Unethical Decision Making in Organizations

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About this course: This course 'Unethical decision making in organizations : A seminar on the dark side of the force' will teach you how strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. You will also learn how to protect yourself and your organization against such forces lurking in the dark. About the Course This course teaches how narrow frames and strong contexts can push good people towards unethical decisions and how they can protect themselves and their organization against ethical blindness. The goal of this course is to empower the participants to analyze the risks of unethical or illegal behavior that might be triggered by powerful contexts. It draws …

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When you enroll for courses through Coursera you get to choose for a paid plan or for a free plan

  • Free plan: No certicification and/or audit only. You will have access to all course materials except graded items.
  • Paid plan: Commit to earning a Certificate—it's a trusted, shareable way to showcase your new skills.

About this course: This course 'Unethical decision making in organizations : A seminar on the dark side of the force' will teach you how strong organizational contexts push good people towards unethical decisions. You will also learn how to protect yourself and your organization against such forces lurking in the dark. About the Course This course teaches how narrow frames and strong contexts can push good people towards unethical decisions and how they can protect themselves and their organization against ethical blindness. The goal of this course is to empower the participants to analyze the risks of unethical or illegal behavior that might be triggered by powerful contexts. It draws from various disciplines such as management, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and literature, in order to learn what these disciplines contribute to a better understanding of unethical behavior. The course also analyzes some of the most prominent organizational scandals of the recent decades through the lenses of these disciplines. Whenever we hear about ethical scandals, we tend to believe that unethical or illegal behaviour in organizations is driven by character deficiencies of individual actors. Put differently, we simply assume that bad things are done by bad people. However, numerous corporate scandals have demonstrated that even people with a high level of integrity can break the rules if they are put into a strong context. A better understanding of why and under what conditions good people make bad ethical decisions will enable us to better protect individuals as well as their respective organizations against the potentially overwhelming power of the context. It will also enable us to cure societies from problems like corruption. At the end of the course, you are able to: 1. Explain the impact of social context on individual decision making using various theories (from Management, Sociology, Psychology, and Philosophy) 2. Apply these theories to the analysis of some of the most eminent organizational scandals of the recent decades 3. Assess risks of ethical blindness in your own organizational context 4. Design interventions to reduce such risks for yourself and your organization Recommended Background No background expertise is required. The course is open for interested layperson as well as experts who work on related topics, be it as researchers or practitioners (e.g., compliance managers in corporations). Why is this course important for me? Currently, the understanding of why good people make unethical decisions is rather limited, related research is rather fragmented, and the management of such problems in organizations is overly simplistic, legalistic, and inadequate. Understanding contexts, including the dangers of routines, the mindlessness of our daily decisions, and the healing power of mindful decision-making routines is of increasing importance. In this course, you will learn the latest knowledge and the appropriate tool box for dealing with ethical challenges that you will face throughout your life! What do I need to follow this course? We build bridges between various scientific disciplines and will familiarize you with those disciplines smoothly. You need no expertise, just come and share your own real-world experiences about unethical decisions. After all, we are all experts in making decisions—some more ethically, some less ethically—aren’t we?

Who is this class for: The course is open for interested layperson as well as experts who work on related topics, be it as researchers or practitioners (e.g., compliance managers in corporations).

Created by:  University of Lausanne
  • Taught by:  Guido Palazzo, Professor of Business Ethics

    Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC-Lausanne)
  • Taught by:  Ulrich Hoffrage, Professor of Decision Theory

    Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC-Lausanne)
Level Beginner Commitment 7 weeks of study, 3-5 hours/week Language English How To Pass Pass all graded assignments to complete the course. User Ratings 4.8 stars Average User Rating 4.8See what learners said Coursework

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University of Lausanne The University of Lausanne is a Swiss state university founded in 1537. It is focused on Medicine, Life Sciences, Geosciences, Environmental Sciences, Business, Humanities, Social Sciences and Sport Sciences. UNIL is a research-intensive university which encourages interdisciplinarity. It is also renowned for its innovative teaching methods.

Syllabus


WEEK 1


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.


3 videos, 10 readings expand


  1. Reading: Syllabus and Grading policies
  2. Reading: Discussion forum guidelines
  3. Reading: Our stance on Plagiarism
  4. Reading: Instructors
  5. Reading: Development team
  6. Reading: Getting started : Meet and Greet !
  7. Reading: Learning Outcomes and Assignments
  8. Video: 1.1 - Introduction to the course
  9. Video: 1.2 - A little history of Evil
  10. Video: 1.3 - Dilemma - How to make ethical decisions
  11. Reading: Suggested discussions
  12. Reading: Additional readings
  13. Reading: To read before starting Ethical Dilemma assignment

Graded: Quiz 1
Graded: Ethical dilemma assignment

WEEK 2


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.


5 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes
  2. Video: 2.1 - The Emperor's new clothes I
  3. Video: 2.2 - The Emperor's new clothes II
  4. Video: 2.3 - The story of the Ford Pinto
  5. Video: 2.4 - The concept of ethical blindness I
  6. Video: 2.5 - The concept of ethical blindness II
  7. Reading: Additional readings


WEEK 3


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.


4 videos, 3 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes and assignment
  2. Video: 3.1 - How People Make Sense of Their World
  3. Video: 3.2 - The Enron Story
  4. Video: 3.3 - Lehman Brothers and the Power of Language
  5. Video: 3.4 - The Power of Langage
  6. Reading: Suggested discussions
  7. Reading: Additional readings

Graded: Quiz Week 3

WEEK 4


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.


5 videos, 3 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes and Assignment
  2. Video: 4.1 - Simple Heuristics
  3. Video: 4.1.bis - Simple Heuristics Part II
  4. Video: 4.2 - Organizing for Ethical Blindness Part I
  5. Video: 4.3 - Organizing for Ethical Blindness Part II
  6. Video: 4.4 - Gunfire at Sea - When Habits are Stronger Than Reason
  7. Reading: Suggested discussions
  8. Reading: Additional readings

Graded: Quiz Week 4

WEEK 5


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.


3 videos, 2 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes
  2. Video: 5.1 - The Power of Strong Situations
  3. Video: 5.2 - The Challenger Case
  4. Video: 5.3 - Fear and Unethical Decision Making
  5. Reading: Additional readings and videos


WEEK 6


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.


5 videos, 3 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes
  2. Video: 6.1 - Shifting Baselines – The Impact of Time on Decisions
  3. Video: 6.2 - The Power of Institutions
  4. Video: 6.3 - The Ideological Power of Capitalism
  5. Video: Types of Unethical Behavior Part I (new)
  6. Video: Types of Unethical Behavior Part II (new)
  7. Reading: Suggested discussions
  8. Reading: Additional readings and videos


WEEK 7


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.


4 videos, 5 readings expand


  1. Reading: Learning Outcomes and Assignments
  2. Video: 7 - Nudging
  3. Video: 7.1 - Mindfulness and Moral Stretching Part I
  4. Video: 7.2 - Mindfulness and Moral Stretching Part II
  5. Video: 7.3 - How to Protect Organizations against Ethical Blindness
  6. Reading: Suggested discussions
  7. Reading: Additional readings and videos
  8. Reading: To read before starting your final assignment
  9. Reading: Example of essays

Graded: Quiz Week 7
Graded: Final assignment
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