A Note on Moral Disengagement

Posted: 5 Feb 2012 Last revised: 6 Feb 2012

See all articles by Sandra J. Sucher

Sandra J. Sucher

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Celia Moore

Imperial College Business School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Date Written: October 20, 2011


Moral disengagement is a process that enables people to engage in negative behaviors, from small misdeeds to great atrocities, without believing that they are causing harm or doing wrong. When Conrad Black, the fallen Canadian mogul convicted of multiple counts of fraud and obstruction of justice, claims that he “would never dream of committing a crime in a thousand years,” moral disengagement is what allows him to make that claim and believe it. This note provides an overview of the eight mechanisms of moral disengagement as first described by Albert Bandura, and provides examples of how they operate in our daily lives.

Keywords: moral disengagement, business ethics, unethical behavior

Suggested Citation

Sucher, Sandra J. and Moore, Celia, A Note on Moral Disengagement (October 20, 2011). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Case No. 612-043. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1997376

Sandra J. Sucher (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 479
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Celia Moore

Imperial College Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London, Greater London SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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