MINIMIZING makes unethical transgressions seem smaller. The person who minimizes admits that he or she did something wrong but states, “it’s not that big of a deal.” Minimizing is one of the most common ways we reduce our feelings of guilt and worthlessness resulting from transgressions.
In the winter of 2002, Martha Stewart, the CEO of a $250 million company, was indicted with obstruction of justice regarding insider trading. Stewart had sold her holdings of Imclone stock right before the value of the stock plummeted. Stewart had lied to investigators; she denied having received incriminating information from her broker’s assistant, Douglas Faneuil. The day Stewart had sold her stock, Faneuil had called and told her that he had been on the phone all morning with the family of Sam Waksal, the former Imclone CEO. The Waksals were urgently trying to sell their Imclone stock prior to new regulations. Stewart was not charged with insider trading but was indicted for lying.1
Stewart’s indictment hit major newspapers and magazines throughout the nation. She was quoted as saying that her sale of Imclone stock was “a small personal matter.”2