July 10, 2008

Ethics in the Workplace

In June, the Society of Human Resources Management and the Ethics Resource Center released their latest survey of HR professionals.

Key findings in the survey
Ethical misconduct most commonly identified by HR professionals
• Abusive or intimidating behavior toward fellow employees
• Abuse of e-mail or Internet privileges
• Employees calling in "sick" inappropriately
• People taking credit for someone else's work

Ethics program
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations (FSGO) define a comprehensive ethics and compliance program as one that includes six components
• Written standards of ethical workplace conduct
• Means for an employee to anonymously report violations of ethics standards
• Orientation or training on ethical workplace conduct
• A specific office, telephone line, e-mail address or Web site where employees can get advice about ethics-related issues
• Evaluation of ethical conduct as part of regular performance appraisals
• Discipline for employees who commit ethics violations

Ethics Resource Center June 12, 2008 news release

“Civility and ethics are intricately linked” The link between civility and ethics: an opinion from a college chair in ethics and moral values

July 01, 2008

The link between civility and ethics: an opinion from a college chair in ethics and moral values

Michael Brannigan, the Pfaff Endowed Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. started a column in the Sunday Times Union in Albany.

Excerpts from Brannigan’s opinion used with his permission:
Civility represents the quality of our behavior with others in our collective household. This is serious business, for how we treat others signals who we are and what we value. Moreover, since the essence of ethics lies in how we are with others, civility and ethics are intricately linked.

Let us clear up some misconceptions. Civility is not peripheral to ethics, dealing merely with manners. True, civility does manifest itself in good manners, proper etiquette and politeness. But it also runs deeper and is more profound. Simply put, civility requires restraint, respect and responsibility in everyday life. Without these, we can never act ethically.

Ethics deals fundamentally with how we treat each other on a daily basis. Indeed, our small acts of civility and incivility constitute the heart of morality.

Sadly, countless displays of rudeness, unprofessional behavior, disrespect and anger litter corners of our lives: roads, airports, workplace, online, malls, restaurants, schools, hospitals, movie theaters, etc. In 2002, a Public Agenda Research Group reported that nearly 80 percent of respondents consider "lack of respect and courtesy a serious national problem."

Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption. By putting ethics into practice in our day-to-day encounters, civility is that moral glue without which our society would come apart.”

I put some sentences in bold because those are ones I think are superb. However, I’m not as convinced as he is that civility and ethics are so intricately linked. I’ve tried to answer two questions for more than a year----
Can you be civil and not entirely ethical?
Can you be ethical and not terribly civil?

The full opinion piece, Civility the basis of society, is at

April 15, 2008

An ethics program that exists on paper

but never in the hearts, minds and actions of the organization’s employees creates a breeding ground for violations.

This statement is from the executive summary of a research report, Ethical Culture Building, by the Ethics Resource Center,

More from the summary
Maintaining a strong ethical culture is essential for complying with the laws and regulations, but this alone cannot be the motivation for ethical culture building. Beyond the large impact an organization’s culture has on the bottom line, the development of programs to foster ethical conduct must maintain a focus on fairness, encouragement and communication at all employee levels.

The attitudes, choices and actions of business leaders play a primary role in the creation of an organization’s ethical culture and climate; expectations for employees’ ethical behavior can only be set as high as the organization’s leadership is willing to meet.

What’s a Leader to Do?
Leaders should work to create a values-based ethics program that also encourages compliance with the law. Additionally, they must demonstrate their concern for the interests of internal and external stakeholders and commit to making the needs of others a business priority. Finally, they must remember that ethical leadership requires modeling, coaching and careful communication. To demonstrate their commitment to ethics and to promote ethics in the culture and climate of their organization, leaders should:
• walk the walk
• keep people in the loop
• encourage thoughtful dissent
• show that they care
• don’t sweep problems under the rug
• celebrate the successes
• be fair
• make ethics a priority
• make the tough calls
• get the right people and keep them.
(End of notes from the Ethics Resource Center.)

I’m worried about ethics
It’s a topic at a session I’ve been asked to attend and contribute to at a June conference. I find it hard to define ethics; I don’t think that’s uncommon.

The part I really relate to in the center’s report---communicate, communicate, communicate. I ask for this every day in my job. I told my church congregation the day I took over as moderator (lay leader) that I had two hallmarks: civility and communication. I am trying to give that congregation and the church staff more information than they’re accustomed to.

I believe people have to help shape the goals and solve the problems, know what decisions are being made, asked to join conversations and feel free to express their ideas and opinions. It’s the way to win hearts and minds…and move forward.

I welcome any help you want to provide on ethics.

March 12, 2007

Ethics in the workplace

Giovinella Gonthier in “Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace” suggests discussing ethics in work-related dilemmas. These are some of her examples to start the discussions:
• Expense reports and time reporting not fill out correctly/honestly
• Employees who pass on inside information, or who inadvertently pass on marketing and pricing schemes
• Nepotism issues
• Conflict-of-interest issues
• Stealing office supplies or even a computer for personal use

Ethical culture shows
Gonthier says “Many organizations fail to instill the notion of ethics into the corporate culture. I am often shocked at how little they (employees) understand about the concept.”

