The folks at the Harvard Business Review point out the natural ways that employees punish unethical behavior-often through social means like walking away from an unethical person or leaving the room when someone enters. Basically this means that when we know someone is a cheater, it is so distasteful that we don’t even want to be around them. But there is an exception, and it is revealing.
When we are willing to tolerate or overlook really bad behavior there is always a reason. Often it is because we are benefitting in some way. It may be financial, social, career advancement, etc. But the reason is revealing. If there is real evil in your circumstances and you are unwilling to take a stand against it, you can learn something important about character. The reason you won’t take a stand may reveal what you value most.
Here is something from the article:
“Unethical high-performing employees, however, appear to receive a free pass for their unethical behaviors. These people may be unethical, but they get the job done, and enhance the organization’s short-term profitability along the way.
“This is the case even in organizations that on the whole are considered highly ethical. In our third study, we took into account the organization’s ethical environment and still found the same pattern of results. Irrespective of the extent to which the organization prioritizes ethics, unethical high-performing employees still had better working relationships with their peers and were less socially rejected than their unethical low-performing counterparts. There’s something about being a high performer that appears to mask concerns related to immorality.”