The Slippery Slope in Business Ethics

Tempted to take an extra shampoo bottle from your hotel room? Or to say you’ve got a bad headache so you can leave work early to get ready for a big date? Be careful. What may seem like a small ethical transgression now could lead to much bigger problems in the future. At least that’s the result of a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Researchers trying to understand big corporate scandals found that when a small ethical sin goes unchecked, bigger sins are much more likely to follow.
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Business Ethics: Some Progress, But….

Corporate compliance officers—those hard-working, well-intentioned executives who worry about obeying the law and acting ethically—have had some good news recently. There are definite signs of progress on several levels. But some very high-profile failures, most notably the scandal at General Motors involving faulty ignition switches, make the rest of us wonder whether progress is really being made. The answer, I think, is, “Yes, but…” There are signs of improvement, but there’s still a long way to go.
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The Ethics of Charitable Giving

Most of us would agree that sharing our good fortune in the form of charitable giving is an ethical thing to do, maybe even an ethical requirement. If we’re blessed with more money than we need, whether by hard work, good luck, or a combination of both, we ought to lend a helping hand to those who need it. Right?

But what does it mean to have more money than we need?
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No Free Pass for Lying Politicians

When we conducted an informal survey last year asking people when it’s okay to tell a white lie, a large majority, 71%, came down hard on politicians, saying it’s wrong for them to shade the truth, even when it’s just a matter of emphasizing facts that support their point of view and ignoring those that don’t.

But lying by politicians remains rampant. Continue reading

Five Ethical Failures in the Sterling Affair

The NBA’s decision to ban Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a reasonable first step, but it doesn’t begin to deal effectively with the underlying problems – or even address some of the ethical failures by the too-many actors involved.

Five separate failures immediately come to mind.
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Getting Help With Ethical Issues

Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, and can easily decide what’s ethical in a given situation if the problem is simple and straightforward. But when a complex dilemma leaves you uncertain, there are some tools that can help you work your way to a good decision. They can’t tell you what to do, but they can certainly help you figure it out for yourself.
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Ethics Gone AWOL at Toyota, GM

I was cleaning out some old files today when I came across a seven-year-old article reporting that top business schools were adding more ethics courses in the wake of the 2007 Enron scandal. The article, by Jeffrey MacDonald in the Christian Science Monitor, went on to quote critics saying the courses wouldn’t do much good. Boy, did that turn out to be true.

What could be more depressing than the twin scandals at Toyota and General Motors?

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Sales and Marketing: An Ethical Nightmare

I don’t envy those of you who earn a living by selling something. I never have—always knew it was an ethical minefield—but my appreciation for your dilemma has grown immensely as your problems have become mine.

Within the next few months, my first novel will be published and I’m getting ready, reading tons of information on how I’m supposed to promote it, create buzz, persuade people to review it, win fans, and ultimately convince a fair number of people that it’s worth their time and money.
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Taxes: Your Annual Ethics Test

Many ethical dilemmas land on our doorstep when we least expect them, but there’s one that arrives with dogged regularity—the annual income tax return.

While there are thousands of strict regulations and rules, and many checks and balances, a lot depends on our own integrity. With the Internal Revenue Service able to audit so few returns, the tax code becomes dependent to a surprising degree on the honor system, and that can lead to strong temptations to cheat.
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‘Cheater’s High’ Can Trump Guilt

Want to know the best way to prevent people from cheating? Don’t try too hard to stop them.

A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that the worst thing an employer, a teacher, or a business can do is to set up an elaborate system to catch cheaters. People will inevitably rise to the challenge – not because they need the financial benefit of cheating but because they enjoy the high of beating the system. Take the challenge away and a lot of the cheating will vanish on its own.
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Book Review: Journalism Ethics by Roger Patching & Martin Hirst

This is a tumultuous time for those concerned with journalism ethics. Reporters, editors, and publishers face enormous challenges as they grapple with social media, failing economic models, new rules of privacy, and even disagreement over the very definition of a journalist. There’s already an international debate over a new code of ethics, with lots of argument over what it should look like. Meanwhile readers and viewers remain skeptical. A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows only 21 percent of Americans give a high rating to newspaper reporters for honesty and ethics.
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Delta Goof Raises Ethical Issue

One issue that comes up repeatedly in the questions and comments we get has to do with the ethics of paying a fair price. One example involves a situation like a yard sale when a buyer recognizes an object as being worth far more than the seller is asking. We think the general rule is that there’s no ethical obligation to pay more. The price was set by the seller, and let’s face it, one of the big attractions of yard sales is the possibility of finding a great bargain. Still, when the price difference is major, we’re inclined to think the fairest approach is to split the difference.
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