This paper is a summary of the article How (Un) Ethical Are You? By Banaji, R. Mazharin, Bazerman, H. Max and Chugh Dolly, Harvard Business Review, 2003, pp. 56-64 and concludes with my opinion on the article.
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Many managers genuinely believe that they take decisions objectively and in an ethical manner, without any bias. Yet, psychological research shows such beliefs to be wrong and the prevalence of counter-intentional and unconscious biases high. These result in unconscious thoughts and feelings that influence what they believe are their objective decisions.
The first such unconscious form of prejudice or bias is implicit prejudice or the bias that stems from unconscious beliefs. From a very young age, an individual learns to associate things that are commonly seen with one another. Gray hair and old age are one such association.
Yet these are not entirely true and may not be applicable across all things or circumstances. These subconscious associations of implicit prejudice are what differentiates it from conscious forms of prejudice and make an individual unaware of its existence and are the reason why individuals who do not demonstrate conscious forms of prejudice can demonstrate implicit prejudice. Key features of implicit prejudice include wide prevalence; conscious desire not to be biased does not eliminate implicit bias; it is contrary to conscious intention; varies in degree, depending on group status, and is consequential and costly.
The second form of unconscious prejudice is in-group favoritism or bias that results in favoring one’s own group. Doing favors to people who belong to one’s group, consisting of common nationality, social class, and religion, or race and alma mater are commonly seen in all societies and seldom associated with any wrongdoing. Yet it is discrimination in favor of those known and particularly so when scant resources like jobs and promotions are decided in this manner.
The third form of unconscious prejudice is over-claiming credit or the bias in favor of one’s self. No doubt success brings about confidence and the belief of being more than average. However, along with that comes the likelihood of an excess belief in the self contributions to the success instead of an objective evaluation of other contributions that led to the success. Such unconscious over-claims of credit can have a detrimental impact on group activity irrespective of the environment.
The final form of unconscious prejudice is a conflict of interest or the bias in favor of those that can provide one with benefits. It is well known is that conflict of interests can lead to conscious corrupt behavior. What is not well known is that conflict of interest can cause unintentionally biased decisions. Such unintentional biased decisions arising from conflicts occur particularly when the incentives received as compensation blind them to the implicit bias in the decisions taken by them.
Training managers to be conscious of unconscious prejudice and making them strive harder in their attempts to remove it may not be a working solution. Instead making them aware of their unintentional bias may be a better solution. This will encourage them to develop conscious strategies to overcome their unintentional bias. Such awareness can be created through the collection of data to reveal unintentional bias in their decision-making and creating cues in the environment that assists in identifying unintentional bias. The key factor to managers aspiring to be ethical managers is in the first place except that they do not always function in an unbiased way and having accepted that fact being vigilant in try to prevent unconscious prejudice in the decisions that they take.
This is a though-provoking article. Reflecting on the article and my previous decisions and actions, I must admit that I find every aspect of the article true. This article makes me admit that I have pretended to be an ethical manager, but not truly one. The steps l in this article for self-betterment, in terms of awareness and vigilance instead of misplaced good intentions, are also true. I need to follow this advice to turn into an ethical manager.