Cheating, Cheaters– It’s Global Business, Societal Phenomenon: It Works, It Rewards, It’s Boundless…

Cheating is an epidemic and it’s everywhere; business, schools, research institutions, venerable newspapers, best-selling authors, well-known politician, clergy… cheaters are omnipresent… We are a society of cheaters and it’s becoming part of business and social culture…. Does it really matter?

According to Richard Perez-Pena; cheating has become easier and much more tolerable… Internet access has made cheating easier and it has changed people’s attitudes; it’s a world of instant downloading, searching, cutting and pasting, it has loosened ideas of ownership, authorship… people are surprisingly unclear about what constitutes plagiarism or cheating…

According to Dan Ariely; there is a fudge factor that is created by people’s ability to rationalize just about anything, hence when people think about morality, they cheat less. But, when they rationalize the issue, they cheat more. An analogy is that a CEO of a company will never take $100 from petty cash, but he or she might backdate stock options…

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There is a conventional wisdom that says; winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing…  With that in mind, plenty of business and societal leaders believe ethics and honesty are all well and good, as long as they don’t get in the way of winning… With this frame of thinking, unethical behaviors, e.g.; cheating customers, outsourcing to slave labor, scam government, evade taxes, lying to investors… are all good business strategies, as long as, you don’t get caught…

However studies by Robert B. Cialdini; suggests that cheating by top leaders generates huge hidden costs, even if leaders think they’re getting away with it.. and even if they appear to ‘win’ through cheating; when in fact they are making their team less effective, driving away best workers, setting themselves-up to be cheated-on, in turn… According to Dr. McCabe; in business it’s the bottom line that matters and it’s not how you get there; this has long been the credo of business success.. cheating flourishes because the perceived ‘low’ risk of being caught leads many leaders to conclude that there is a ‘positive’ cost-benefit…

In the article Culture Suggests Cheaters Prosper by Kirk O. Hanson writes: It’s time to face up to dirty little secret; players who use steroids in professional baseball, college coaches who have others take exams for their star athletes, students who cheat on test, scientists who fake the results of research, CEOs who cook the books… all do it because of a simple reason: It’s worth the risk… Today there is so much to be gained by being just a little better than others, i.e.; hitting a few more home runs, getting to very top of a company, being the absolute best in any field. Because society is obsessed with ‘winners’, and cheating helps some people to win…

Cheating has always existed but it seems worse now, and it shows-up in most every corner of life, plus it’s tolerated more… Some blame the media; they say that media has created the image of the ‘icon’ model, i.e.; the ‘super leader’, the ‘rock-star’… and emergence of a ‘super-star’ society… hence, the ‘cheating society’ that has resulted from it… How can society build a culture of trust when almost everyone is cheating to be a winner? Every society depends on a mix of legal enforcement, voluntary compliance, basic honesty… to make all business and non-business organizations work better… But when society must constantly have– surveillance, drug tests, threats of severe penalties… to discourage or catch cheaters; the business and social culture is fundamentally flawed…

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In the book The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely writes: Most of us are 98-percenters: 1% of people would never steal, another 1% would always try to steal, and the rest of us are honest, as long as we’re not easily tempted… Key-locks remove temptation for most people; and that’s good, because research found that everybody has the capacity to be dishonest and almost everybody is at some point or another…

