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ANSWER TRUE OR FALSE: "I am an ethical manager." scious biases.

The prevalence of these biases suggests that

even the most well-meaning person unwittingly allows
If you answered "true," here's an uncomfortable fact: unconscious thoughts and feelings to influence seemingly
You're probably not. Most of us believe that we are ethical objective decisions. These flawed judgments are ethically
and unbiased. We imagine we're good decision makers, problematic and undermine managers' fundamental
able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture work - t o recruit and retain superior talent, boost the per-
deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that's in our, formance of individuals and teams, and collaborate effec-
and our organization's, best interests. But more than two tively with partners.
decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of us This article explores four related sources of uninten-
fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception. We're tional unethical decision making: implicit forms of prej-
deluded by what Yale psychologist David Armor calls the udice, bias that favors one's own group, conflict of interest,
illusion of objectivity, the notion that we're free of the and a tendency to overclaim credit. Because we are not
very biases we're so quick to recognize in others. What's consciously aware of these sources of bias, they often can-
more, these unconscious, or implicit, biases can be con- not be addressed by penalizing people for their bad de-
trary to our consciously held, explicit beliefs. We may be- cisions. Nor are they likely to be corrected through con-
lieve with confidence and conviction that a job candi- ventional ethics training. Rather, managers must bring a
date's race has no bearing on our hiring decisions or that new type of vigilance to bear. To begin, this requires let-
we're immune to conflicts of interest But psychological ting go of the notion that our conscious attitudes always
research routinely exposes counterintentional, uncon- represent what we think they do. It also demands that we


DECEMBER 2003 57
How (Un)ethical Are You?

abandon our faith in our own objectivity and our ability sort images of faces that are (depending on the bias in ques-
to be fair. In the following pages, we will offer strategies tion) black or white, young or old, fat or thin, and so on.
that can help managers recognize these pervasive, corro- The test exposes implicit biases by detecting subtle shifts
sive, unconscious biases and reduce their impact. in reaction time that can occur when test takers are re-
quired to pair different sets of words and faces. Subjects
who consciously believe that they have no negative feel-
Implicit Prejudice: ings toward, say, black Americans or tbe elderly are nev-
ertheless likely to be slower to associate elderly or black
faces with the "good" words than they are to associate
DIUS 1 fmt [viost fair-minded people youthful or white faces witb "good" words.
Emerges from strive to judge others accord- Since 1998, when Greenwald, Brian Nosek, and Mah-
zarin Banaji put the IAT online, people from around the
Unconscious '"^ ^^ ']^Z ""^''u' ^"'.r' world have taken over 2.5 million tests, confirming and
,. research shows how often extending the findings of more traditional laboratory ex-
HeliejS people instead judge accord- periments. Both show implicit biases to be strong and per-
ing to unconscious stereo- vasive. (For more information on the IAT, see the sidebar
types and attitudes, or "implicit prejudice." What makes "Are You Biased?")-
implicit prejudice so common and persistent is that it is Biases are also likely to be costly. In controlled experi-
rooted in the fundamental mechanics of thought. Early ments, psychologists Laurie Rudman at Rutgers and Peter
on, we leam to associate things that commonly go to- Glick at Lawrence University have studied how implicit
gether and expect them to inevitably coexist: thunder and biases may work to exclude qualified people from certain
rain, for instance, or gray hair and old age. This skill-to roles. One set of experiments examined the relationship
perceive and leam from associations -often serves us well. between participants' implicit gender stereotypes and
But, of course, our associations only reflect approxima- their hiring decisions. Those holding stronger implicit
tions of the tmth; they are rarely applicable to every en- biases were less likely to select a qualified woman who
counter. Rain doesn't always accompany thunder, and the exhibited stereotypically"masculine"personality qualities,
young can also go gray. Nonetheless, because we auto- such as ambition or independence, for a job requiring
matically make such associations to help us organize our stereotypically "feminine" qualities, such as interpersonal
world, we grow to trust them, and they can blind us to skills. Yet they would select a qualified man exhibiting these
those instances in which the associations are not accu- same qualities. The hirers' biased perception was that the
rate-when they don't align with our expectations. woman was less likely to be socially skilled than the man,
Because implicit prejudice arises from the ordinary and though their qualifications were in fact the same. These
unconscious tendency to make associations, it is distinct results suggest that implicit biases may exact costs by sub-
from conscious forms of prejudice, such as overt racism or tly excluding qualified people from the very organizations
sexism. This distinction explains why people who are free that seek their talents.
from conscious prejudice may still harbor biases and act
Legal cases also reveal the real costs of implicit biases,
accordingly. Exposed to images that juxtapose black men
both economic and social. Consider Price Waterhouse v.
and violence, portray women as sex objects, imply that
Hopkins. Despite logging more billable hours than her
the physically disabled are mentally weak and the poor
peers, bringing in $25 million to the company, and eam-
are lazy, even the most consciously unbiased person is
ing the praise of her clients, Ann Hopkins was tumed
bound to make biased associations. These associations
down for partner, and she sued. The details of the case
play out in the workplace just as they do anywhere else.
reveal that her evaluators were explicitly prejudiced in
In the mid-1990s, Tony Greenwald, a professor of psy-
their attitudes. For example, they had commented that
chology atthe University of Washington,developed an ex-
Ann "overcompensated for being a woman" and needed
perimental tool called the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
a "course at charm school." But perhaps more damning
to study unconscious bias. A computerized version of the
from a legal standpoint was blunt testimony from exper-
test requires subjects to rapidly classify words and images
imental research. Testifying as an expert witness for the
as "good" or "bad." Using a keyboard, test takers must
defense, psychology professor Susan Fiske, now at Prince-
make split-second "goodA>ad" distinctions between words
ton University, argued that the potential for biased deci-
like'Move,""joy,""pain,"and"sorrow"and atthe same time

