“Another factor that can increase the likelihood of making unethical decisions is the absence of language around values. Classic research in organizations has found that leaders tend to be reluctant to use ‘moral language.’ For example, leaders are more likely to talk about deadlines, objectives, and effectiveness than values such as integrity, respect, and compassion. Over time, this can license unethical conduct.
Similarly, leaders and employees tend to use euphemistic language to describe unethical actions in sanitized terms. This can make people less aware that certain decisions are unethical, or lead them to feel less guilty about the consequences, potentially leading to further misbehavior.”
The whole article, which ends with several tangible suggestions for addressing unethical behavior, casts many of the topics we’ve covered here on the blog through the lens of psychology. It’s the kind of perspective that really illuminates the value of what compliance professionals do.