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Believing That Everyone Else Is Less Ethical: Implications for Work Behavior and Ethics Instruction

Thomas Tyson
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 9, No. 9 (Sep., 1990), pp. 715-721
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25072090
Page Count: 7
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Believing That Everyone Else Is Less Ethical: Implications for Work Behavior and Ethics Instruction
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Abstract

Studies consistently report that individuals believe they are far more ethical than co-workers, superiors, or managers in other firms. The present study confirms this finding when comparing undergraduate students' own ethical standards to their perceptions of the standards held by most managers or supervisors. By maintaining a "holier than thou" ethical perception, new and future managers might rationalize their unethical behavior as being necessary for success in an unethical world. A prisoner's dilemma type problem can be said to exist when choosing an unethical behavior becomes each player's dominant strategy and the interaction of dominant behaviors is Pareto inferior. Dispelling the "holier than thou" perception may encourage students to revise their personal behavior payoffs such that the collective benefits that emanate from ethical conduct are favored and the prisoner's dilemma problem is converted into a coordination problem.

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