Mahzarin R. Banaji is the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the department of psychology at Harvard Uni-
versity and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge. Massachu-
setts. Max H. Bazerman is the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.
Dolly Chugh, a Harvard Business School MBA, is now a doctoral candidate in Harvard University's joint program in orga-
nizational behavior and social psychology.


How (Un)ethical Are You?

sion making is inherent in a system in which a person has Likewise, the 1999 case of Thomas v. Kodak demon-
"solo" status-that is, a system in which the person is the strates that implicit biases can be the basis for rulings.
only one of a kind (the only woman, the only African- Here, the court posed the question of "whether the em-
American, the only person with a disability, and the like). ployer consciously intended to base the evaluations on
Judge Gerhard Gesell concluded that "a far more subtle race or simply did so because of unthinking stereotypes
process [than the usual discriminatory intent] is involved" or bias." The court concluded that plaintiffs can indeed
in the assessments made of Ann Hopkins, and she won challenge "subjective evaluations which could easily mask
both in a lower court and in the Supreme Court in what covert or unconscious race discrimination." Although
is now a landmark case in discrimination law. courts are careful not to assign responsibility easily for

Are You Biased?

A re you willing to bet that you feel

. the same way toward European-
Americans as you do toward African-
online tests and further research tells
us that unconscious biases are;
widely prevalent At least 75% of test
strong preference for their group on
explicit measures but show relatively
less implicit preference in the tests.
Americans? How about women versus takers shovy an implicit bias favoring Conversely, white Americans report a low
men? Or older people versus younger the young, the rich, and whites. explicit bias for their group but a higher
ones? Think twice before you take that robust. The mere conscious desire implicit bias.
bet. Visit or www. not to be biased does not eliminate consequential. Those who show higher to examine implicit bias. ievelsof biason the lAT are also likely
your unconscious attitudes. contrary to conscious intention. to behave in ways that are more biased
The Implicit Association Tests available Although people tend to report little in face-to-face interactions with mem-
on these sites reveal unconscious beliefs or noconscious bias against African- bers ofthe group they are biased
by asking takers to make split-second Americans, Arabs, Arab-Americans, against and in the choices they make,
associations between words with positive Jews, gay men, lesbians, or the poor, such as hiring decisions.
or negative connotations and images rep- they show substantial biases on costly. Research currently underway
resenting different types of people. The implicit measures. in our lab suggests that implicit bias
various tests on these sites expose the - different in degree depending on generates a "stereotype tax" - negotia-
differences-or the alignment-between group status. Minority group members tors leave money on the table because
test takers' conscious and unconscious tend to show less implicit preference biases cause them to miss opportunities
attitudes toward people of different races, for their own group than majority to learn about their opponent and
sexual orientation, or physical character- group members show for theirs. thus create additional value through
istics. Data gathered from over 2.5 million For example, African-Americans report mutually beneficial trade-offs.

