Category Archives: Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition” (#2: “The Option”))

Commenter Zanshin returned to expand on his answer to the hypothetical I offered a Boy Scout troop based on one of my late, lamented professional theater company’s many dilemmas over the years. Here is the situation again…

The Option

Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.

The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.

Question 1: What do you do?

  1. Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
  2. Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?

  1. No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
  2. Yes. Nothing has changed.

You can read the initial responses here, and check the poll results.

And here is Zanshin’s Comment of the Day, on the post Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/6/ 2018: “Remember the Alamo” Edition:

Here are my reflections on this ethical (hypothetical) issue.

Question 1: Some personal background influencing my thinking: In the early years of my career I worked at a small company (about 40 employees). After having worked there for 2 years the owners sold the company, probably for a very good price, because they decided to give every employee about $ 200 for each year that he had worked with the company. Some of my colleagues worked with them for 15 years and more.

For me it would be a nice $ 400 but to my surprise I received $ 1.000 with a handwritten note which stated something like, “We’ll give you $600 extra because we are very pleased with your performance with us. Please do not discuss this with your colleagues.”

Back to the question.

I would go for a third option. First, Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.

But at the same time, give him in some personalized way, about $500 extra.With personalized I mean, fitting the situation. Why couldn’t he gamble with his reward? For instance, his car is broke, he needs it very bad for whatever reason. Offer to pay a part of the bill, etc.

Question 2: In my opinion the set-up of the first situation (question 1) was already tainted. Just as we expect of journalists that they don’t “interview people who are drunk, drugged, impaired, or not in a mentally or emotionally stable state.” one should also not ask an employee who you know could not afford to gamble to just do that, gamble with his income. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord”

Nemisis pursues an arrogant mortal…

Here is slickwilly’s reflection on the breakdown of systems, human error, hubris and nemisis in his Comment of the Day on the post,The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord:

The O ring failure had a great impact on young slickwilly, who was home on a rare sick day and watched the shuttle blow up live. The information that later came out made it clear that launching spaceships was fraught with danger, as there were so many things that could go wrong in such a complex system it was a wonder they ALL did not blow up.

My first and only brush with ethics (engineering: make sure the bridge does not fall down) was greatly reinforced by memories of that Shuttle disaster. (I still get chills when I think of the radio message “Roger, go with throttle up” which preceded that explosion.

The definition of hubris is “excessive pride or self-confidence” and comes from Greek Tragedy’s  “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to Nemesis.” (NOTE: Nemisis was the vengeful Greek god who destroyed mortals guilty of hubris.)

Hubris caused the Shuttle tragedy. NASA (and their contractors) became complacent, and allowed less important considerations (like flight schedules, politics, and mission timelines) overcome important items like launch protocols and safety. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, History, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, Workplace

#MeToo Ethics Fiasco In Colorado: The Vengeful Frankened Democrat

That’s Steve on the left, Faith on the right…

Colorado legislators last week voted overwhelmingly to kick out State Representative Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, after five women had accused him of eleven total instances of sexual harassment. To say Lebsock did not go gentle into that good night is an understatement.

One of the accusers was a colleague and fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, who claimed that Lebsock “acted aggressively” toward her when she turned down his sexual advances during an end-of-session party in 2016. She claimed that he grabbed her elbow, causing her to feel threatened. Lebsock denies the allegations of all of the women, and claimed that he was being railroaded out of his seat to help his accuser, Winter, win a state Senate seat in November. So vigorous was Lebsock in his defiance that two other Democrats, Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett and Rep. Matt Gray, announced in speeches that they had been wearing bulletproof vests in the chamber for weeks in response to his threats.

No, Steve Lebsock didn’t order a hit. He was more creative. To enact his revenge on his party for making him Colorado’s Al Franken, he formally switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican just minutes before the state House expelled him. As a result, Republicans, rather than Lebsock’s original party, get to fill the vacancy left by Lebsock’s expulsion.

