Individual Responsibility: The dark side of ethics in management

The dark side of ethics in management or organization may be defined as the breaking of a mutually acknowledged code of conduct in a business transaction. The reason for crossing the line often varies, and scholars and philosophers have studied this phenomenon for quite a long time. Author Ghislain Deslandes, in the article “In Search of Individual Responsibility: The Dark Side of Organization in the Light of Jansenist Ethics”, discusses the speculations of Pascal and his contemporaries to unearth the reason behind dark side ethics. The author asumes that the existence of individuals who cross the ethics line may not be based on the environment they find themselves in, but rather on the interior conflict within the individuals themselves (Deslandes, 2011).

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In her article “The Dark Side of Organizations: Mistake, Misconduct, and Disaster”, is Diane Vaughan touched a similar topic. The main point of her article is to understand the “interconnection between environment, organizations, cognition, and choice” (Vaughan, 1999). Vaughan focuses more on sociology than business and management, but her arguments on ethical mistakes are relevant and would work well with other source.

In essence, unethical behaviors as well as decisions stem from within an individual and are often affected by extraneous circumstances. Reasons for breaking a code of conduct vary including motives such as personal gain, vengeance, and even sabotage. The topic of individual responsibility focuses on the motives of the individual and emphasizes that actions taken him/her are the fault of the individual but not the result of a variety of environmental circumstances.

There is a variety of solutions that leaders can take to handle this kind of situation. The approach that would seem the most efficient as well as logical is an ethics committee. As it may often be the case, leadership positions can cause prejudice along with clouded judgement. Thus, a committee devoted specifically to solving issues like this would be a well-weighted solution to the problem which could resolve the issue and provide means to prevent future instances.

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