Ethical Superiority and The Greater Good

If the organisation that you belong to is considered to be morally superior, would this have an impact on your decision making process? According to a new study, yes, and not necessarily in the way you’d think.

The new study by British Psychological Society shows that those working for a morally superior company are more likely to cut corners. They put this down to the thought that, in the minds of the morally superior company’s employees, the “greater good” of the end result justifies the means.

It’s easy to see how this could have huge ramifications for a supposed ethically sound business. This is why it is so important to nurture a culture of ethics, where commitment is valued alongside, and often over, compliance. Explaining to your colleagues or employees not just what the rules are but the reason for them can help to navigate the grey areas. If you can help translate the rulebook for them, and put it in terms of the challenges they face in every day business, then ‘doing the right thing’ becomes simpler.

So what do you do? If people see you’re ethical then they might be tempted to cheat to win, and if you’re unethical then you won’t get the correct sort of attention from investors and other stakeholders.

Well, one way can be to articulate the sorts of business your company would say no to, and to prove it. By declining business that feels out of sync with your organisations ethos you can show employees and investors alike that you practice what your policies preach. It goes beyond purely stating that “we’re a morally sound company who does the right thing” and instead shows it with your actions.

If your culture is dictating the “right thing to do”, everyone understands what that means in terms of their daily actions. Then your leaders are practicing what they preach and you’ll uphold your principles, leading to stronger and more ethically sound long-term performance.