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Saul Gellerman says that there are four main ways in which people rationalize unethical behavior. He lists them as:
- They tell themselves that the behavior really is not unethical.
- They say that the behavior is expected of them because it would be good for their company. They might even believe that they will get in trouble if they do not act unethically.
- They believe no one will notice and they would not get caught.
- They believe that their company will protect them if they are caught because their behavior is good for the company.
I would argue that the one of these that is used most often is the first one. I think that most people who act unethically manage to tell themselves that what they are doing is not really wrong. I think that people generally do not wish to think that they are unethical people. We all want to think well of ourselves. Therefore, we tell ourselves that the things we are doing are really alright even if others would think they are not. We tell ourselves that everyone is doing the unethical thing and so it is therefore not truly unethical. We tell ourselves that the rules are made by people who do not really understand how things work in the “real world.” By saying such things, we are able to continue to feel that we are good people even as we do bad things.
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