Thursday, February 13, 2014

Michael Josephson: The pressure to cheat

  What’s causing the growing hole in our moral ozone? Why are cheating and lying so common in schools, on the sports field, and in business and politics? Apparently it’s a thing called pressure.

  Kids are under pressure to get into college, athletes and coaches are under pressure to win, and, according to a survey by the American Management Association, the pressure to meet business objectives and deadlines is the leading cause of unethical corporate behavior. The desires to further one’s career and protect one’s livelihood are the second and third reasons people lie or cheat.

  In other words, we take ethical shortcuts to get what we want. DUH!

  Why are we so willing to shift responsibility for every form of human weakness from ourselves to the system? We don’t blame the liar; we blame the law. We don’t blame the cheater; we blame the test.

  The implication is: Don’t expect me to be ethical when personal interests are at stake.


  What we call pressures today used to be called temptations. Everyone knew that the test of character was our ability to resist them. Calling enticements pressures doesn’t change anything.

  We must believe in and expect integrity and moral courage and not surrender when our principles are challenged. We need to expect good people to do what’s right, even when it’s difficult or costly.

  Yes, lots of people act dishonorably in the face of pressure. But pressure is an explanation, not a justification. Pressures, temptations – call them what you will – are part of life. Sure, it would be helpful if we had less pressure, but it’s far more important that we have more character.

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

  This article was published by the Josephson Institute.

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