Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Blind Spots

Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It

Max H. Bazerman
Ann E. Tenbrunsel
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 216
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Blind Spots
    Book Description:

    When confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would stand up for our principles. But we are not as ethical as we think we are. InBlind Spots, leading business ethicists Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel examine the ways we overestimate our ability to do what is right and how we act unethically without meaning to. From the collapse of Enron and corruption in the tobacco industry, to sales of the defective Ford Pinto, the downfall of Bernard Madoff, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the authors investigate the nature of ethical failures in the business world and beyond, and illustrate how we can become more ethical, bridging the gap between who we are and who we want to be.

    Explaining why traditional approaches to ethics don't work, the book considers how blind spots like ethical fading--the removal of ethics from the decision--making process--have led to tragedies and scandals such as theChallengerspace shuttle disaster, steroid use in Major League Baseball, the crash in the financial markets, and the energy crisis. The authors demonstrate how ethical standards shift, how we neglect to notice and act on the unethical behavior of others, and how compliance initiatives can actually promote unethical behavior. They argue that scandals will continue to emerge unless such approaches take into account the psychology of individuals faced with ethical dilemmas. Distinguishing our "should self" (the person who knows what is correct) from our "want self" (the person who ends up making decisions), the authors point out ethical sinkholes that create questionable actions.

    Suggesting innovative individual and group tactics for improving human judgment,Blind Spotsshows us how to secure a place for ethics in our workplaces, institutions, and daily lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3799-1
    Subjects: Business, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 The Gap between Intended and Actual Ethical Behavior
    (pp. 1-23)

    How ethical do you think you are compared to other readers of this book? On a scale of 0 to 100, rate yourself relative to the other readers. If you believe you are the most ethical person in this group, give yourself a score of 100. If you think you’re the least ethical person in this group, give yourself a score of 0. If you are average, give yourself a score of 50. Now, if you are part of an organization, also rate your organization: On a scale of 0 to 100, how ethical is it compared to other organizations?...

  5. Chapter 2 Why Traditional Approaches to Ethics Won’t Save You
    (pp. 24-37)

    Imagine that you are standing on a footbridge spanning some trolley tracks (see figure 3). You see that a runaway trolley is threatening to kill five people. Standing next to you, in between the oncoming trolley and the five people, is a railway worker wearing a large backpack. You quickly realize that the only way to save the people is to push this man off the bridge and onto the tracks below. The man will die, but his body will stop the trolley from reaching the others. (You quickly understand that you can’t jump yourself because you aren’t carrying enough...

  6. Chapter 3 When We Act against Our Own Ethical Values
    (pp. 38-60)

    As professors, we often receive telephone calls from long-lost friends or relatives as one of their children’s eighteenth birthday approaches. Why do these calls so often arrive around this particular time frame? Well, it turns out that these calls disproportionately come from friends and relatives whose children just happen to be applying to our universities. Of course, our friends explain that they know we don’t have the power to admit their child; they are only calling to request a letter of recommendation or an introduction to the director of admissions.

    These calls are awkward for us. Because we typically do...

  7. Chapter 4 Why You Aren’t as Ethical as You Think You Are
    (pp. 61-76)

    In chapter 1, we asked you to rate your ethics in comparison to others. We have asked groups of executives attending negotiation classes to answer similar questions, such as whether they are less honest than their peers, just as honest as their peers, or more honest than their peers. As you would now expect, an overwhelming majority tell us they believe they are more honest than most others in their class.

    Now consider a recent survey of high school students.¹ Nearly two-thirds of teens surveyed reported cheating on a test during the past year. More than a third admitted to...

  8. Chapter 5 When We Ignore Unethical Behavior
    (pp. 77-99)

    Since the 2008 financial collapse, fingers have pointed in many directions. Targeted guilty parties have included irresponsible banks, greedy home-buyers, speculators, the Democratic Congress (for pushing to give low-income borrowers too much credit), and the Bush administration (for poor decision making and regulatory neglect). But at least part of the problem stems from the failure of independent credit-rating agencies to appropriately rate the riskiness of the mortgage-backed securities they assessed. “The story of the credit rating agencies is a story of colossal failure,” according to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.¹ Waxman’s committee...

  9. Chapter 6 Placing False Hope in the “Ethical Organization”
    (pp. 100-127)

    In 2009, a group of thirty-three second-year MBA students at Harvard Business School wrote an oath that they asked their fellow students at Harvard to sign. The signatories vowed that, upon entering the workforce as managers, they would serve the greater good, act ethically, and refrain from self-interested acts within their organizations (see the oath at right). Within weeks, more than half of Harvard’s 2009 MBA class had signed the oath. Soon it went viral, attracting signatures from large numbers of students and graduates of different MBA programs around the world. Some view the oath as a promising sign that...

  10. Chapter 7 Why We Fail to Fix Our Corrupted Institutions
    (pp. 128-151)

    One of the most obvious means of saving human lives would be to eliminate deaths caused by tobacco.¹ Tobacco killed about 100 million people in the twentieth century and is projected to kill as many as a billion people in the twenty-first century.² Yet despite the brave efforts of those who have stood up to the tobacco industry over the last sixty years, our society, and specifically the U.S. government, has done and continues to do shockingly little to avoid these deaths. Our elected officials have been corrupted into inaction, but the vast majority of us fail to notice or...

  11. Chapter 8 Narrowing the Gap: Interventions for Improving Ethical Behavior
    (pp. 152-172)

    You might be surprised to learn that Ann and Max (the authors) do not agree on a number of ethical issues. In fact, we disagree on lots of policy issues with ethical implications. We do not share identical philosophical perspectives. Nor do we have religious perspectives in common; one of us is a churchgoing Catholic, the other a nonreligious Jew. As a result, we’ve had to negotiate about some of the stories that made it into the earlier chapters, and some that did not.

    Our differences may help to explain why we haven’t tried to impose either of our ethical...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-186)
  13. Index
    (pp. 187-191)