Category Archives: Workplace

White Christmas Ethics (UPDATED)


I just watched“White Christmas” again when my wife wasn’t around (she hates it), and was again struck by how entertaining it manages to be while making no sense at all and containing one ethics breach or gaffe after another. Ethics Alarms did an ethics review of the film in 2012, and reading it now, I realize I was too kind. This is an update.

Yes, I still get a lump in my throat when the old general, played by Dean Jagger, gets saluted by his reunited army unit, which has gathered at his struggling, snowless, Vermont inn on Christmas Eve to remind him that he is still remembered and loved. Nonetheless, it is by far the strangest of the Christmas movies, and also the most unethical. Though everything works out in the end, the characters in the sloppy plot spend the whole movie lying, extorting, betraying, manipulating and generally mistreating each other, always with no recriminations at all, and usually with no consequences either.

The movie starts out with guilt extortion. Army private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) rescues his smooth-singing captain, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) from being crushed by a falling wall in a World War II bombing raid. (It’s not a plot feature, but the battlefield set for the entire opening sequence is itself unethical by being chintzy even by musical standards: it looks like they are filming a skit for a Bob Hope Christmas Special.  I thought it was lousy when I saw it as a kid.) Phil then uses Wallace’s debt of gratitude to coerce him into accepting the aspiring comic as a partner in Wallace’s already successful civilian act. This is obviously unfair and exploitative, but Bing accepts the ploy with good spirits, and the next we see  the new team of Wallace and Davis knocking ’em dead and rising in the ranks of stage stars. Now they have a show on Broadway, and as a favor to a mutual army buddy, they agree to watch the boonies nightclub act of “The Haynes Sisters” (Rosemary Clooney as Betty. and Vera-Ellen, of wasp-waist fame, as kid sister Judy. Did you know that in the “Sisters” number, Clooney sang both parts? ). Bing is immediately smitten with older sister Rosemary, but there is a tiff over the fact that younger sister Judy fooled them into seeing their act: she, not her brother, had sent the letter asking for a “favor.”

This is the first revealed of many lies woven into the script. This one is a double beach of ethics: Judy uses her brother’s name and contacts without his permission or knowledge, and lures Wallace and Davis to the night club under false pretenses.

Bing dismisses Judy’s cheat by noting that everyone “has an angle” in show business, so he’s not angry. Rosemary is, though, and reprimands Bing for being cynical. That’s right: Vera/Judy uses their brother’s name to trick two Broadway stars into watching their little act, and Rosemary/ Betty is annoyed because Bing/Bob (Bing’s bandleader, look-alike, sound-alike brother was also named Bob) shrugs off the lie as show business as usual. True, Betty is technically correct to flag the Everybody Does It rationalization, but shouldn’t she be grateful that Bob isn’t reaming out the Haynes sisters and leaving the club in a huff? OK, nice and uncynical is better than nice and cynical, but Bob is still giving her and Judy a break.

As we soon find out, however, Betty is prone to flying off the handle.

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Popular Culture, Workplace

The Cost Of Rationalizations

Employee Theft

According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer released this month by Checkpoint Systems,  employees in the U.S. steal from their employers at significantly higher rates than workers in other countries. The direct cost to businesses, as you can see in the diagram above: a staggering 16.6 billion dollars.

Most of this is taken in incremental amounts, by people who would be shocked if you questioned their character. Why is this number is so high? As far as comparing to other countries are concerned, it’s the same factor that anti-gun zealots refuse to acknowledge, and that Bernie Sanders can’t seem to grasp. Our country is not like other countries; we guarantee our citizens more freedom, for one thing, and freedom unavoidably means more freedom to do bad things as well as good.  Our national character is not like other countries. Americans are not like other people.

Good. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society, Workplace

Hard Workplace Truths From “The Evil HR Lady”


Susan Lucas is an human resources veteran who shares her abundant workplace wisdom on her blog, a truly excellent one, Evil HR Lady.

She has written an invaluable list she calls “Problems at Work? 10 Signs That It’s Not Them, It’s You.”  It can be literally a life-saver for frustrated career failures, disheartened underlings, especially, perhaps, those encouraged by warped parents, teachers, mentors and  peers to always avoid blame, accountability and responsibility by attributing it to prejudice, bias and personal animus.

Some highlights: Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Workplace

From The Halloween Files: Arachnophobia Ethics


I love this story!

Early last month, several secretaries in the Logan County (West Virginia) Prosecutor’s Office put up Halloween decorations, including a lot of big hanging fake spiders.  When he saw them, Assistant Prosecutor Chris White freaked out, saying he had arachnophobia, that the decorations weren’t funny, and he couldn’t stand the eight legged things. Then he pulled out his gun, and threatened to shoot the spiders. The gun had no clip, but the staff wasn’t sure; after all, if you are crazy enough to try to shoot fake spiders with an empty gun, you are probably crazy enough to  shoot fake spiders with a loaded gun. The three secretaries who witnessed the meltdown were terrified.

