I recently profiled Queen’s University School of Business accounting professor Pamela Murphy and her work on the psychology of fraud. Prof. Murphy is doing excellent research in helping us understand how people rationalize unethical or fraudulent behaviour.

She says that individuals can perpetrate fraud without necessarily realizing it, and that, at times, it is difficult to distinguish between fraudulent and non-fraudulent activity. Often, the tipping point is how we rationalize our behaviour. We can explain away just about anything to ourselves.

Prof. Murphy says that, typically, there are six ways people talk away unethical behaviour to avoid guilt or self-condemnation.

Shifting The Blame: “Everyone does it.”
Pleading Ignorance: “I can’t see that it hurts anyone.”
Moral Justification: “I’m protecting the company… the employees…my family…”
Advantageous Comparison: “This is nothing compared to…”
Letting Victim Take the Fall: “They had it coming.”
Euphemistic Labeling: “I am trying to level the playing field.”

Do these sound familiar?

Read the entire article in QSB Magazine

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