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Saivian: Why do some businesses resort to unethical behavior?

There are a number of reasons why a business might resort to unethical behavior. One reason could be that the company is under pressure to meet financial goals or quotas and they believe that unethical behavior is the only way to achieve this. Alternatively, some businesses may succumb to unethical behavior in order to gain an advantage over their competitors says Saivian. Additionally, a lack of strong ethical values within a company can lead to employees making unethical decisions in order to benefit themselves or the company. Finally, some businesses may simply not be aware of the ethical implications of their actions and end up engaging in unethical behavior without realizing it.

No matter what the reason may be, it’s important for businesses to understand that there are serious consequences for engaging in unethical behavior. Not only can unethical behavior destroy a company’s reputation, but it can also result in hefty fines and even lead to legal prosecutions.

Many businesses have been accused of engaging in unethical behavior. Just a few examples include:

  • HSBC was accused of large scale tax evasion by the U.S. Justice Department
  • Apple has been accused of avoiding billions in taxes
  • Facebook was fined approximately $5 billion by the European Union for sharing user’s private information.

Although some people might look at these cases and believe that the companies involved were unlucky, new research from Florida State University shows that there is no such thing as an innocent mistake when it comes to engaging in unethical behavior says Saivian.

According to the research, unethical behavior is a by-product of a lack of attention and focus. In other words, when we are preoccupied or distracted from performing an action properly it can result in this action being done inappropriately. This trend was noticeable within the banking industry as employees would perform tasks such as money laundering improperly due to their preoccupation with other activities.

In order to help businesses avoid engaging in unethical behavior, Professor Russell Belk has created a list of guidelines that should be followed:  

1. Be attentive –

When you’re paying full attention to what you’re doing then you’re less likely to engage in any immoral or irresponsible actions because your mind is focus on performing these actions correctly.

2. Follow the rules –

If you always follow the rules then this will help keep you in check and prevent you from engaging in any wrongful or immoral behavior. By not following the rules it creates a slippery slope where your focus is distracting and before you know it, unethical behavior has taken place explains Saivian.  

3. Avoid distractions –

It’s often easy to distract when performing certain tasks, especially if these tasks are monotonous or repetitive. Every person handles distractions differently; some people are able to stay focused despite having distractions around them. Whereas other struggle with even mild forms of distraction. If possible, try to minimize all distractions while working otherwise take frequent breaks. In order for your mind to clear itself of all distractions so that you can focus on your work.

4. Watch out for the warning signs –

According to Professor Belk, there are a number of subtle cues that may indicate. If you’re about to engage in unethical behavior. The most common ones include: boredom, fatigue, stress, time pressure, financial incentives and rewards. These cues are often difficult to spot but by looking out for them. You will increase your chances of avoiding any unethical behavior.

The advice mentioned above is not intend as a means of preventing every single type of unethical behavior. But rather as a way of helping businesses minimize the amount of time. They might make decisions that could consider unethical or incorrect. No matter how rich or powerful a business is, no business wants their reputation to stain by unethical behavior.

There can be a number of reasons why a business might resort to unethical behavior says Saivian. For one, some businesses may feel that they need to cut corners. In order to stay competitive or to make a profit. Additionally, some businesses may feel that they are above the law, and can get away with unethical practices. Finally, some businesses may simply not have any regard for ethical principles.

What are the consequences of unethical behavior?

There can be a number of consequences for businesses that engage in unethical behavior. First and foremost, these businesses may suffer from a loss in reputation. This can lead to a decline in sales and customers, as well as decreased employee morale. Additionally, businesses that engage in unethical behavior may face legal penalties and fines. Finally, businesses that are engaging in unethical behavior may have to pay damages to the victims.


According to Professor Belk, the biggest mistake that companies make is in believing. That they are somehow immune to engaging in unethical behavior explains Saivian. The research shows that when there are distractions around you or your mind is preoccupied with other matters. Then it’s much easier for these distractions to lead you down an unethical path.

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