DECEMBER 2003 59
How (Un)ethicai Are You?

unintentional biases, these cases demonstrate the poten- qualified black applicant. In denying the black applicant's
tial for corporate liability that such patterns of behavior mortgage, the loan officer may not be expressing hostility
could unwittingly create. toward blacks so much as favoritism toward whites. It's
a subtle but crucial distinction.
The ethical cost is clear and should be reason enough
In-Group Favoritism: to address the problem. But such inadvertent bias pro-
duces an additional effect: It erodes the bottom line.
Lenders who discriminate in this way, for example, incur
Bias Think about some of the favors you bad-debt costs they could have avoided if their lending
decisions were more objective. They also may find them-
That have done in recent years, whether for
selves exposed to damaging publicity or discrimination
a friend, a relative, or a colleague. Have
Favors you helped someone get a useful in- lawsuits ifthe skewed lending pattern is publicly revealed.
Your troduction, admission to a school, or In a different context, companies may pay a real cost for
a job? Most of us are glad to help out marginal hires who wouldn't have made the grade but
Group with such favors. Not surprisingly, we for the sympathetic hiring manager swayed by in-group
tend to do more favors for those we favoritism.
know, and those we know tend to be like ourselves: peo- In-group favoritism is tenacious when membership
ple who share our nationality, social class, and perhaps confers clear advantages, as it does, for instance, among
religion, race, employer, or alma mater. This all sounds whites and other dominant social groups. (It may be
rather innocent. What's wrong with asking your neighbor, weaker or absent among people whose group member-
the university dean, to meet with a coworker's son? Isn't ship offers little societal advantage.) Thus for a wide array
it just being helpful to recommend a former sorority sis- of managerial tasks-from hiring, firing, and promoting to
ter for a job or to talk to your banker cousin when a friend contracting services and forming partnerships-qualified
from church gets turned down for a home loan? minority candidates are subtly and unconsciously dis-
Few people set out to exclude anyone through such acts criminated against, sometimes simply because they are in
of kindness. But when those in the majority or those in the minority: There are not enough of them to counter
power allocate scarce resources (such as jobs, promotions, the propensity for in-group favoritism in the majority.
and mortgages) to people just like them, they effectively
discriminate against those who are different from them.
Such "in-group favoritism" amounts to giving extra credit
Overclaiming Credit:
for group membership. Yet while discriminating against
those who are different is considered unethical, helping
people close to us is often viewed favorably. Think about Bias It's only natural for successful people to
the number of companies that explicitly encourage this
by offering hiring bonuses to employees who refer their
That hold positive views about themselves.
But many studies show that the major-
friends for job opportunities. Favors ity of people consider themselves above
But consider the finding that banks in the United States You average on a host of measures, from in-
are more likely to deny a mortgage application from a telligence to driving ability. Business
black person than from a white person, even when the ap- executives are no exception. We tend to overrate our in-
plicants are equally qualified. The common view has been dividual contribution to groups, which, bluntly put, tends
that hanks are hostile to African-Americans. While this to lead to an overblown sense of entitlement. We become
may be true of some banks and some loan officers, social the unabashed, repeated beneficiaries of this unconscious
psychologist David Messick has argued that in-group fa- bias, and the more we think only of our own contribu-
voritism is more likely to be at the root of such discrimi- tions, the less fairly we judge others with whom we work.
natory lending. A white loan officer may feel hopeful or Lab research demonstrates this most personal of biases.
lenient toward an unqualified white applicant while fol- At Harvard, Eugene Caruso, Nick Epley, and Max Bazer-
lowing the bank's lending standards strictly with an un- man recently asked MBA students in study groups to

Would you be willing to risk being in the

group disadvantaged by your own decision?


How (Un)ethical Are You?

