The Ethical Executive: Becoming Aware of the Root Causes of Unethical Behavior: 45 Psychological Traps that Every One of Us Falls Prey To by Robert Hoyk and Paul Hersey, Stanford Business Press, 2008.
This is one book worth reading, for anyone in an organization faced with ethical choices everyday.
Even with a solid foundation of good moral values, no one is immune to making unethical choices.Ethical slips and traps are rampant, from telling white lies that protect a friend, to ignoring a gut feeling and following orders when we know better.
Not a month goes by without some highly publicized ethical scandal. Be it tax evasion, executive pay excesses, sexual dalliances and outright fraud, many individuals are simply unable to resist temptation.
Does this make the perpetrators corrupt sociopaths?
Sometimes, but usually not. They’re often leaders and pillars of the community, and their actions leave us shaking our heads and wondering what were they thinking.
The sad truth? No one is immune. Cheating isn’t limited to those in positions of power. While power is certainly fraught with opportunities and temptations, each of us faces daily choices that involve doing the right — or wrong — thing. Only when a CEO, politician, celebrity or sports legend gets caught does the problem rise to front-page news. Just ask Tiger Woods.
But the same ethical traps lie in your path. Even the little guys transgress. Often, people feel an urge to cheat — a strange pull to try to get away with something. Sometimes it’s small; other times it’s scandalous. Sometimes it matters; other times it goes unnoticed.
What exactly happens inside our heads when we choose to violate our ethical standards? Do we lose sight of what’s right? Do we take the easy way out? Are we driven to win at any price? Are we attracted to our “dark side”?
Psychology and other social sciences offer a huge body of experimental studies that demonstrate the allure of cheating. In The Ethical Executive (Stanford University Press, 2008), Robert Hoyk and Paul Hersey describe 45 ethical traps inherent in any organizational environment.
Many of these traps are psychological in nature, creating “webs of deception” that distort our perception of right and wrong. Such rationalizations lead us to believe our unethical behavior is normal and appropriate, and they have contributed to large-scale corporate disasters like the Enron and WorldCom affairs.
Hoyk and Hersey describe three types of social-psychological traps that occur in the workplace: primary, defensive and personality. They include:
- Obedience to authority
- Small steps
- Indirect responsibility
- Faceless victims
- Lost in the group
- Tyranny of goals
- Time pressures
Carefully review and understand these traps so you can prepare for—and avoid—them. Doing so will help ensure your choices are sound and your moral compass remains intact.
I highly recommend reading this book. You can get it on Amazon here: The Ethical Executive.