News broke out that accounting behemoth Ernst & Young revealed this week that its employees cheated on ethics exams and is being fined $100 million. That’s one of the biggest fines ever levied against an audit firm.
It’s absurd that specialists who’re responsible for keeping things straight and steering moral enterprise cheated on ethics exams! Ernst & Young’s leadership evidently disregarded the internal reports about the cheating. Perhaps because when people identify so strongly with a group, they’re much more swayed to view the group’s actions positively and accept that group’s norms.
Research by Vanderbilt University’s Jessica Kennedy and colleagues suggests that high-flying people are sometimes more inclined than low-ranking people to adopt what their group recommends to them, even when it represents an ethics breach. Power sometimes provokes people to so strongly want to identify with their group that they’re willing to overlook when the group’s collective actions cross an ethical line. This affinity is, therefore, impelled to sustain transgression, instead of stopping its spread, especially when the odds of being caught and punished are slim.