The potential for individuals and organizations to behave unethically is limitless. Unfortunately, this potential is too frequently realized, as suggested by our earlier discussion. Consider, for example, how Ford and Firestone failed to address problems in the Bridgestone/Firestone—Ford Explorer tire-separation controversy. Despite the more obvious examples of unethical organizational practices, many go on almost routinely unnoticed in a number of organizations. What accounts for the unethical actions of people in organizations? More specifically, why do people commit unethical actions, when individuals knew or should have known that they or the organization was committing an unethical act?
Many recognize self-interest as a strong motivating factor to explain why people behave unethically. Ethical behavior is influenced by characteristics of the individual, his or her social relationships, and the organizational system in which he or she is embedded. All this should be taken into consideration to help explain ethical behaviors when individuals are accountable to more than one audience. The divergent expectancies of multiple stakeholders may result in behavior that is less predictable and that, in the eyes of the organization, may be undesirable.