Evil and Open Secrets
Title: “Open Secrets’: The Masked Dynamics of Ethical Failures and Administrative Evil
In: Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Ted Youn (Ed.)
Authors: Guy B. Adams and Danny L. Balfour
Abstract: In contemporary, complex organizations, ‘‘open secrets’’ may be just as common as intentionally concealed secrets, and are often associated with ethical failures and administrative evil. This chapter explores the ethical implications of open secrets in contemporary organizations and the dynamics by which they can become masked. Both the space shuttle Challenger disaster and Enron’s corporate collapse, as well as other similar ethical debacles, show how organizational actors at all levels can promote the public interest and recognize ethical issues, only if they require of themselves a broader scope of ethical standards and vigilance that addresses not just individual behavior but also, and even primarily, the organizational and cultural context of values and ethics. The evolution of a moral vacuum within a culture of technical rationality and the resulting ethically deficient organizational dynamics produced the inability to recognize the open secrets that masked the pathway to disaster.