6 reasons good people do bad things

When bad behaviour becomes "justified"

You are a good person. Your managers are good people, and so are your staff. So why do bad things happen in your business?

Broadly, there are six reasons that good people use to justify bad behaviour. In our past blog post, we looked at some of the more common place issues, which any one would recognise within themselves. In this one, we get a little bit more serious.

To learn more about how to create a more ethical culture, download our white paper The only way is ethics: why good people do bad things and how to stop us.

Tired and emotional

There are two sides to us. The person we want to be, and the person we actually are. Ideally those two are quite well aligned, but when we’re caught unawares in an ethical dilemma we can do things we later regret. Or do we?

Humans are brilliant at justifying our acts to make ourselves feel better – protecting us from the unpleasant feeling that we did something wrong. But this has a long term effect as gradually, the person we are gets further away from the person we originally wanted to be. So how do we make sure we don’t drift from our ideal when we’re under pressure to do something we probably shouldn’t?

For a start, we can remind ourselves more frequently of our ideal moral self and ask “What are the red lines I should never cross?”

We can also employ tactics to stay cool in the moment, so that we can avoid the risks when emotions are running high. This is when we’re most challenged to stay true to our ideal, so it’s important to hold onto our best self.

Slippery slope

Does wearing replica sunglasses make you a bad person? Sounds unlikely, right? Psychologists found, in a recent experiment, that people who thought they were wearing fake designer sunglasses were more likely to condone unethical behavior than those who thought they were wearing the real deal. It transpires that ignoring minor ethical lapses can be a bigger problem than we might have thought.

Think of it like a snowball rolling down the side of the mountain. It’s far easier to stop it in its tracks when it’s the size of a cricket ball, slowly sliding downhill than when it’s grown, gathered speed and taking the rest of the mountain down with it.

Unfortunately, it’s not long before seemingly harmless transgressions escalate into something far more damaging. As managers, how do we sweat the small stuff before it gets out of hand, without looking petty and losing the respect of our team?

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