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When lines are crossed in the corporate field like money laundering, claims of dishonesty in the automotive industry, privacy breaches in social media, sexual harassment allegations in the entertainment industry, and pharmaceutical companies’ part in the school shootings and opioid crises, one can’t help but think how corrupt this country is. One may think that this occurs only when you have large amounts of money, but in fact corruption affects everyone. Money alone can lead to unethical behavior, regardless of the amount.
POINT 1: People may not even realize that they are engaging in or even encouraging unethical activity because it is (or isn’t) easy to do.
SUPPORT 1: CITATION Cal14 l 1033 (Callahan).
SUPPORT 3: In Evicted, landlords Sherrena and Tobin are constantly faced with ethical decisions, from property maintenance to eviction notices CITATION Des16 l 1033 (Desmond). They both have a taste of what it’s like to live in the top one percent of earners, and they need to do what they have to in order to stay afloat and not fall behind.
This includes making decisions without realizing that they are unethical. For example, landlords rely on hiring unemployed and unexperienced people to do work around their properties, because the landlords know that they are looking for work and are desperate to make a buck. The landlords don’t want to spend extra hiring companies or small businesses to do the repairs, so they will hire people that will do the repairs at such a low price because they know they will do the work.
CITATION Des16 l 1033 (Desmond)With self-deception, a person will behave self-interestedly while mistakenly believing their moral principles were preserved. This results in this “internal con game” in which the ethical pieces of the decision “fades” into the background, leaving moral consequences unnoticed or ignored CITATION Ten04 l 1033 (Tenbrunsel and Messick).
There is also cultural numbness, which is when others will play along and slowly start to accept and adopt these deviant behaviors. People will also refrain from speaking up about an ethical violation because they will tend to think of the more immediate reward (such as staying on the good side of someone in a powerful position for example), this is known as justified neglect CITATION Wed19 l 1033 (Wedell-Wedellsborg).
It is an unpleasant feeling when you fail to live up to your own moral standards. When people are aware of their immoral actions, they will naturally try to reduce their distress and forget these memories in order to preserve a positive self-concept and identity. Research has found that people are more likely to forget the details of their own unethical acts compared to other incidents, including unethical behavior of others. Professors Francesca Gino of Harvard University and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern University call this behavior unethical amnesia, or “obfuscation of one’s unethical acts over time” – a means to cope with the psychological distress and discomfort of behaving unethically CITATION Gin16 l 1033 (Gino and Kouchaki).
Power makes people become less likely to regard social standards. A study found that participants who were made to feel powerful were more likely to turn off an annoying fan blowing in their face compared to participants who were made to feel powerless. Even faced with temptation, most people tend to feel self-conscious about cheating, but individuals who experience a sense of power are able to overcome these reservations and start to take advantage of the situation CITATION Dub16 l 1033 (Dubois).
POINT 2: Money is power, and once people have a taste of that power it is hard to let go of it.
SUPPORT 1: In Mark Dowie’s Pinto Madness, Dowie reveals that Ford had no intention to fix the Pinto’s gas tank because they had already started preproduction of the components. To fix the Pinto’s gas tank would start the entire preproduction process over, essentially causing Ford to lose millions of dollars. On top of that, Ford had already been under pressure to keep up with its competitors Volkswagen and the Japanese brands (Nissan and Toyota, I am assuming). According to its General Manager, Ford also believed that trunk size was more of a concern with consumers than safety CITATION Dow14 l 1033 (Dowie).
SUPPORT 2: CITATION Fri14 l 1033 (Friedman)SUPPORT 3: You begin to feel entitled. There is something occurring known as omnipotence – which is when someone feels so entitled that they believe the rules of decent behavior don’t apply to them. To the omnipotent leader, rules and norms are meant for everyone but them. Crossing a line feels less like a transgression and more like what they are owed. They feel they have the right to skip or redraw the lines.CITATION Wed19 l 1033 (Wedell-Wedellsborg).
People who feel powerful will think, feel, and act differently than those who feel the opposite, and they will take advantage of their power in ways big or small. This can come from high income, their position in their job, social status or even all three. They’re more likely to be rude and more likely to cheat. People driving expensive cars are less likely to stop for pedestrians, for example, and in a series of lab experiments upper-class individuals tended to lie more during a negotiation and cheat to increase their chance to win a prize CITATION Dub16 l 1033 (Dubois).
Power increases self-focus and will make people prioritize their own needs over others’. A shocking study had revealed that people making less than $25,000 a year gave away 4.2% of their income, while people who made more than $150,000 gave away only 2.7%. In another experiment, participants who were assigned to the role of employee or boss for a game put together an assortment of chocolate, either for a person of their choosing or for themselves. The results revealed that participants with the high-power bought more chocolates when for themselves than for another person. In contrast, the participants assigned to the low-power roles bought more when buying for others than for themselves. This suggests that having power is likely to increase the self-importance people place on themselves in relation to the importance they place on others CITATION Dub16 l 1033 (Dubois).
Author David Callahan puts into perspective that that this behavior has been going on for a long time in his article, Cheating in a Bottom-Line Economy. Top-level executives become obsessed with making as much money as possible as fast as possible, whether that process comes with unethical decisions. Employees from all levels experience the pressure to meet quotas and compete with other companies, but the employees at the bottom are forced to work harder or the same amount of pay or be forced to be out of work or demoted. Their managers may even be encouraging this behavior.
POINT 3: Not having enough wealth can lead to unethical behavior as well.
SUPPORT 1: Callahan applies a scenario where the reader is a car mechanic who enjoys their job, but must make a decision to lie to the customers about unnecessary repairs or do what’s necessary and potentially lose their job from not meeting their quota CITATION Cal14 l 1033 (Callahan). Companies in the auto industry still demonstrate this type of unethical behavior today, pressuring their employees and forcing them to lie to customers. I think it’s sad that they are under so much pressure to meet quota. Most are completely aware of how morally wrong their decisions can be, but they must feel like there isn’t anything else they can do because their jobs are on the line.
People tend to rely on short term outcomes than long term.
SUPPORT 2: Even when an outcome isn’t beneficial it can lead to unethical decisions. Tenants getting evicted will likely destroy the property out of anger, knowing that it means more work for the landlords and money lost. Some of these tenants claim to be unaware of eviction notices because the property owner stopped paying the mortgage and pocketed the rent money CITATION Des16 l 1033 (Desmond). I can recall back in 2008 when my family and I first moved to the Bay Area. She was renting out a home and found out that we had to be out in 30 days because the landlord hadn’t paid the mortgage and just kept the rent money. My mom was so upset because she was hoping to eventually buy the house, after losing her previous home to foreclosure. I asked her if I could throw a party our last night in the house and she said she didn’t care and to “do whatever you want, because the house belongs to the bank now”.
SUPPORT 3: CITATION Ump11 l 1033 (Umphress and Bingham)Throughout all of this, the poor manage to stick together through tough times. That is one thing that both black and white communities have in common, they will help each other out in need because they understand the struggle. It is very important to stick together despite the things that may happen.
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