Unethical Decision Making in Organizations

This course 'Unethical decision making in organizations : A seminar on the dark side of the force' will teach you how strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. You will also learn how to protect yourself and your organization against such forces lurking in the dark.

About The Course

Whenever we hear about ethical scandals, we tend to believe that unethical or illegal behavior in organizations is driven by character deficiencies of individual actors. Put differently, we simply assume that bad things are done by bad people (so-called bad apples). However, numerous corporate scandals, such as Enron, Ford, or Siemens, have demonstrated that even people with a high level of integrity can break the rules if they are put into a corrupt context. Good apples may become rotten in bad barrels. Regardless of their good intentions and strong values, individual actors might adapt to the unethical practices in their respective organizational context and, over time, lose the ability to see their wrongdoings. They become ethically blind. Such changes in people’s way of seeing the world and their value systems can occur in—and through—various organizational contexts in business, civil society, and public administration. This course is not about apples but about barrels and barrel makers. A better understanding of why and under what conditions good people make bad ethical decisions will enable us to better protect individuals as well as their respective organizations against the overwhelming power of the context. It will also enable us to cure societies from problems like corruption.

The goal of this course is to empower students to analyze the risks of unethical or illegal behavior that might be triggered by powerful contexts. It will draw from various disciplines such as management, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and literature, in order to learn what these disciplines contribute to a better understanding of unethical behavior. The course will also analyze some of the most eminent organizational scandals of the recent decades through the lenses of these disciplines.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?
Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructors.

  • Why is this course important for me?
Currently, the understanding of why good people make unethical decisions is rather limited, related research is rather fragmented, and the management of such problems in organizations is overly simplistic, legalistic, and inadequate. Understanding contexts, including the dangers of routines, the mindlessness of our daily decisions, and the healing power of mindful decision-making routines is of increasing importance. In this course, you will learn the latest knowledge and the appropriate tool box for dealing with ethical challenges that you will face throughout your life!

  • What do I need to follow this course?
We build bridges between various scientific disciplines and will familiarize you with those disciplines smoothly. You need no expertise, just come and share your own real-world experiences about unethical decisions. After all, we are all experts in making decisions—some more ethically, some less ethically—aren’t we?

Recommended Background

No background expertise is required. The course is open for interested layperson as well as experts who work on related topics, be it as researchers or practitioners (e.g., compliance managers in corporations).