6 reasons why good people do bad things: Bad barrel

When ethics enters the workplace

There are very few bad apples, but there are a few more bad barrels. The context within which people work sets the expectations for their behavior.

This final blog post looks at the higher risk situations which heighten the likelihood of bad behavior within your business: Loyalty and severe consequences.

To learn more about how to build a better barrel, download our white paper The only way is ethics: why good people do bad things and how to stop us.

Ethics in your daily life – loyalty 

Would you rat out your best friend? What would a close family member have to do for you to report them to the police?

We all know the difference between right and wrong, but loyalty can cloud that judgement. If we have any kind of allegiance with someone we’re likely to ignore or miss them committing any kind of unethical behavior.

Good relationships are obviously crucial, but for our own and others’ wellbeing, we can’t let loyalty interfere with our moral compass and stop us standing up for what we believe in.

So how do you speak up without selling out? We can start by pointing out small things early and tactfully, showing we have their best interests in mind and be honest about our own ethical dilemmas. Get this right and we can be sure to do the right thing without ruining our relationships.

Ethics in the workplace – severe consequences

Picture the scene. You’re under pressure, unsupported and facing very dreary consequences if things don’t go your way. Your job, reputation and financial security depend on delivering on this project and hitting tough goals. What if there was a shady way to cut corners and a chance that nobody would ever find out… would you take it?

Research shows we all cheat a little bit when we think we can get away with it. It helps us get ahead or keep up and usually feels harmless and victimless.  Sometimes we worry that there are real consequences to doing the right thing – for example, being honest with a client when we’ve made a costly mistake, or leaving a reporting error which makes our performance look better than the reality.

But where do you draw the line? Research suggests that we’re all capable of doing unethical things when we feel there’s no option but to ‘do whatever it takes’ to achieve our targets. It’s a slippery slope from one minor misdeed to a large scandal with far-reaching consequences – just ask the Enrons of the business world.

Creating a climate of ethical behavior helps individuals and organizations do the right things.. even when the pressure is mounting.