“Ethics is not one employee in one department publishing a code of ethics. It is a responsibility given to every employee in the company, but it must be led by top leadership. An ethical culture is one where actions from the top down are met from the bottom up in an all-encompassing process. Ethics then lives and breathes and moves with the organization itself,” says Ira Lipman, Chairman and President of Guardsmark, LLC, principal sponsor of the 2005 National Business Ethics Survey.

Iowa State students learn about workplace ethics
This is just one example, from Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management 287 this semester, based on the text “Essentials of Management” by Andrew J. DuBrin.
Contributing factors to ethical problems
• Individual greed and gluttony
• Desire to maximize self-gain at expense of others
• Organizational atmosphere that condones this behavior
• Pressure from management to achieve goals
• Moral laxity
• Decreasing quality for speed
• Covering up incidents that make an individual or organization look bad
• Deceiving customers
• Lying to a supervisor or group member
• Taking credit for a coworker’s idea
• Copying software

Trust is built on ethics
There’s trust with the public and probably more importantly, trust inside the organization. I am hearted by a just-released Associated Press-Ipsos poll that shows 55 percent of the surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a presidential candidate. Are organizations and companies paying attention?

True, ethics is what’s right and what’s wrong but in times of change, there are new complex situations and dilemmas to consider. It seems to me many ethical dilemmas come down to valuing money and appearances vs. valuing people. Self-serving vs. self-giving. Is that too simple?

We need to think about and have more discussions that include “Let’s think about the ethics of this action”. Remaining ethical is trying to be ethical…every day in all situations...and making ethics an important part of the culture.

“Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.”
Jane Addams, American pacifist, social worker and founder of Hull House in Chicago, one of the first social settlements in North America, Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931 (1860-1935)

Ethics in the Workplace reading
This guidebook is about 20 pages long—really good, particularly “10 Benefits of Managing Ethics in the Workplace”
Free Management Library, Complete Guide to Ethics Management

I’ve found no better or clearer company policy than the Google Code of Conduct which is truly ethics for today’s workplace.

Ethics Resource Center, Survey Documents State of Ethics in the Workplace

CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, The Right Way to Do the Right Thing (scroll down a ways to get to the full article)

Iowa State University Professional and Scientific Statement of Ethics

March 04, 2007

What is the intersection between civility and ethics?

That was a comment posed as a question on the Values to love post.

Civility has to do with being a good citizen, a good neighbor.
Civility is derived from the Latin civitas, translated as state, city-state, city, citizenship.
Wikipedia defines civic virtue as the “cultivation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. The term civility refers to behavior between persons and groups”.

Ethics deals with morals.
Wikipedia again: “a major branch of philosophy, the study of values and customs of a person or group and covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility.”

The Closer to Truth series
on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) brought together leading scientists, scholars and artists to debate today’s fundamental issues. A segment “Whatever Happened to Ethics and Civility?” appears to have aired in 2000. These excerpts from the transcript of that show:
Moderator: What's the difference between ethics and civility, and why are they important today?

Richard Mouw (president of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., professor of Christian philosophy and ethics): Ethics concerns issues of right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice. And civility is subsumed within that. The word "civility" comes from the Latin civitas, for city. To be civil is to know how to get along in the city--how to treat people who are different from you, who have different beliefs or ethnic background. Civility, then, is public politeness, toleration, all the kinds of things that are important to maintain good citizenship and facilitate interactions in the public square.

The religious scholar Martin Marty of the University of Chicago, points out that often people who are civil don't have strong convictions and people who have strong convictions aren't civil. The real challenge is to have convicted civility. We must learn how to engage in that high-level discourse, to treat other people as having value even when we seriously disagree with them. That's the challenge. We need to state our convictions honestly and listen to each other genuinely.

The family meal is a wonderful workshop in civility, where we learn to hang in there with people with whom we're irritated and don't agree.

John McWhorter (professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley): It would help if more people accepted that there are certain issues--abortion being one of them--where unfortunately there will always be fundamental disagreement over fundamental principles. A comfort with agreeing to disagree is something often sadly missing.

A civility and ethics issue on campus now

Iowa State’s Greek Week officials have decided to not be affiliated with the campus blood drive this week.
Blood bank officials say blood supplies are short.
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration rule prohibits men who have had sex with another man since 1977 from donating blood.
The American Red Cross and others have lobbied the FDA to make changes in the rule.
Gays at ISU say the FDA rule is outdated because there are new ways to test for HIV.
The FDA says there is a risk in testing the donations and removal of contaminated blood.
In past years, Greek Week awarded points for participation and a trophy to the fraternity or sorority with the highest participation.

Wouldn’t it be civil to donate blood, providing you are eligible under current guidelines, without entering the scientific debate and without expecting the donation to count towards a reward? What do your ethics tell you?

So now what do you think is the intersection between civility and ethics?
Forni, cofounder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, says "Civility belongs in the realm of ethics."
Gonthier in her book 'Rude Awakenings' places ethics as a 'property' of civility.

Transcript of the PBS show:

“In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics.”
Earl Warren, Governor of California and 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1891-1974)