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Cynthia Waddell, PhD, CPA, CFEFull-Time Faculty, Kaplan UniversityPublished July 2016
The corporate culture of an organization
is actually a reflection of the ethics of the people who work there! And where
does ethical behavior start? It starts with the executives and management of
We have all heard of the “tone at the top”—employees will
follow the type of behavior they see modeled by top management.
How does your company or organization rate
as an ethical work environment? You can evaluate this using some indicators
developed by Marianne Jennings. Look at the employees and conditions at your
workplace to see whether you observe any of the following signs.
Do you recognize any of these signs in
your company or organization? Let’s look at these signs in relation to the
Fraud Triangle. As you remember from Cressey’s Fraud Triangle, three components
are needed, working together, for fraud to occur. These components are pressure
or incentive, opportunity, and rationalization.
We can see that Jennings’ signs fall into
place perfectly with the Fraud Triangle. The “pressure/incentive” signs are
pressure to maintain the numbers, fear of reprisals, and loyalty to the boss.
“Opportunity” signs are weak board of directors and ignoring conflicts of
interest. Not dealing directly with unethical situations creates more
opportunity for unethical behavior. The last two signs are types of
rationalizations—justifying unethical behavior because it is compensated for in
other ways—being on the cutting edge or also performing good works.
Any of these signs could indicate your
company or organization is at risk for ethical collapse. If any are present,
they can not only indicate a decline in ethics, but also can indicate an
increase in the risk of fraud. An ethical corporate culture, as we can see from
Jennings’ seven signs of ethical collapse, does indeed start at the top!
Jennings, Marianne M. (2006). The seven signs of ethical collapse: How to spot moral meltdowns in
companies before it’s too late. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
To learn more about establishing an ethical corporate
culture explore these links:
Cynthia Waddell is a faculty
member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely
those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
By Cynthia Waddell, PhD, CPA, CFE
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