Ethics Dunce: Miami Marlins Manager Don Mattingly


When new Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly chose Barry Bonds as his batting coach, it was considered a bold move. Bonds, after all, is simultaneously baseball’s all-time home run champion, holding both the single season and career records, and its biggest cheat, having achieved both records while being secretly, illegally and unethically assisted by steroids. In addition to knowing how to cheat, Bonds undeniably knows how to hit (he was a great hitter before he decided to mutate himself), so this was a chance at redemption for Barry, as well as an opportunity to soften some of the sports media antipathy toward his conduct and character which has so far kept him out of the MLB Hall of Fame.

Asked this week how Barry Bonds was doing as batting coach, Mattingly replied,

“Him getting used to the coaching part of it is a work in progress from a standpoint of the amount of time and the preparation. You see [assistant hitting coach Frankie Menichino] still doing a lot of the prep work. Barry is still getting into the routine of the ugly side of coaching — being here at 1, and studying video, and studying on the plane and you don’t get a chance to watch movies, and things like that. It just depends how good you want to be as a coach. If you want to be a really good coach, you’ve got to do the work.”

Translation: “So far, Barry’s been lazy and isn’t doing his job. His assistant is doing it for him. The job requires a lot of hard, tedious work, and Barry hasn’t shown that he’s willing to do it. At this point, he not a good coach.”

Ethics foul. Mattingly was a fool to hire Bonds, and MLB is wrong to let this sport-wide ethics corrupter set foot in a clubhouse. Bonds is a living, breathing advertisement for the proposition that cheating pays, and should not be trusted not to promote that proposition to young players. Having hired Bonds, however, Mattingly still is obligated to treat him fairly and professionally.

It is not fair and professional to make a negative job review public by communicating it to the news media. Mattingly gave a critique of Bonds’ performance that should have passed from him to Bonds, and only from him to Bonds, in private. Attacking Bonds—and it was an attack, if a passive aggressive one—in the press is unfair, irresponsible, disrespectful, a betrayal of trust, and also cowardly.

Mattingly’s job is called “manager,” and this is atrocious, unethical management. He owes Bonds an apology, and if I were Marlins management, I would be thinking very hard about whether Don Mattingly is qualified for his job.


Ethics Dunces: Paula Deen and “Uncle Bubba”


Like breaking up via text message and telling your spouse you want a divorce in an e-mail, here’s a crummy use of technology that we should hope doesn’t catch on.

Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House, a restaurant owned by Paula Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers Jr., told all of its employees that the place was going out of business on its Facebook page, and that was all. The message:

“Since its opening in 2004, Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House has been a destination for residents and tourists in Savannah, offering the region’s freshest seafood and oysters. However, the restaurant’s owner and operator, Bubba Heirs, has made the decision to close the restaurant in order to explore development options for the waterfront property on which the restaurant is located. At this point, no specific plans have been announced and a range of uses are under consideration in order realize the highest and best use for the property.The closing is effective today, Thursday, April 3, 2014. Employees will be provided with severance based on position and tenure with the restaurant. All effort will be made to find employees comparable employment with other Savannah restaurant organizations.”


Cruel, rude, impersonal, cowardly. Also callous, lazy and inefficient: how many employees were told by third parties about the announcement?

Well, at least Paula’s not a racist. I wonder if the Food Network fired Paula via Facebook? I’m pretty sure it didn’t.


Pointer: Evil HR Lady

Facts: CBS

Workplace Ethics: 62 Things That Are Legal, But 22 Of Them Are Unethical

"Oh, sure, he's hell to work for, but he never breaks any laws, so you'll be fine."

“Oh, sure, he’s hell to work for, but he never breaks any laws, so you’ll be fine.”

I have been remiss in not adding the terrific blog Evil HR Lady to the Ethics Alarms links, and will finally do so as soon as I post this entry. No profession deal s with ethical nuances and dilemmas more frequently than human resources professionals, and they can be very difficult, even gut-wrenching. In a recent post, EHRL searched through the archives of questions she has answered over the past years, and compiled an eye-opening list, especially for non-lawyers, of the conduct employers could engage in legally, which is to say, get away with and not be successfully sued, to employees, together with some questionable kinds of conduct that are legal for employees to do to each other.

She listed 62 of them, many of which are reasonable ( it’s okay to fire an employee for “being a jerk”) and some are obvious, or should be;  it is legal to quote the Bible in the office, for example. What is legal is not always good, fair, or right, however, and I perused the list with an eye out for legal workplace conduct that was legal but still unethical. About a third of the types of conduct on the Evil HR Lady’s list made mine. What follows is the sub-list of the 62 things it is legal to do at work, the 22 things it may be legal to do at work, but which are still unethical. The reasons for my unethical verdict follow Evil HR Lady’s items.

