During the past several years, one scandalous story of unethical behavior after another has made headlines: Countrywide’s and AIG’s risky business practices, trader Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged attempt to sell a U.S. Senate seat. As instances of people behaving badly proliferate, some commentators have wondered if we are experiencing an epidemic of immorality.
Madoff and Blagojevich seem to represent extreme cases on the fringes of human behavior—a couple of very bad apples. In fact, new psychological research suggests that most of us experience ethical lapses under certain conditions. But rather than knowingly causing harm, as Madoff did, we are more likely to unintentionally violate our own moral code.
In negotiation, even minor instances of immoral behavior could damage your reputation and your organization’s as well. Here we present three common ethical pitfalls and suggest ways to police yourself and your counterparts.