Unethical Rationalization

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Wrong Pages: 7 (1404 words) Published: December 8, 2014

Rationalizing Unethical Behavior
N. Strawbridge
November 4, 2014
P. Reynolds

Classical economic philosophies suggest that man is egotistical and focused on satisfying his own needs. When people encounter difficult ethical challenges they often solicit the question, "What should I do?" It is naïve to assume that everyone retains a strong moral compass and does the 'right thing' even in small situations. Pinching a little piece of the pie, bending a rule once in a while, occasionally telling a white lie or just looking the other way for a moment, are common place in business. It is not the unethical act itself, but it is the rationalization of the unethical behavior that is the focus of this paper. Some of these rationalizations are honest misunderstandings, some are intentional misrepresentations, some are self-serving excuses, and some, simply make no sense at all. This paper will discuss 5 reasons people rationalize their bad decisions. The Golden Rationalization

“Everybody does it” is a rationalization that has been used to excuse ethical misconduct since the beginning of society. It is based on the blemished theory that the unethical nature of an act is somehow lessened by the number of people who do it, and if "everybody does it," then it is unconditionally okay for you to do it as well. People who cheat on a test, commit adultery, lie under oath or use illegal drugs of course don't believe that what they are doing is right because "everybody does it." They usually are arguing that they shouldn't be singled out for criticism if "no one else" is. If someone really is disputing that an action is no longer unethical because so many people do it, then that person is either in dire need of ethical tutoring, or an idiot (Marshall, 2012). Ethical Vigilantism

The Boondock Saints is a crime thriller that was released in 1999. The film tells the story of two Irish Catholic brothers who set out on what they believe is a mission from God to punish those who do harm to others, and attempt to wipe out the entire South Boston criminal underworld, or in other words, they are performing ethical vigilantism (Weeks, 2012). The central theme of this movie is a little heavy when comparing it to ethical vigilantism in the workplace. When a person who has been denied a raise he was guaranteed secretly charges personal expenses to a company credit card because "the company owes him," that is ethical vigilantism. Or, as John Marshall of Ethics Alarms, an ethical theory blog describes ethical vigilantism as; "Addressing a real or imagined injustice by employing remedial cheating, lying, or other unethical means" (Marshall, 2012). The outcome of ethical vigilantism is individual dishonesty, harm to innocent individuals, and the sacrifice of ones ethical principals. Nobody is due the right to lie, cheat, or damage others (Marshall, 2012). The Unethical Tree in the Forest

“What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” so says the routinely unethical, and the rarely unethical. This statement is often used by the independent observers who don't want to admit they have strayed. "These offenders will preach that as long as the lie, swindle, cheat, or crime is never discovered, it hardly happened at all…in fact, one might as well say it didn’t happen, so you can’t really say anything really was wrong…right? Wrong" (Marshall, 2012). One can object, like Einstein: "Do you mean to tell me the moon isn't there until you look at it?" No. A significant percentage of time, the wrongful act is discovered. Even if it is not, the unethical nature of the act is genuine, and is present regardless of how many people know about it. "Just as a tree that falls in the forest with nobody around both makes noise and causes damage, so undetected, well-disguised or covered-up wrongs are exactly as wrong as those that end up on the front pages" (Marshall, 2012). The unethical tree in the forest is one of the less...

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George, B. (2011). Why leaders lose their way. Retrieved from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6741.html
Heim, J. (2014). How to identify the 14 red flags of ethical misconduct & mitigate them with your compliance training program: Part 2. Retrieved from http://www.tnwinc.com/9844/identify-14-red-flags-ethical-misconduct-mitigate-compliance-training-program-part-2/
Marshall, J. (2012). Unethical rationalizations and misconceptions. Retrieved from http://ethicsalarms.com/rule-book/unethical-rationalizations-and-misconceptions/
Paramahamsa, K. (2009). Moral insight. Retrieved from http://www.trcb.com/religion/buddhism/moral-insight-470.htm
Weeks, M. (2012). The ethics of vigilantism in "the boondock saints". Retrieved from http://mattweeks.hubpages.com/hub/The-Ethics-of-Vigilantism-in-The-Boondock-Saints
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