Given the right circumstances, good people can get caught up in some very bad things. More often than not, psychology is to blame.
When it comes to unethical behavior, good people don’t tend to go right off the deep end like Bernie Madoff or Kenneth Lay. Rather, the mind plays tricks on them, pushing them down the slippery slope of questionable behavior.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” -C. S. Lewis
Dr. Muel Kaptein, Professor of Business Ethics and Integrity Management at the Rotterdam School of Management, has studied bad behavior for decades. A study he recently published sheds considerable light on what motivates good people to do bad things.
What follows are 14 of Dr. Kaptein’s most compelling findings into how the mind tricks good people into losing their moral compass and going astray.
The compensation effect. The compensation effect refers to the tendency for people to assume they accumulate moral capital. We use good deeds to balance out bad deeds, or alternately, we give ourselves breaks from goodness, like a piece of chocolate after a week of salads. This makes people more inclined to do bad things under the guise of “I’m a good person” or “It’s just this one thing.” A great example of this is a study in which people were observed lying and cheating more after they made the decision to purchase products that were good for the environment. Read more…