Of course, nothing says that the Colorado GOP couldn’t treat this technical maneuver as the petty payback it is, and in the interests of comity and fairness, let Democrats choose who will fill Lebsock’s seat by allowing Democratic governor John Hickenlooper to appoint his replacement.  Nah!  Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said a vacancy committee would meet later this month to pick Lebsock’s replacement, saying,

“Statute clearly assigns our vacancy committee the authority and responsibility to fill this seat. After careful consideration, we concluded it would be dereliction of duty to punt the appointment to Gov. John Hickenlooper. We owe it to the people of House District 34 to give them the experience of ethical representation, which the Democrats, when they controlled the seat, signally failed to provide.”

The rationalization for this argument is that the Democrats had known about Lebsock’s harassing conduct all along, and covered it up before the #MeToo fervor struck. Of course, if the Democrats knew, it’s likely that his Republican colleagues knew as well. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2018: The “Blotto From A Sleepless Night Fuming About Nobody Stopping That Puppy From Being Stuffed In The United Overhead Luggage Bin” Edition

Good Morning, United!

Where’s that whimpering sound coming from?


1 Don’t make America stupid, ABC. The new ABC legal drama “For The People” premiered last night, and lost me forever. I can’t trust the writers. In the final moments of the episode, a veteran female defense lawyer was consoling a young lawyer who was upset after losing a case. The older lawyer evoked the memory of a 1951 rookie for the New York Giants, who went hitless in his first Major League games and was devastated. But his manager put him in the line-up again, and he hit a home run in his first at bat, and never stopped hitting.

“Ah,” said the young lawyer, “Willie Mays. The greatest player who ever lived.” The older lawyer nodded sagely.

By no measure was Willie Mays the greatest baseball player. Is this racial politics by series creator Shonda Rhimes? I assume so: there is no other plausible explanation. The odds of two randomly selected baseball fans asserting that Mays was the greatest baseball player would only be more than miniscule if anyone who knows baseball believed that. Willie was the greatest centerfielder of all time, the greatest African-American player of all time, quite possibly the most charismatic and entertaining player to watch of all time, and very possibly the second most gifted baseball player of all time. But he wasn’t the greatest. The best player by every measure, statistical, modern analytics, WAR, JAWS, OPS, contemporary reports and common sense was, of course, Babe Ruth. He was the greatest hitter who ever lived, a great pitcher before that, and no athlete in any sport ever dominated it like Babe did in the Twenties.

Now, any individual can hold an eccentric opinion that Willie was better. But that was not how the assertion was presented. It was presented as an accepted fact that two random baseball fans agreed upon. This is irresponsible misrepresentation. I was trying to think of an equivalent: I think it’s like a TV show having someone quote the Declaration of Independence, and a listener then  say, “Thomas Jefferson. Our greatest President!” as the other individual nods sagely.

2. Four Regans, or, if you prefer, Linda Blair Heads.This is the new Ethics Alarms graphic for unethical media spin. The number of Regans can range from one to four, with four Regans signifying “spinning so furiously her head might fall off.” (If you don’t get the reference, you are seriously deficient in cultural literacy.) The four Regans go to the polar news media spinning yesterday’s special election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have narrowly won a seat in a Republican stronghold, though the race is still too close to call. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, Sports, Workplace

The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord

As you may have noticed, your host has been involuntarily separated from Ethics Alarms for about 24 hours. Several things occurred that under normal circumstances would have had me dashing off a post while waiting for flights or preparing to check out of my hotel—and there were definitely several comments that had me reaching for a phantom keyboard—but I was without laptop, thanks to leaving the power cord behind in my previous hotel.

So I have a little story to tell. I stayed at a decent Boston hotel last night, not a 4 star hotel like the one I just left  in Atlanta (The Four Seasons), but a nice one, professionally run, dependable. Yet this morning this was my wake-up call, via recording:

“It’s 7 AM. This is your wake-up call for March 8, 2018.”

Almost at the same time, David Hogg was on CNN, explaining how darned easy it was to create a system that would prevent school shootings forevermore.

Wrong. Systems break down, you experience-free, arrogant, disrespectful, know-nothing puppet.  The belief that human beings can devise systems that will solve every problem, or any problem, and do what they are designed to do without failing miserably at the worst possible times and in the worst imaginable ways is signature significance for a fool, or a child. O-Rings fail. Police don’t act on warnings that a kid is violent. Obamacare raises health care premiums.  Political parties end up nominating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Jack Ruby breaks past police security. Communism ends up killing hundreds of millions rather than creating a worker paradise. The Titanic hits the wrong iceberg exactly where it’s weakest. Hitler takes a sleeping pill during the Normandy invasion.

