Leaders of organizations who may be successful at what they do and see themselves as ethical and moral still culti- vate a collection of what Max Bazerman and Ann Trebrunsel call blind spots . 5 Blind spots are the gaps between who you want to be and the person you actually are. In other words,

most of us want to do the right thing—to act ethically— but internal and external pressures get in the way. These authors attribute blind spots to the concept of bounded ethicality; that is, psychological processes that lead even good people to engage in ethically questionable behavior that contradicts their own preferred ethics. At Penn State, bounded ethicality came into play because individuals such as Paterno decided to keep the scandal quiet, thereby ena- bling the abuse and harm to the affected children to con- tinue even though that harm was inconsistent with their purported beliefs and preferences.

Our workday lives can create ethical challenges where there is a difference between knowing the right thing to do and doing it. One reason is organizational goals (such as what is in the best interests of Penn State), rewards, com- pliance systems, and informal pressures, all of which can contribute to ethical fading, a process by which the ethical dimensions are eliminated from a decision and replaced by “avoiding bad publicity” or making the deal at any costs. Enron had a code of conduct in place, but that didn’t stop it from rewarding officers involved in conflicts of interest such as the former chief financial officer (CFO), Andy Fastow, who managed special-purpose-entities that dealt directly with Enron at the same time he served as Enron’s CFO.

As you read this chapter, think about the following ques- tions: (1) What would you have done if you had been in Joe Paterno’s position, and why? (2) What factors might have enabled you to act in accordance with your own values and beliefs? (3) What factors might have served as disablers and made it more difficult to act on your values and beliefs?

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