I bet you will lose your ethics in 5 minutes!

You think you are morally correct and an ethical person. Right! Most of the people have that opinion about themselves. If I say I can make you lose your ethics in 5 minutes, you will think I have lost my mind. If you are angry at my statement, you will think “over my dead body”.

Well, I will reiterate that you can lose your ethics within 5 minutes and not even realize that you have compromised them. Let me present two situations, and you chose how you will react to them. Take the polls below.

Situation 1: Your boss is really mean and nasty. He is perpetually bullying, harassing and shouting at the team including you. The team has been taking this behavior for over 6 months, and all attempts to talk to the boss for better behavior have failed. The team is thinking of collectively filing a complaint against the boss to the human resource department.

It is your birthday, and the boss calls you into his room. He presents you with an expensive IPod. You are kind of surprised and thank him for it. After this you staright away go to the  meeting with team members to decide on the draft of the complaint against the boss to human resources department. Choose which of the options listed below you will consider:


Situation 2: Your date is a real bore and you are thinking that talking to ants will be a better option. You are sitting in this expensive restaurant and console yourself that at least the food tastes good. And, the date is paying for it!

Suddenly, Brad Pitt walks past your dinner table and talks to your date. He appears to know your date, and is comfortable chatting with him/her. Your date introduces you to Brad Pitt in a nice manner and he includes you in the conversation. He leaves after 5 minutes and you are back in the company of your date. Choose which of the options listed below you will consider when your date invites you for a second date:

If you have not chosen the first option in either of the situations described above, you have compromised your ethics. Are you saying “No way” or “How come?”

The psychology study “Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance” conducted by Leon Festinger & James M. Carlsmith explains the same.  

This is called cognitive dissonance when a person makes a public statement contrary to the initial personal opinion. If a person has a personal opinion, say “X”,an offer for reward or threat of punishment can make a person say “Not X”. The difference between “X” and “Not X” statements is called dissonance. If rewards or threats are given or implied, the difference between the two statements reduces as a person mentally changes his/her internal opinion to align with the external statement.

Well, the study shows how susceptible human psychology is in evaluating two opinions which are contradictory in nature. If the internal opinion is something else, a person reconciles his/her internal opinion to the external statement being made. As given in the two situations described above, the internal opinions were that the boss is a bully and the date is a bore. However, on being offered a reward in the first case, and indicated an implied benefit in the second case, the opinion changed. The boss and date were not that bad after all.

Well, would you not think that you are deceiving yourself in some way because the reward looks appealing? Is it the ethical thing to do?

I did say that ethics can be lost within 5 minutes. Think hard how many times you were in a similar situation and got lured by the reward.

Be wiser next time when a similar situation presents itself. Have fun 🙂


2 comments on “I bet you will lose your ethics in 5 minutes!

  1. Hi Sonia,

    I wonder if your survey results would have been different if the two questions appeared on their own rather than as a part of the blog with the chosen title.

  2. Definitely Bala, you are absolutely right. Because people are already prepped up and it is an open forum, people are careful on what their response is. That itself is cognitive dissonance. Internal thinking and public response is different, so compromise is made.

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