The T-Rex gets loose. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, War and the Military, Workplace

Tales Of The King’s Pass: The Rainmakers

Are you also an asshole? Because if you’re enough of a rainmaker, you can be as big an asshole as you want!!!!

Wow. You don’t get much more cynical than this.

Here’ s Karen Kaplowitz, the founder of The New Ellis Group, and a business development strategist and coach for over 20 years, essentially denying the existence of ethics and integrity in law firms as a business necessity.  In a piece on the ABA Journal titled Abuse of power within law firms: The rainmaker dilemma, she begins,

Despite their obvious economic value to their organizations, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein were quickly sacked. Law firms by contrast have often tolerated bad actors who are major rainmakers. Can law firms tolerate abusive rainmakers in the current business climate? Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?

Can they tolerate abusive rainmakers, in this or any other business climate? Sure they can. Should they? Absolutely not. “Do firms need to be more aggressive about confronting abuses of power?” What? Does this question have to be asked?

Kaplowitz goes on..
Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions, Workplace

How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed? [UPDATED!]


At the beginning of the month we discussed the scandal in Nashville, Tennessee, where the female mayor, —the news media tried oh so hard to bury her party affiliation deep in reports, but she’s a Democrat— was carrying on an adulterous affair with the head of her security detail.  Some quotes from the Ethics Alarms essay to refresh your memory for the horrors to come:

—She apologized “for the harm I’ve done to the people I love and the people who counted on me” but said she won’t be resigning. In a news conference, she said nothing illegal happened and no policies were violated.

—“I know that God will forgive me, but that Nashville doesn’t have to,” Barry said. “And I hope that I can earn their trust and I can earn your trust back, and that you will forgive me

—-This is classic appearance of impropriety.

—-In the Bill Clinton mold, the mayor is framing this as a matter of marital fealty rather than official misconduct—which it is—so she can argue that it’s just “personal private conduct.”

—-The conduct is unethical whether there are policies or not.

—-This is sexual harassment. The officer was a subordinate, and she was his boss, with the power to fire him or worse. There can be no genuine consent in such situations. In these cases with the typical genders reversed, neither the news media, nor the public, nor, in all likelihood, a hypothetical jury, would see it that way.

—-Barry’s playing the God Card is grounds to remove her all by itself.

—-Come on, #MeToo, show some integrity. Get this workplace predator kicked out of office.

Interestingly, a prominent and respected female, feminist Democrat who comments here with distinction argued in the comments to that post that this wasn’t even a newsworthy story outside of Nashville. Also interestingly, the New York Times disagrees, and even published a spirited—but stupid!—defense of Barry’s conduct, arguing that unlike, say, Al Franken, who was forced to resign for pre-political career conduct and unproven post-political career allegations, the fact that a Democratic mayor—FEMALE! Don’t forget that she is female!–was using state-paid employees under her supervision as a personal, state-funded dating pool does not mean she’s untrustworthy or qualified for high office.

Okey-dokey then! What we have here is an old-fashioned convenient double standard!

And this just in! Nashville’s main newspaper, the Tenneseean, reports that Rob Forrest, the Mayor’s married lover, earned substantially more overtime than the other bodyguards on Barry’s secuirty detail, $173,843.13  between July 2015 and January 2017, which was nearly $53,000 more than the other four bodyguards received combined. But, as several internet wags have noted, let’s be fair: Rob was doing more for the mayor than those other bodyguards..

Now let’s all read the op-ed*, by Margaret Renkl , whom the Times proudly describes as ” a contributing opinion writer.” This time around, I won’t get into such matters as the odd silence of the #MeToo warriors, who have set out to destroy successful men who were accused of being boorish on a single date. I won’t even question the competence of the Times editors, allowing such unethical, illogical, poorly reasoned hypocrisy to make its way into its pages to make Times readers more ethically inept than they already are. No, I just want to focus on Renkle and her claim that Barry shouldn’t have to resign, and the unethical rationalizations for wrongful conduct she gainfully employs along the way.

Here is the complete current list (some new rationalizations will be added soon, but this is plenty). These are just the titles; go here to get the full descriptions. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, Workplace