estimate what portion of their group's work each had their referrals are the patient's best clinical option, how
done. The sum of the contribution by all members, of do they know that the promise of payment did not skew
course, must add up to uxm. But the researchers found their decisions? Similarly, many lawyers earn fees based
that the totals for each study group averaged 139%. In a on their clients' awards or settlements. Since going to trial
related study, Caruso and his colleagues uncovered ram- is expensive and uncertain, settling out of court is often an
pant overestimates by academic authors of their contri- attractive option for the lawyer. Attorneys may consciously
bution to shared research projects. Sadly, but not surpris- believe that settling is in their clients' best interests. But
ingly, the more the sum of the total estimated group how can they be objective, unbiased judges under these
effort exceeded 100% (in other words, the more credit circumstances?
each person claimed), the less the parties wanted to col- Research done with brokerage house analysts demon-
laborate in the future. strates how conflict of interest can unconsciously distort
Likewise in business, claiming too much credit can decision making. A survey of analysts conducted by the
destabilize alliances. When each party in a strategic part- financial research service First Call showed that during a
nership claims too much credit for its own contribution period in 2(xx> when the Nasdaq dropped 60%, fully 99%
and becomes skeptical about whether the other is doing of brokerage analysts'client recommendations remained
its fair share, they both tend to reduce their contributions "strong buy," "buy," or "hold." What accounts for this dis-
to compensate. This has obvious repercussions for the crepancy between what was happening and what was rec-
joint venture's performance. ommended? The answer may lie in a system that fosters
Unconscious overclaiming can be expected to reduce conflicts of interest. A portion of analysts' pay is based on
the performance and longevity of groups within organi- brokeragefirmrevenues. Somefirmseven tie analysts'com-
zations, just as it diminished the academic authors' will- pensation to the amount of business the analysts bring in
ingness to collaborate. It can also take a toll on employee from clients, giving analysts an obvious incentive to pro-
commitment. Think about how employees perceive raises. long and extend their relationships with clients. But to as-
Most are not so different from the children at Lake Wobe- sume that during this Nasdaq free fall all brokerage house
gon, believing that they, too, rank in the upper half of analysts were consciously corrupt, milking their clients to
their peer group. But many necessarily get pay increases exploit this incentive system, defies common sense. Surely
that are below the average. If an employee learns of a there were some bad apples. But how much more likely
colleague's greater compensation - while honestly believ- it is that most of these analysts believed their recommen-
ing that he himself is more deserving-resentment may dations were sound and in their clients' best interests.
be natural. At best, his resentment might translate into What many didn't appreciate was that the built-in conflict
reduced commitment and performance. At worst, he may of interest in their compensation incentives made it impos-
leave the organization that, it seems, doesn't appreciate sible for them to see the implicit bias in their own flawed
his contribution. recommendations.

Conflict of Interest: Trying Harder Isn't Enough

As companies keep collapsing into financial scandal and
ruin, corporations are responding with ethics-training
1 ncit Everyone knows that conflict programs for managers, and many of the world's leading
Favors Those "^ interest can lead to inten- business schools have created new courses and chaired
p tionally corrupt behavior. professorships in ethics. Many of these efforts focus on But numerous psychological teaching broad principles of moral philosophy to help
Benefit You experiments show how pow- managers understand the ethical challenges they face.
erfully such conflicts can un- We applaud these efforts, but we doubt that a well-
intentionally skew decision intentioned, just-try-harder approach will fundamentally
making. (For an examination ofthe evidence in one busi- improve the quality of executives'decision making. To do
ness arena, see Max Bazerman, George Loewenstein, and that, ethics training must be broadened to include what
Don Moore's November 2002 HBR article, "Why Good is now known about how our minds work and must ex-
Accountants Do Bad Audits") These experiments suggest pose managers directly to the unconscious mechanisms
that the work world is rife with situations in which such that underlie biased decision making. And it must provide
conflicts lead honest, ethical professionals to uncon- managers with exercises and interventions that can root
sciously make unsound and unethical recommendations. out the biases that lead to bad decisions.
Physicians, for instance, face conflicts of interest when Managers can make wiser, more ethical decisions if they
they accept payment for referring patients into clinical tri- become mindful of their unconscious biases. But how can
als. While, surely, most physicians consciously believe that we get at something outside our conscious awareness? By

DECEMBER 2003 61
How (Un)ethical Are You?

