Designing and Ethical Organisation: the Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, Wells Fargo’s deceptive sales practices, and Uber’s privacy intrusions each highlight that corporate wrongdoing is a reality in global business.
Unethical behaviour takes a significant toll on organisations, damaging reputations, harming employee morale, increasing regulatory costs, and compromising society’s trust in business. No company is perfect, because humans aren’t perfect. Some companies have had serious ethical lapses and real people are not simply good or evil, they can be good AND evil. Few executives set out to break the rules and most companies have programs in place to prevent malfeasance. Even so, recurring scandals show that more needs to be done.
Designing and Ethical Organisation requires thinking about ethics not simply as a belief problem, but as a design problem. Organisations should aim to design system that makes being good as easy as possible. That means attending carefully to the contexts people are actually in, making ethicals foundational in strategies and policies, rewarding ethical behaviour through a variety of incentives, and encouraging ethical norms in day-to-day practices. Doing so will never turn an organisation full of humans into a host of angels, but it can help them be as ethical as they are capable of being.
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