Understanding unethical behavior in organizations

How can we make sense of cases of extensive unethical behavior in organizations, such as in the case of Volkswagen or Wells Fargo Bank? Is it true that “a few bad apples” or “bad influence from the top” can explain such unethical behavior?


In this podcast, we learn about an alternative explanation from Ulf Schaefer, Associate Professor of Practice in Knowledge Group Leadership, Organization & Human Resources at SDA Bocconi School of Management. He presents a process from social psychology called “moral disengagement” — and its extension to social groups — as an alternative account of harmful dynamics that may lead to moral drift and widespread unethical behavior in social groups and organizations. To illustrate his idea, he discusses the recent violent attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.