When discussing ethics, it’s important to not only acknowledge successful behaviors, but also flaws or behaviors that may not align with ethical mores, codes, or action. Unit 01 describes vices as predilections of people. Vices would be characteristics or traits of people, particularly weaknesses that make them susceptible to making ethical violations. Vices are seen as weaknesses of the will or inability to control one’s desires (Penn State, 2019). Temptations are the desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment, that threatens long-term goals. Mix these two and you have a recipe for destructive behavior that will be regretted not long after the desire is fulfilled. Vices and Temptations are as old as mankind itself, being noted in everything from The Bible to modern Academic pieces. But what implications do they have on ethical decision making?
An example of a common workplace vice is the use of illicit drugs. People’s excessive drug use can eventually begin to impact their work performance. In this example, the vice is fondness for the drug. When facing an ethical dilemma, being aware of the temptation before it happens and thinking about the long-term consequences of misbehaving could help more people do the right thing, according to a new study by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Behavioral Science and Marketing professors. In a series of experiments that included common ethical dilemmas, such as calling in sick to work and negotiating a home sale, the researchers found that two factors together promoted ethical behavior: Participants who identified a potential ethical dilemma as connected to other similar incidents and who also anticipated the temptation to act unethically were more likely to behave honestly than participants who did not (University of Chicago, 2015). This is an important implication, as it means those who are aware of their unethical behaviors are less likely to commit them than those who are not. Of course, this is not always the case as there are people who will commit unethical acts no matter what.
The benefit of tangible studies is the potential to help policy makers, educators, employers, and other leaders, devise strategies to encourage people to behave ethically. For example, a leader could control costs by emailing employees before a work trip to warn them against the temptation to inflate expenses. The notice could be even more effective if the leader reminded employees that the urge to exaggerate expenses is a temptation they will encounter repeatedly in the future.
When facing ethical dilemmas, the weights we assign to certain values will sometimes lead us to choose organizational policies/actions that will promote the common good. At other times, our values will lead us to choose those policies or actions that will protect our personal interests. Perhaps the greatest challenge in the discussion of ethical dilemmas is finding ways in which the organization and the individual’s interests are met.
University of Chicago. (2015). Why good people do bad things: Anticipating
temptation may improve ethical behavior, study finds.
Penn State University. (2019). Unit 01. Lesson 02: Vices and Temptations.