Welcome to the Vital Integrities Blog

Standing Up or Standing By?

With the onslaught of high-profile corporate scandals, it's hardly surprising to learn that business students anticipate encountering ethical dilemmas at work. What is shocking, and disappointing, is to hear them say that they're unlikely to stand up for their personal values when those circumstances arise.

In a survey conducted by the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education involving MBA students at fifteen prestigious business schools from around the world, 83 percent of respondents said they expect to find themselves in work situations in which their personal values clash with what they're asked to do. Alarmingly, only 45 percent of those students say they're very likely to object. To be sure, in too many organizations, normally conscientious employees allow unethical behavior to thrive.

Consider this example: In what the Wall Street Journal called the "biggest accounting scam ever," WorldCom had $11 billion in hidden costs and overstated profits and revenues. The Report of Investigation by the Special Investigative Committee of the Board of Directors of WorldCom explains that workers who knew better failed to object: "Employees who learned about improper corporate adjustments appear to have feared senior management's criticism or even the loss of their jobs."

Many recent corporate scandals were detectable, even avoidable, but workers ignored obvious signs of wrongdoing. Why? According to the Ethics Resource Center's 2003 National Business Ethics Survey, a big reason employees close their eyes to misconduct is the belief that management will avoid taking action anyway. The Aspen Institute's survey of future business leaders appears to validate that perception.

Hopefully, business schools are paying attention and will begin teaching their students the importance of confronting unethical behavior.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark this post on del.icio.us

What do you think? Post a Comment
Vital Integrities Blog - Blogged