Ethics In Business

Ann E. Tenbrunsel revisits the 1986 Challenger disaster. The night before the launch, engineers recommended postponing it. But the shuttle's contracting firm, whose managers were asked to make a "management decision", decided to go ahead with the launch anyway:

We found that when individuals saw a decision through an ethical frame, more than 94% behaved ethically; when individuals saw the same decision through a business frame, only about 44% did so. Framing the decision as a “management decision” helped ensure that the ethics of the decision—saving lives—were faded from the picture. … There are parallels between the fatal Challenger launch decision and more “ordinary” unethical behavior in corporations, politics and in society. We see them when we look at the way decisions are framed: “No harm intended, it’s just business,” or “That’s the way politics operate.”