How Unethical Are You

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How (Un)ethical Are You?

Most of people believe that they are ethical and unbiased. They imagine they’re good decision makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in their, and their organization’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of them fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception. This article explores four related sources of unintentional unethical decision making:

1. Implicit Prejudice: Bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs
Most fair-minded people strive to judge others according to their merits. What makes implicit prejudice so common and persistent is that it is rooted in the
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4. Conflict of Interest: Bias that favors those who can benefit you
Everyone knows that conflict of interest can lead to intentionally corrupt behavior. But numerous psychological experiments show how powerfully such conflicts can unintentionally skew decision making. Physicians, for instance, face conflicts of interest when they accept payment for reffering patients into clinocal trials. Similarly, many lawyers earn fees based on their clients’ awards or settlements. Since going to trial is expensive and uncertain, settling out of court is often an attractive option for the lawyer.

Trying Harder Isn’t Enough
Corporations keep responding with ethics-training programs for managers, and many of the world’s leading business schools have created new courses and chaired professorship in ethics. Many of these efforts focus on teaching broad principles of moral philosophy to help managers understand the ethical challanges they face. Managers can make wiser, more ethical decisions if they become mindful of their unconscious biases. By bringing the conscious mind to bear we can get at something outside our conscious awareness.
What’s required is continual awareness of the forces that can cause decision making to veer from its intended course and continual adjustments to counteract them. Those adjustments fall into three general categories:
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