Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse

Especially in light of the times, here’s a book worth looking at by business ethics & law professor Marianne Jennings, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse: How to Spot Moral Meltdowns in Companies…Before It’s Too Late (St. Martin’s Press 2006).


Her seven warning signs are:


-Pressure to maintain numbers

-Fear and silence

-Larger than life CEO

-Weak board of directors

-Conflicts of interest

-Innovation trumping any other priority, such as ethics

-Belief that goodness in some areas atones for wrongdoing in others


Jennings drew these lessons from companies like Enron and WorldCom but says they apply to all types of organizations.


Inexpensive copies can be purchased from

3 responses

  1. Being someone who has challenged the unethical behaviors of Corporates heads I am able to attest to the fact that the board supported the actions by doing nothing to investigate to get to the truth of what the CEO is actually doing. One board member who has been on the hospital’s board of directors for over twenty years had in the past year become the CEO of a Home Health Agency that is unoffically affliated with the hospital. Five years ago I had started working at this Home Health Agency where this CEO had been Vice-President for a number of years. I was fired less than four weeks after I had gone to an International Conference on Workplace Bullying. I do believe fear of having someone who is affliated with a grass roots movement to pass legislation to bring accountability to those who act unethically played a part in what happened. The fact I am a whistle blower who refused to be silenced by her threats to pursue me further if I did not sign a separation agreement stating I gave up all rights and the ability to speak out played a part in the retaliation that followed. I do not believe this CEO recognized the fact that she was acting unethically and was totally out of bounds in her behavior, I believe she suffers from tunnel vision and lacks the ability to recognize the impact on the corporation or the other employees of the agency. I do believe it is the lack of compentency and compassion for others that lie at the root of such CEO’s who are driven by fear. I do believe denial of CEO’s who are in positions of authority who lack the ability to recognize their shortcomings do tend to behave unethically and are fearful of those who excel at their jobs.

  2. Sherrill, thanks for your comment. Two quick observations on organizations and whistleblowing that are reinforced by your post: First, ethical organizations usually don’t have a need for whistleblowers, as their own best practices and good leadership make whistleblowers less necessary. Second, ethically-challenged organizations often lash out at whistleblowers, using bullying behaviors to retaliate.

  3. Pingback: Is your workplace psychologically and ethically healthy? « Minding the Workplace

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