Hello again, everyone. Earlier this week, the Society of African-American Business Students held a meeting about Business Ethics, which inspired me to write this post. During the meeting, we held two different discussions that talked about ethics. First, in a case study called, “The Unethical Professor,” we discussed the implications of a student paying $1,000 to a professor in exchange for an A in a class. We discussed why this is wrong from the student’s perspective, the professor’s perspective, and how this affects RIT’s reputation. For those of you who have taken Business Ethics with Professor Traub, you probably recognize this case study from class. (Thanks to Professor Traub for allowing us to use the case for our meeting!)
After our discussion of the case, we watched the following video from TEDTalks about intuition, and why people choose to cheat. Feel free to watch if you have about 15 minutes to spare (it’s not a boring 15 minutes, I promise):
This is one of my favorite TEDTalks videos. It’s very interesting to think about how people rationalize making unethical decisions. The most interesting part of the video for me, is when Dan Ariely says that people are more likely to cheat when they share something in common. We look at the collapse of Enron, or BP’s lack of sensitivity and urgency in their oil spill crisis, and claim that we never would have made the same decisions, or that we would have done things differently. But from this video, we see how easy it is to wind up in the same situations, even if on a smaller scale. It may be hard to fathom stealing millions of dollars by yourself, but when 999,999 other people steal a dollar, it becomes very easy (and seemingly harmless) for you to also take a dollar.
This seems to be the mindset of many businesspeople today. However, there is clearly a cost that comes with poor ethics. Just look at business news nowadays. You see so many stories about companies having problems that would have easily been prevented by ethical behavior. Hard economic times bring even harder decisions, but I truly believe that if all businesses would make ethical behavior one of their top priorities, we would see a lot fewer companies in the trouble that they are in today. Fortunately, making ethical decisions is a lot simpler than we tend to make it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that many businesses are willing to make that decision. Only time will tell.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and any feedback or thoughts you have about this post are welcomed. Until next time, take care and have a Happy Holiday season!