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Oh hell yeah, apparently:
"Given the right circumstances, anyone’s moral compass can drift — and holding higher rank only makes it that much harder to stay on course."
Does Getting Promoted Alter Your Moral Compass?
Recent years have seen no shortage of leaders promising to make their companies a force for good in the world — and yet time and time again, we’ve seen executives fail to live up to their stated ideals. What has kept these leaders from actually speaking out against unethical practices when they arise in their own organizations?
To answer that question, I conducted a series of studies with my co-author, Cameron Anderson, at the University of California, Berkeley. We consistently found that holding a higher rank within a group strengthens people’s identification with that grou turn blinding them to the group’s unethical practices. This means that even if leaders are otherwise highly ethical, the higher they rise within their own organizations, the less likely they are to speak out.
In our first study, we explored whether holding higher rank was associated with lower levels of speaking out against unethical practices for more than 11,000 employees in 22 U.S. government agencies. Survey respondents anonymously reported whether they had witnessed different types of unethical behavior in their organizations, as well as how they had responded to that behavior. We controlled for a host of other variables such as age, gender, and time working in the organization, and we found that with each step up in rank, the odds of speaking out decreased — to the point that senior executives were 64% less likely to dissent than employees in the lowest-ranking positions.