Unethical Decision Making in Organizations

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  • Week 1- Ethical and unethical decision making
    • Have you ever asked yourself the following questions ? Why do human beings act in an illegal and unethical way? Why and under what conditions do we become evil? What motivates harm doing and what is the explanatory power of human nature and human culture? What is the evil anyway? And why is this relevant for us in our daily life? The first week will give you an introduction to the historic evolution of our modern understanding of evil, looking at how evil has been discussed in different times and cultural contexts. Furthermore, in this first week, we will discuss how you can deal with situation in which you have to make ethical decisions and how the theories of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant provide us a tool box for such situations.
  • Week 2- Introduction to unethical decisions in organizations
    • In this week, we will first reflect upon the wisdom of a famous fairy tale in order to understand the power contexts have on individuals. Subsequently, we will zoom into one of the most famous corporate scandals, the Ford Pinto case which demonstrates the power of context over decisions similar to the fairy tale. Finally, we will present our model of ethical blindness, which not only provides a conceptual framework to better understand these two cases, but also builds the backbone of the whole course.
  • Week 3- The power of frames: How people construct their reality
    • In this third week, we will examine how framing can contribute to unethical decision making. After having introduced you to the concept of framing in general, we will use it to interpret the Enron scandal. We will then discuss the recent Lehman Brothers collapse along one particular element of framing – the language we use in organizations. Building on this case, we will finally go deeper into the link between decision making and language and discuss how language influences what we can see and how we decide.
  • Week 4- The power of routines
    • In this week, we will first look at how people and organizations (can) simplify information processing and decision making, namely by using heuristics and by establishing routines. Subsequently, we will examine key driving forces of ethical blindness in organizations and finally demonstrate the risk associated with powerful routines in a case study on innovations in a military context.
  • Week 5- The power of strong situations
    • In this week, we will shift the focus to the environment of the decision maker and we will start by inspecting the immediate context. People are often in situations that have a strong influence on how they think and behave. Most of this influence comes from the presence of other people. The scientific discipline in which such effects are studied is social psychology and so we will look into some classic social psychology experiments.
  • Week 6 - The power of institutions
    • In this week, we will start by examining the impact of time on decision making. Subsequently, we will discuss the third contextual layer that we posit in our model of ethical blindness: the institutional context in which organizations are embedded. We will analyze this layer in more detail and discuss the impact of ideology on ethical blindness.
  • Week 7- The wind of change: how to fight ethical blindness
    • After having discussed for six weeks the forces that promote ethical blindness, we will now concentrate on defence strategies. This week, we will examine how we can fight against ethical blindness as individuals and as leaders in organizations.