bringing the conscious mind to bear. Just as the driver of group decision-making processes can occur even as tbe
a misaligned car deliberately counteracts its pull, so can decisions are being made.
managers develop conscious strategies to counteract the Unpacking is a simple strategy tbat managers should
pull of their unconscious biases. What's required is vigi- routinely use to evaluate tbe fairness of tbeir own claims
lance-continual awareness of the forces that can cause within tbe organization. But tbey can also apply it in any
decision making to veer from its intended course and con- situation wbere team members or subordinates may be
tinual adjustments to counteract them. Those adjust- overclaiming. For example, in explaining a raise that an
ments fall into three general categories: collecting data, employee feels is inadequate, a manager sbould ask tbe
shaping the environment, and broadening tbe decision- subordinate not what he thinks be alone deserves but
making process. wbat be considers an appropriate raise after taking into
Collect data. The first step to reducing unconscious account each coworker's contribution and tbe pool avail-
bias is to collect data to reveal its presence. Often, the able for pay increases. Similarly, when an individual feels
data will be counterintuitive. Consider many people's sur- she's doing more tban ber fair sbare of a team's work, ask-
prise to leam of their own gender and racial biases on tbe ing ber to consider other people's efforts before esti-
IAT. Why the surprise? Because most of us trust the "sta- mating her own can help align ber perception with real-
tistics" our intuition provides. Better data are easily, but ity, restore ber commitment, and reduce a skewed sense
rarely, collected. One way to get those data is to examine of entitlement.
our decisions in a systematic way. Taking the IAT is anotber valuable strategy for collect-
Remember the MBA study groups wbose participants ing data. We recommend tbat you and otbers in your or-
overestimated tbeir individual contributions to the group ganization use tbe test to expose your own implicit biases.
effort so tbat the totals averaged 139%? Wben the re- But one word of warning: Because tbe test is an educa-
searchers asked group members to estimate what eacb tional and research tool, not a selection or evaluation
of the other members' contributions were before claiming tool, it is critical tbat you consider your results and otbers'
tbeir own, the total fell to i2i%. The tendency to claim too to be private information. Simply knowing tbe magni-
much credit still persisted, but this strategy of "unpack- tude and pervasiveness of your own biases can help direct
ing" tbe work reduced the magnitude of the bias. In envi- your attention to areas of decision making tbat are in
ronments characterized by "I deserve more tban you're need of careful examination and reconsideration. For ex-
giving me" claims, merely asking team members to un- ample, a manager whose testing reveals a bias toward cer-
pack tbe contributions of others before claiming tbeir tain groups ought to examine ber hiring practices to see
own sbare of tbe pot usually aligns claims more closely if she bas indeed been disproportionately favoring those
witb wbat's actually deserved. As this example demon- groups. But because so many people barbor sucb biases,
strates, sucb systematic audits of botb individual and tbey can also be generally acknowledged, and tbat knowl-


How (Un)ethical Are You?

What list ol names do you start with when

considering whom to send to a training program,
recommend for a new^ assignment, or nominate
for a fast-track position?

edge can be used as the basis for changing the way deci- nantly white. Case after case challenged the stereotype
sions are made. It is important to guard against using of blacks as criminal and whites as law abiding and so
pervasiveness to justify complacency and inaction: Perva- challenged any bias against blacks that she might have
siveness of bias is not a mark of its appropriateness any harbored.
more than poor eyesight is considered so ordinary a con- Think about the possibly biased associations your
dition that it does not require corrective lenses. workplace fosters. Is there, perhaps, a "wall of fame" with
Shape your environment. Research shows that im- pictures of high achievers all cast from the same mold?
plicit attitudes can be shaped by external cues in the en- Are certain types of managers invariably promoted? Do
vironment. For example, Curtis Hardin and colleagues people overuse certain analogies drawn from stereotyp-
at UCLA used the IAT to study whether subjects' implicit ical or narrow domains of knowledge (sports metaphors,
race bias would be affected if the test was administered for instance, or cooking terms)? Managers can audit their
by a black investigator. One group of students took the organization to uncover such patterns or cues that un-
test under the guidance of a white experimenter; another wittingly lead to stereotypical associations.
group took the test with a black experimenter. The mere !f an audit reveals that the environment may be pro-
presence of a black experimenter, Hardin found, reduced moting unconscious biased or unethical behavior, con-
the level of subjects' implicit antiblack bias on the [AT. sider creating countervailing experiences, as the judge
Numerous similar studies have shown similar effects with did. For example, if your department reinforces the
other social groups. What accounts for such shifts? We can stereotype of men as naturally dominant in a hierarchy
speculate that experimenters in classrooms are assumed (most managers are male, and most assistants are female),
to be competent, in charge, and authoritative. Subjects find a department with women in leadership positions
guided by a black experimenter attribute these positive and set up a shadow program. Both groups will benefit
characteristics to that person, and then perhaps to the from the exchange of best practices, and your group will
group as a whole. These findings suggest that one remedy be quietly exposed to counterstereotypical cues. Manag-
for implicit bias is to expose oneself to images and social ers sending people out to spend time in clients'organiza-
environments that challenge stereotypes. tions as a way to improve service should take care to se-
We know of a judge whose court is located in a pre- lect organizations likely to counter stereotypes reinforced
dominantly African-American neighborhood. Because of in your own company.
the crime and arrest patterns in the community, most peo- Broaden your decision making. Imagine that you are
ple the judge sentences are black. The judge confronted making a decision in a meeting about an important com-
a paradox. On the one hand, she took a judicial oath to be pany policy that will benefit some groups of employees
objective and egalitarian, and indeed she consciously more than others. A policy might, for example, provide
believed that her decisions were unbiased. On the other extra vacation time for all employees but eliminate the
hand, every day she was exposed to an environment that flex time that has allowed many new parents to balance
reinforced the association between black men and crime. work with their family responsibilities. Another policy
Although she consciously rejected racial stereotypes, she might lower the mandatory retirement age, eliminating
suspected that she harbored unconscious prejudices some older workers but creating advancement opportu-
merely from working in a segregated world. Immersed in nities for younger ones. Now pretend that, as you make
this environment each day, she wondered if it was possi- your decisions, you don't know which group you belong
ble to give the defendants a fair hearing. to. That is, you don't know whether you are senior or ju-
Rather than allow her environment to reinforce a bias, nior, married or single, gay or straight, a parent or child-
the judge created an alternative environment. She spent less, male or female, healthy or unhealthy. You will even-
a vacation week sitting in a fellow judge's court in a neigh- tually find out, but not until after the decision has been
borhood where the criminals being tried were predomi- made. In this hypothetical scenario, what decision would

