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Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 65–83 | Cite as

Regulating “Good” People in Subtle Conflicts of Interest Situations

  • Yuval FeldmanEmail author
  • Eliran Halali
Original Paper

Abstract

Growing recognition in both the psychological and management literature of the concept of “good people” has caused a paradigm shift in our understanding of wrongful behavior: Wrongdoings that were previously assumed to be based on conscious choice—that is, deliberate decisions—are often the product of intuitive processes that prevent people from recognizing the wrongfulness of their behavior. Several leading scholars have dubbed this process as an ethical “blind spot.” This study explores the main implications of the good people paradigm on the regulation of employees’ conflicts of interest. In two experiments, we examined the efficacy of traditional deterrence- and morality-based interventions in encouraging people to maintain their professional integrity and objectivity at the cost of their own self-interest. Results demonstrate that while the manipulated conflict was likely to “corrupt” people under intuitive/automatic mindset (Experiment 1), explicit/deliberative mechanisms (both deterrence- and morality-based) had a much larger constraining effect overall on participants’ judgment than did implicit measures, with no differences between deterrence and morality (Experiment 2). The findings demonstrate how little is needed to compromise the employees’ ethical integrity, but they also suggest that a modest explicit/deliberative intervention can easily prevent much of the wrongdoing that may otherwise result.

Keywords

Regulating ethical behavior Conflict of interest Deterrence and legitimacy Behavioral ethics Unethical behavior 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank the Edmond J. Safra Center for the Study of Ethics, Harvard University (Grant No. 10), and the Jerusalem Crime Group for its financial support. We thank Dan Simon, Barak Ariel, Mazarin Banaji and Christoph Engle for their helpful comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kaplan Professor of Legal ResearchBar-Ilan University Law SchoolRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael

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