Would you lie to get ahead?
(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Business scandals won't go away (surprise!). With banks manipulating markets, consultants trading insider information, and "trusted advisors" missing in action, it's hard to be altogether upbeat these days about a career in business. Most of my business school students want to start their own companies. One reason they cite is that at least that way they can be sure they're working for someone honest.
Every time there's an epidemic of business scandals, ethics training comes back into fashion. It happened after the Enron, Arthur Andersen, and WorldCom scandals; it's happening again now.
It strikes me that this is too little too late.
Ethics training depends on the idea that we all want to do the right thing. But that, in itself, is questionable. A recent report by corporate governance specialist Labaton Sucharow showed that 24 percent of financial services executives polled by the law firm believed that unethical or illegal conduct might be required for professional success. Moreover, 16 percent said that they would commit a crime if they thought they could get away with it.
In other words, these respondent knew the difference between right and wrong -- they just didn't care.
Is this unique to financial services? And if it isn't, what is driving this behavior? Is success so elusive days that everyone is less concerned with how they achieve it? Are competitive work environments to blame?
If people don't care about right and wrong, teaching them how to tell the difference won't make much impact. Will anything?
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