Causes of Unethical Behavior in International Business

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  • 0:03 Ethical Behavior
  • 1:10 Personal Ethics &…
  • 2:57 Power & Pressure
  • 4:12 Confusion
  • 4:36 Loyalty
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Have you ever been tempted to make the wrong decision? Well, you may not have been in this situation before, but many in the business world have. In this lesson, we'll learn what causes people to behave unethically in international business.

Ethical Behavior

We've all heard at one time in our lives the golden rule: we should treat others how we want to be treated. This means if we don't treat them with respect, it is likely they won't treat us with respect. While this rule is something many of us try to abide by as we maneuver through our personal life, the same principle can be applied in many other aspects of our lives. You see, many businesses want to be respected and treated fairly. The only real way for this to happen is if they understand that those they do business with must be respected and treated fairly in return. Unfortunately though, the golden rule often seems to get forgotten when we venture into adulthood and the workforce.

Ethical behavior can be defined as doing what society feels is the right thing to do, and includes being honest, fair, and treating others with respect and dignity, while unethical behavior is defined as not doing what is morally right and may include lying, cheating, and treating others poorly. In this lesson, we are going to learn what causes unethical behavior in business, specifically with international business.

Personal Ethics & Business Culture

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why some make poor decisions where ethics are concerned has to do with their own personal ethics. If someone sees nothing wrong with telling a lie to a family member, what will keep them from telling a lie to a colleague? And, if someone finds it easy to cheat when playing a board game with a group of friends, why wouldn't they cheat when making a business deal with a complete stranger? On the contrary, if those working abroad have a strong ethical foundation, it's promising that those behaviors will translate into their business surroundings.

However, when someone finds themselves in a different country where the rules and culture are different from their own, they may be tempted to make decisions they wouldn't normally make. They may also feel that because they're not home where others can see the decisions they make, it's okay to go ahead and make some unethical choices. For example, they may cheat a business out of money and see nothing wrong with doing so because it's something they have done before.

Sometimes the ethical foundation does not lie with the person themselves, but rather with the business they work for. You see, companies are shaped by values and norms, which is known as business culture, and unfortunately, some companies are shaped by norms that put little to no value upon ethics. Sometimes companies are more focused on the economic side of business, so much so that they're willing to make decisions and behave in a manner that just isn't ethical, just to earn an extra dollar. So, when an employee works for a company that's known for bending the rules and making decisions that are unethical when working with other countries, they often continue this learned behavior and make unethical decisions and actions abroad themselves. For instance, perhaps they lie about sales numbers because the CEO does it frequently to the media and investors.

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