It Takes Two to Tango
By Jelisa Jones
Ethical failures by companies, like fraudulence, corruption, and hacking are becoming more and more common. Wells Fargo recently paid $185 million in fines because their employees opened up over a million fraudulent bank accounts.
At first glance, we may think, why did they not hire better employees? Why did they not choose employees with more integrity, honesty, and ethical standards? This is one of the reasons why ethical evaluations like integrity tests are popular during the selection and interview process nowadays. We tend to blame the workers when big ethical scandals like this come out in the news, because we believe that employees should have high ethical standards that match the company’s standards.
One article found that the use of integrity assessments during selection might provide great benefit. The scores from the integrity test were found to be correlated with a candidate’s career potential, leadership activities, and job performance. Other scholars found that engagement in ethical behaviors might also increase organizational commitment and job satisfaction. Hence, selecting employees that demonstrate high integrity and ethics may benefit an organization in more ways than reducing the risk of a front-page headline about an ethical scandal.
However, why people choose to engage in unethical behavior is a much more complex ethical tango than you may think.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review refers to ethical decision making as a tango between the employee and the organization. It is not always the fault of the employee for engaging in unethical decisions. Sometimes it can be the nature of the company that is the true driving force of turning good people into bad decision makers.
The question then becomes, what could a company, as the other tango partner, do to drive “ethical” people to make unethical decisions? There are many factors to consider when answering this question.
Next time news of a major ethical scandal breaks, do not jump to the conclusion that these are all horrible people. Remember, ethical decisions involve two entities, the company and the employee, because it always takes two to tango.