Ethical behaviour must be imbedded at all levels of the organisation

The recent ‘ball tempering’ scandal involving some Australian cricket team members has left the entire cricket loving community with unanswered questions. Three Australian players have admitted to using a ‘sticky tape’ on the ball to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. As expected most of the questions on the sport lover’s minds will be centred on the integrity of the game that they love dearly. However, the scandal lays bare the role of leadership in influencing unethical behaviour, as well as the importance of instilling ethical culture within those in the lower ranks to reject this influence.

Sports 24 published an article on 18 March 2018, reporting that in a press conference the Australian captain Steve Smith admitted that “the leadership group knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch.” Even though Smith has denied the involvement of the coaching staff in the decision, he attributes the decision to the leadership. For those leadership members of the Australian cricket team involved to take a decision to carry an unethical practice, they had to influence the lower ranked members of the team, whom were going to carry out the unethical conduct.

Archie Carroll and his Colleague Ann Buchholtz conducted three studies where the behaviour of superiors was identified as a one of the leading factors in influencing an unethical behaviour or conduct in an organisation/team. These two authors further explained that those in the lower ranks will feel the pressure from their leaders to act unethical more than anyone else in the organisation. Perhaps this is the argument that led to Ali Bacher voicing out his sympathy to the Australian Bowler Cameron Bancroft saying “if the leader of the team says you must do that, what option do you really have?” as quoted in Sports 24 on 28 March 2018.

I disagree with Ali Bacher’s view, organisations/team need to ensure that an ethical culture in imbedded at all levels of the organisation. Ethical behaviour has to be in the fabric of the organisation from the top to the bottom. When all in the organisation are cultured to act in an ethical manner, the unethical leadership decisions such as this one would be rejected by the lower ranked members. My advice to the cricketing board of Australia is to spend less time on rewriting controlling rules. Rather, they need to spend more time and effort on ethical training to empower their lower ranked members to know that they can and must reject unethical mis-leadership. Then the leadership will be more discouraged to advance the kind of unethical influences, such as this one.

I agree fully with Cynthia Schoeman, one of the most prominent ethics management specialists that; “managing and improving ethics centres on influencing the ethical choices employees make”. Through effective ethics training and ethics codes, organisations can influence the choices individuals make.