Why Ethical People Make Unethical Choices: Reflections from LRN’s 2017 SCCE CEI Session


I was delighted to participate in this year’s 16th Annual Compliance and Ethics Institute leading a session that delved into insights around how pressure points can create the perfect storm for ethical people to fall into unethical choices. The session explored the underpinnings of social cognitive scientific research and how that frames the learning environments that influence decision making. I pointed to Social Learning Theory which points heavily to the trifecta of modeling, innate views and observational learning to how seasoned executives fall into the Single Loop Learning path, finding it difficult to unlearn old behaviors. To provide context into a real-life situation, I invited Rashmi Airan to share her first-hand account of her rise and fall, to the practical advice and lessons learned in identifying ethical blind spots. I believe, for attendees, it was one hour well spent.

Humbled by a series of difficult decisions, which included six months in federal prison, Rashmi made clear her sheer determination to help others create a culture of conversation around ethics and compliance not only at work but in all aspects of our lives. We discussed why doing the right thing, even when it hurts, can create opportunity. And we explored how to inspire employees to make good, deliberate ethical choices on their way to success.

Rashmi has walked the talk, transforming her mess into a message, referencing her Ted Talk “Against the Slippery Slope. “If I just paused, and listened to the little voice, I wouldn’t have made the wrong choices that I did.”

In conclusion, I remarked, “Asking difficult questions and questioning underlying assumptions is an ethical muscle that needs practice.”  We enjoyed the interaction with the audience which had many intriguing questions.