Unethical organizational practices are still embarrassingly commonplace. A variety of individual and organizational factors play a critical role in discouraging—or fostering—responsible behavior on the job. For example, the culture of an organization that often rewards behaviors that violate ethical standards is a source of unethical conduct. Further, organizations that place too much emphasis on managerial aggressiveness and corporate success at all cost, competitiveness, and profit are just as likely to stimulate unethical actions. Of course, probably nothing is more important to an ethical corporate atmosphere than the moral tone and example set by an organization's top leadership. Failure by top leaders to identify key organizational values, to convey those values by personal example, and to reinforce them by establishing appropriate organizational policies demonstrates a lack of ethical leadership that fosters an unethical organizational culture.
This and the next chapter take a closer look at unethical behavior in action. These case examples will examine how organizational culture and a lack of ethical leadership led to unethical missteps at Beech-Nut, E.F. Hutton, and Salomon Brothers. After first offering some discussion of the relationship between leadership, organizational culture and ethics, this chapter will discuss the ethical missteps at Beech-Nut and E.F.