Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

How Management Accountants Can Avoid the Temptations of Unethical Conduct

Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

How Management Accountants Can Avoid the Temptations of Unethical Conduct

Article excerpt

In the September 1993 issue of CMA magazine, Andrew Holt discussed how organizational controls can be used to deter employee theft. This article focuses on personal controls and adds to the discussion of "ethics" which has also been presented in recent issues of CMA.

Personal controls are concerned with what individuals can do to protect themselves from the temptations of unethical or illegal activities. While it is difficult to identify white-collar criminals on the basis of appearance or social status, there are character-based identifiers. Susceptible individuals tend to focus on people and things rather than principles and values. While the love of family, friends, and work is frequently extolled as a virtuous human attribute, placing it ahead of honesty can lead to disastrous results.

* Focus on the family: It is natural to care for and protect one's family. However, if a person's emotional stability rests solely in the family structure, that person becomes vulnerable to economic conditions that threaten the family. To ensure financial success, the bread winner may be tempted to take short cuts in the acquisition of financial resources. Research indicates that the effect of family pressure on fraudulent behavior is significantly underestimated by practising accountants.

* Focus on friends: For many single individuals, friends provide the love and support that married people find in the family. For these individuals, even subtle peer pressure can lead to disastrous results in the exercise of ethical conduct.

* Focus on work: The work ethic has been the backbone of the North American success story. Yet for all of the benefits that can be derived from hard work, making it the focus of your life can lead to dire consequences.

How can accountants avoid such pitfalls? The answer is a life focus on values and principles. A focus on values promotes security and confidence which enables resistance to temptation. While many would agree that a value-based lifestyle is desirable, it is an arduous task to actually change a person's view of life. Those who want to change may benefit from an understanding of the basic characteristics of the value-based personality.

* Personal responsibility: First, a value-based lifestyle requires the recognition that each individual is responsible for his or her own life. …

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