Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It
Max H. Bazerman
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When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. In Blind Spots, leading business ethicists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel examine the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to. From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto, the downfall of Bernard Madoff, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.
Explaining why traditional approaches to ethics don't work, the book considers how blind spots like ethical fading--the removal of ethics from the decision--making process--have led to tragedies and scandals such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster, steroid use in Major League Baseball, the crash in the financial markets, and the energy crisis. The authors demonstrate how ethical standards shift, how we neglect to notice and act on the unethical behavior of others, and how compliance initiatives can actually promote unethical behavior. They argue that scandals will continue to emerge unless such approaches take into account the psychology of individuals faced with ethical dilemmas. Distinguishing our "should self" (the person who knows what is correct) from our "want self" (the person who ends up making decisions), the authors point out ethical sinkholes that create questionable actions.
Suggesting innovative individual and group tactics for improving human judgment, Blind Spots shows us how to secure a place for ethics in our workplaces, institutions, and daily lives.
acts, many people working in business environments are quick to note that the law permits their behavior and that they are maximizing shareholder value. The hierarchies found in most organizations provide a built-in source of blame: one’s boss. Do any of these phrases sound familiar? “I’m just doing my job.” “Ask the boss, not me.” “I just follow orders.” The reverse is also true; bosses face strong temptations to blame their employees for unethical behavior and claim personal innocence. Kenneth
management from noticing problems it preferred not to see. Was steroid use that easy to notice? Take a look for yourself. In figure 6 we plot the number of home runs hit by the players with the first-, second-, and third-most home runs each year from 1990 to 2009. The peaks between 1998 and 2001, typically recognized as the height of the steroid era in baseball, should have provided reasonably good evidence for the MLB to act (along with the other evidence available). To rule out the possibility
which requires corporations and the auditors that serve them to disclose their conflicts of interest, has been heralded as a means of achieving the goal of transparency and making companies more honest. Most people like the idea of requiring greater openness while still allowing professionals to act as they see fit. The well-intentioned focus on disclosure is based on the assumption that the public will benefit from increased information about an adviser’s conflict of interest. Unfortunately,
but the students were so insistent that she finally acquiesced. The students not only opened doors for her, but carried boxes to her office and then followed her to her car to see if they could help with more. Ann appreciated the generosity of this assistance, but couldn’t help but wonder if it was motivated by the fact that she is a short woman and was clearly struggling with the boxes. About two years later, Ann heard a colleague in her department describe the move-in experience of another
13. J. M. Burger (2009), “Replicating Milgram: Would People Still Obey Today?” American Psychologist 64:1–11. 14. BBC World Service (2010, March 17), “‘Game of Death’ French TV Show Sparks Controversy, retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2010/03/100318 _game_of_death_et_sl.shtml. 15. P. Werhane, L. Hartman, B. Parmar, and Dennis Moberg (book in progress), Social Construction, Mental Models, and the Problem of Obedience. 16. See D. Vaughn (1996), The Challenger Launch