DECEMBER 2003 63
How {Un)ethical Are You?

Just considering a counterstereotypical choice

at the conscious level can reduce implicit bias.

you make? Would you be willing to risk being in the Instead of relying on a mental short list when making
group disadvantaged by your own decision? How would personnel decisions, start with a full list of names of em-
your decisions differ if you could make them wearing var- ployees who have relevant qualifications.
ious identities not your own? Using a broad list of names has several advantages.
This thought experiment is a version of philosopher The most obvious is that talent may surface that might
John Rawls's concept of the "veil of ignorance," which otherwise be overlooked. Less obvious but equally impor-
posits that only a person ignorant of his own identity is tant, the very act of considering a counterstereotypical
capable of a truly ethical decision. Few of us can assume choice at the conscious level can reduce implicit bias. In
the veil completely, which is precisely why hidden biases, fact, merely thinking about hypothetical,counterstereo-
even when identified, are so difficult to correct. Still, ap- typical scenarios-such as what it would be like to trust a
plying the veil of ignorance to your next important man- complex presentation to a female colleague or to receive
agerial decision may offer some insight into how strongly a promotion from an Afr-ican-American boss - can prompt
implicit biases influence you. less-biased and more ethical decision making. Similarly,
Just as managers can expose bias by collecting data be- consciously considering counterintuitive options in the
fore acting on intuition, they can take other preemptive face of conflicts of interest, or when there's an opportu-
steps. What list of names do you start with when consid- nity to overclaim, can promote more objective and ethi-
ering whom to send to a training program, recommend cal decisions.
for a new assignment, or nominate for a fast-track posi-
tion? Most of us can quickly and with little concentration
come up with such a list. But keep in mind that your in-
The Vigilant Manager
tuition is prone to implicit prejudice (which will strongly If you answered "true" to the question at the start of this
favor dominant and well-liked groups), in-group favor- article, you felt with some confidence that you are an eth-
itism (which will favor people in your own group), over- ical decision maker. How would you answer it now? It's
claiming (which will favor you), and conflict of interest clear that neither simple conviction nor sincere intention
(which will favor people whose interests affect your own). is enough to ensure that you are the ethical practitioner
you imagine yourself to be. Managers who as-
pire to be ethical must challenge the assump-
tion that they're always unbiased and ac-
knowledge that vigilance, even more than
good intention, is a defining characteristic of
an ethical manager. They must actively collect
data, shape their environments, and broaden
their decision making. What's more, an obvi-
ous redress is available. Managers should seek
every opportunity to implement affirmative
action policies-not because of past wrongs
done to one group or another but because of
the everyday wrongs that we can now docu-
ment are inherent in the ordinary, everyday
behavior of good, well-intentioned people.
Ironically, only those who understand their
own potential for unethical behavior can be-
come the ethical decision makers that they
aspire to be. ^

Reprint R0312D; HBR OnPoint 5526

To order, see page 127.


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