more. Here are six practices to help leaders … [ Read more ]

Martin Parker

The problem is that business ethics and corporate social responsibility are subjects used as window dressing in the marketing of the business school, and as a fig leaf to cover the conscience of B-school deans – as if talking about ethics and responsibility were the same as doing something about it. They almost never systematically address the simple idea that since current social and economic … [ Read more ]

Nick Leeson

When profit is the motivation, there is always an inclination to believe good results have been generated the right way, especially by top performers.

Jeffrey Overall

A common misconception is that all unethical behaviors are self-serving. Examples of this include deceiving customers to make a sale and lying on expense reports. But although some unethical behavior is clearly self-serving, most unethical acts in the workplace are actually the result of managers encountering a moral dilemma.

The Myths of Unethical Behaviour

This article attempts to debunk the myths of unethical behavior created by business ethicists and to use the work of criminologists, who have been studying immoral behaviors for generations, and researchers in social psychology, to argue that unethical corporate behavior is most often a result of situational and contextual factors, job dependence and cognitive factors, which is perhaps an even more disturbing conclusion than the … [ Read more ]

Steven Tiell

When communities of people—in this case, the business community at large—encounter new influences, the way they respond to and engage with those influences becomes the community’s shared ethics. Individuals who behave in accordance with these community norms are said to be moral, and those who are exemplary are able to gain the trust of their community.

Over time, as ethical standards within a community shift, the … [ Read more ]

Bernie Madoff Explains Himself

A few years ago, professor Eugene Soltes phoned convicted felon Bernie Madoff and asked him an important question: How would you explain your actions and misconduct to students? The recorded answer offers sobering lessons for anyone with business ambitions.

Laura W. Geller, Jessica Kennedy

Jessica Kennedy has researched the origin of unethical behavior, and why it takes hold. She has found that the whole story is more complex. It’s not always about power corrupting. Rather, power causes people to identify so strongly with their group that they lose sight of whether that group’s actions cross an ethical line. This identification can lead them to support misconduct, rather than stopping … [ Read more ]

The Thought Leader Interview: Jonathan Haidt

The NYU social psychologist says that the ethical risks for a business depend on its ingrained cultural attitudes.

Jessica Kennedy Takes On Ethics, Power, and Gender

The professor at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management explains the root of unethical behavior.

Dick Martin

Compliance is not the same as ethics. Compliance is concerned with the letter of the law, ethics with its spirit. Compliance is rooted in statutes; ethics flows from a company’s character. Compliance and ethics overlap somewhat, but not completely.

Doing Business Where Governance Is Weak

Eight principles for succeeding in markets prone to ethical and legal risks.

Quality in Human Treatment: An Innovative Five-Level Framework

ESE’s Domènec Melé presents a framework for “human quality treatment” (HQT) based on a recognition and respect for our shared human characteristics as well as our uniqueness. He ranks the quality of treatment in an organization according to five levels: Maltreatment, Indifference, Justice, Care, and Development.

Bad Behavior

Even ordinary people are prone to shocking ethical lapses. As the empirical study of ethics has surged in the past two decades, clear evidence has emerged that ethical thinking and behavior are prone to many of the same mental processes and pitfalls as the rest of human thinking and behavior. Just as we humans are prone to systematic and predictable cognitive errors, we appear to … [ Read more ]

Dan Ariely on ‘The Honest Truth About Dishonesty’

Everyone cheats a little from time to time. But most major betrayals within organizations — from accounting fraud to doping in sports — start with a first step that crosses the line, according to Dan Ariely, a leading behavioral economist at Duke and author of The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves. That step can start people on a … [ Read more ]

Jerome Kohlberg, Jr.

All around us there is a breakdown of values […] It is not just the […] overpowering greed that pervades our business life. It is the fact that we are not willing to sacrifice for the ethics and values we profess. For an ethic is not an ethic, and a value not a value without some sacrifice to it. Something given up, something not taken, … [ Read more ]