  • We’ll happily cheat, until it hurts: Greater the reward, the greater the likelihood that people will cheat. But, the biggest driver of dishonesty is ability to rationalize actions so that you don’t lose the sense of yourself as a good person… Most people are able to cheat a little because they can maintain the sense of themselves as basically honest people. They won’t commit major fraud on tax returns, or insurance claims, or expense reports, or resumes, but they will cut corners or exaggerate here or there, because they don’t feel that bad about it…
  • It’s no wonder people steal from work: The willingness to cheat increases as you gain psychological distance from the action. So as you gain distance from money, it becomes easier to see yourself as doing something other than stealing. That’s why many of us have no problem taking pencils or a stapler home from work when you would never take the equivalent amount of money from petty cash. And that’s why there is some concern about becoming a cashless society. Virtual payments are a great convenience, but research suggests you should worry that the farther people get from using actual real money, the easier it becomes to steal…
  • Beware the altruistic crook: People are able to cheat more when they cheat for other people. In some experiments, people cheated the most when they didn’t benefit at all. This makes sense if your ability to be dishonest is increased by the ability to rationalize your behavior. If you’re cheating for the benefit of another entity, your ability to rationalize is enhanced. So yes, it’s easier for an accountant to see fudging on clients’ tax returns as something other than dishonesty. And it’s a concern within companies, since people’s altruistic tendencies allow them to cheat more when it benefits team members…
  • One dishonest thing leads to another: Small dishonesty matter because they can lead to larger ones. Once you behave badly at some point you stop thinking of yourself as a good person and at that level, you say: What the hell. This is something many people are familiar with in dieting; you are disciplined until you lapse, and if you can’t think of yourselves as good person, then you figure you might as well enjoy it… Cheaters start with one small step…

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In the article World Without Integrity by Victor Dorff writes: The modern world is full of role models pointing in the wrong direction… The mandate to succeed has overcome the concept of ‘fair-play’ in so many worldly endeavors… You have watched (or participated) as colleagues have succeeded by cheating. You have seen the lines blurred between proper, improper behavior, as success takes on more objective measure, e.g. having more money, power, prestige, fancy ‘things’… and perhaps without intending to do so, you have raised a material-result-oriented generation, and now find yourself wondering: What went wrong?

Research suggests that the cheating culture is not just a capitalistic phenomenon but that basic attitudinal differences are being driven by enormous social pressure to be winners. Hence, future business and social leaders, worldwide, are being shaped by reports of scandal, cheating, unethical and immortal, greed, lavish life-style, expose of rich and famous… but at the same time future leaders are being taught the fundamentals of operating in business, while living in age of the ‘cheating culture’ whereby everybody cheats because everyone else does it…

Hence, future leaders are learning to inextricably combine a cheating culture with best business practices… All this adds up to a frightening picture in terms of the future workforce and next generation of– parents, politicians, police, executives, journalists, clergy, military leaders…

In the article The Art of Cheating by Jessica Dorfman Jones writes: Whether we want to admit it or not, cheating is an inescapable part of the human condition. Some of you are more comfortable than others acknowledging this fact, but it’s still fact, plain and simple.  Despite best efforts, most everyone is a cheater in their own way… That’s right, folks, you are cheating; and don’t even get started trying to justify– the time you claimed the dog as a dependent on your tax return; that was cheating too…

Getting away with it, whatever ‘it’ may be, is cheating… while the justification might be that a life without artful cheating isn’t a life worth living… According to Shelley DuBois; in certain situations– when the rewards are high and the risks are low– your brain tell you that it’s okay to cheat. You figure out a way to rationalize behavior that may not otherwise align with your values– it’s a powerful psychological forces behind rule-breaking for personal gain, whether it’s– business, financial, social…

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Everyone’s doing it and because everyone sees everyone else doing it, hence they keep on doing it… According to David Callahan; it’s a brutally competitive economic and social climate, which rewards results and looks the other way when it comes to the ethical and even criminal transgressions of those who come out on the winning end. Certainly there is no shortage of examples of cheating from the business community, and it extends out to the educational system, amateur and professional sports, news media, and even the lives of common citizens who, while they would never think of themselves as being cheaters, are nevertheless inclined to commit the occasional act of beneficial fudging…

Cheaters– cheat because, contrary to oft-repeated axioms, cheaters win and the chances of being caught are low and the benefits of a successful cheat far outstrip any potential risk. Further, upright folks who would not cheat are drawn into the practice out of fear that they simply won’t be able to make it, unless they are cheater too– this all sound like an epidemic, it looks like an epidemic, and walks like an epidemic… hence, it must be an epidemic.