White was suspended for the incident. He’s been with the office for more than five years, according to his boss, John Bennett,who  took it well, saying, “I never saw it coming, that’s for sure. Obviously, I wouldn’t have even hired him if I had seen it coming. And the fact that he’s been there five years and we haven’t had any incidents like this also, to me, is a pretty good indication it’s certainly out of the ordinary.”

Hmmm. How ordinary does drawing a firearm  in an office because of Halloween decorations have to be before you decide, “You know, maybe this guy should be someplace else”? Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Professions, Workplace

Ethical Quote Of The Week: CNN’s Mike Rowe

In this case, it’s unfair to Mike Rowe’s brilliant and measured rebuttal to MSNBC’s race-baiting talking head Melissa Harris-Perry’s latest ethics pollution to just quote a brief paragraph or two, so I’m going to quote virtually  his entire Facebook post.

Rowe, the man’s man star of the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” show and now CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” was responding to Melissa Harris-Perry’s dressing down of a guest who referred to new House Speaker Paul Ryan as “hard-working.” This woman’s mission in life seems to be to make it impossible for white people to speak, since she is meticulously eliminating all words and phrases as either racist, homophobic, misogynist or insensitive. (Donald Trump should send her a bonus, for this kind of thing is what is driving his support) In her latest assault, she said this:

“I want us to be super careful when we use the language “hard worker.” I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work really looks like. But in the context of relative privilege, when you talk about work-life balance, the moms who don’t have health care aren’t called hard workers. We call them failures. We call them people who are sucking off the system.”

Rowe’s diagnosis of Harris-Perry’s world-view was this: Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, U.S. Society, Workplace

Marco Rubio Better Have An Explanation For This Unethical Statement Other Than The Obvious Ones

Seen on Sen. Rubio's Senate office door...

Seen on Sen. Rubio’s Senate office door…

The obvious ones would be:

  • Because I can.
  • Because I lack integrity.
  • Because I’m as immature as I look.

I can’t make the Rubio quote making the rounds this morning an Ethics Alarms “Unethical Quote of the Month,” because it occurred, we are told by the Washington Post, on the evening of September 18 during the last Republican candidates’ debate. Why didn’t I pick up on Rubio’s statement then? I don’t know: no one else did either, based on a Google search.  I guess when there are 11 GOP candidates embarrassing themselves and their party seriatim (By the way, did you know that the WordPress spellcheck program says that the word I wanted to type there is “Maserati’?), it’s easy to miss a few outrageous statements.

Anyway,here is what Sen. Rubio said, however, after being chided by Donald Trump for missing so many Senate votes:

“That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection.”

The front page Washington Post story says that Rubio is frustrated with the unresponsiveness of the U.S. Senate to his attempted leadership:

Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator. And he just can’t stand it anymore.

“I don’t know that ‘hate’ is the right word,” Rubio said in an interview. “I’m frustrated.”

This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust…Rubio had arrived at one of the least ambitious moments in Senate history and saw many of his ideas fizzle. Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.

Now, he’s done. “He hates it,” a longtime friend from Florida said, speaking anonymously to say what Rubio would not.

So Rubio is missing votes in the Senate because he hates his job?

That’s not exactly indicative of trustworthy character, not just for national leadership but for any position, including busboy. He ran for the job, got it, is being paid for it, and if it isn’t as much fun or as rewarding as he thought it would be, tough. Rubio still has an obligation to fulfill his duties as best he can. Who gets to goof off at work because he or she doesn’t like a job or is “frustrated”? Just Marco Rubio, it seems. Leaders have to be role-models and ethical exemplars. Rubio is modelling the “stop doing the job if you’re not good at it but still collect your paycheck” approach to the workplace. Who does he think he is?

Barack Obama? Continue reading


Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership, Professions, Workplace

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Yankees Pitcher C.C. Sabathia

CC Sabathia

“Being an adult means being accountable. Being a baseball player means that others look up to you. I want my kids — and others who may have become fans of mine over the years — to know that I am not too big of a man to ask for help. I want to hold my head up high, have a full heart and be the type of person again that I can be proud of. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.”

New York Yankees starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia, in a statement announcing that he would not be helping his team prevail in the upcoming playoffs and World Series because he was checking into an alcohol rehabilitation center to treat his alcoholism.

Nobody outside of the Yankees organization and Sabathia’s family was aware that he was suffering from this malady until the announcement. Here is his whole statement, which speaks for itself: Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Quotes, Health and Medicine, Sports, Workplace