Study: Execs blinded by bottom line

January 9, 2006

A researcher says corporations like Enron that overemphasize profits might make their leaders blind to ethical or moral issues.

Scott Reynolds, an assistant professor of business ethics in the University of Washington Business School, found that it is not always obvious when an issue has moral overtones, the business school reported.

In two separate studies, Reynolds asked senior-level managers to rate scenarios involving varying degrees of ethical violations.

Previous research has shown that when facing ethical dilemmas, individuals either focus on the ends or the means as they search for a solution.

The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that end-focused people recognize ethical issues when harm is done but are much less sensitive to ethical issues that seem to only involve a violation of the means.

Means-focused people, however, recognize both harmful situations and those situations in which the means used were an ethical issue, the study said.

Reynolds speculates former Enron Corp. chief executive officer Kenneth Lay and others at the company saw no harm in what they did -- it was just doing business as usual.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Invest 3.5 percent GDP in science, technology, innovation for sustainable development, experts say

Related Stories

Social media provides a data goldmine for third parties

June 16, 2015

The history of human experiments often focuses on biomedical research and the gradual changes in acceptable practice and ethical considerations. But another class of human experiments that has had its own share of controversies ...

Protecting our rights to privacy and digital dignity

April 21, 2015

How many of us read the terms and conditions when signing up to a social media account or downloading a new app? And does agreeing to these rules offer us any real protection from big business looking to mine our data for ...

Recommended for you

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

July 31, 2015

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how ...

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.