Here’s the list of the unethical 22 workplace practices: Continue reading

Strange Tales Of The Ethically Clueless 1%: When A Birthday Gift Is Worse Than No Gift At All

"Oh, thank you, kind sir!"

“Oh, thank you, kind sir!”

The title of Ethics Dunce doesn’t do Fort Wayne Newspapers CEO Mike Christman justice.

In order to “celebrate” his employees’ birthdays, and, of course, recognize his loyal staff’s value, hard work, industry and loyalty, he gives each member of his corporate family a small token of his  appreciation on his or her birthday, and I do mean small token: a $1.25 token that can be used to buy a soda or a snack at a company vending machine.

How condescending, demeaning, disrespectful, insulting and, of course, cheap: the equivalent of a pat on the head. In the Gilded Age, rich men would occasionally drop nickles on the street for the street urchins to pick up. John D. Rockefeller was the most famous practitioner of this form of low-level charity, though he would use dimes. During the Depression, though he was still a billionaire, he switched to nickels. (Nickels in the Great Depression were worth a lot more than $1.25 today.) His beneficiaries were children, however. Continue reading

Ethics Dunces: Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Software Solutions and David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts (UPDATED)

MSNBC has discovered two CEO’s who have told their employees that if they don’t vote for Mitt Romney—if the Republican isn’t elected—their jobs are at risk. I’m sure there are others like them; probably many others. They are all unethical, and seriously so.

In some jurisdictions what they are doing is illegal, but illegal or not, it is wrong. Nobody with power over others, be they bosses, parents, ministers, teachers, military officers or police officers, should attempt to use that power to influence individual political choices. To do so is coercive, unfair, an offense to personal autonomy and the rights of citizenship, an abuse of power and an abuse of position.

Chris Hayes, who has publicized the efforts of Arthur Allen, CEO of ASG Software Solutions, and David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts to influence the votes of his employees, opined that their efforts were inappropriate and felt “fundamentally coercive.” Exactly. The CEOs have power over their employees’ welfare, and such appeals come with an implied threat.

Telling someone how to vote is presumptuous. Telling someone how to vote when you have authority over him is unethical.

UPDATE: Think Progress has found yet another leaked audio of Mitt Romney talking to supporters, this time to what the progressive website calls the “very conservative” National Federation of Independent Business. I guess when your that far left, almost anything looks “very conservative,” but the NFIB is just a business association, and not especially conservative. Romney, in addressing the excutives, urged them to do essentially what Allen and Siegel did:

“I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope — I hope you pass those along to your employees. Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.”

Mitt’s exhorting them to abuse their power. His advice is unethical.


Graphic: Ars Technica

“Your Boss Is Insane”

On the site Learn Stuff, Sarah Wenger has produced an infographic with a strong ethics message, aimed at the vast number of people in management and supervisory positions in business who abuse their position and power, making those they lead miserable, unproductive, and insane themselves. How many horrible bosses inflict themselves on the nation? That is a mystery, though we know it’s a lot. Incompetent, unfair and irresponsible supervisors at all levels,  as the feature states,

“cost their employees their health and the U.S. economy some serious cash. Employees with bad bosses can lose their hair, gain weight and up their chances of heart disease by a whopping 25%. And to top it all off, poorly managed workplaces are less profitable and have lower levels of productivity. Psychopathic bosses: bad for you, bad for the economy.”

The problem is that management is hard, leadership is harder, formal training in either cannot cure personality defects that make being successful in these two endeavors unlikely, and because truly talented managers and leaders are so rare, most people rise to positions of power without ever experiencing what effective leadership is. A good starting point for any boss is a commitment to fairness and respect, as well as an understanding of what responsibility and accountability mean. That, of course, means ethics.

Here is Sarah Wenger’s infographic, “Your Boss is Insane,” re-published with her permission: Continue reading

And You Think YOU Have An Abusive Boss!

Count your blessings, Homer? Your boss isn’t so bad after all!

We must place the word “alleged” in front of all of this, for it is just a law suit at this point, but if the outrageous conduct described in the complaint made by Albert Sultan against his former boss, Manhattan real estate broker Jack Terzi, is even close to true, Terzi may be the Tin Standard against which all other abusive employers should be judged.

Sultan says in his 15-page lawsuit that he was hired by Terzi in 2009, shortly after Terzi started his real estate business. After three years of Terzi’s reign of terror, Sultan says, he became “emotionally distraught,  humiliated and embarrassed” by “systematic and continuous unlawful harassment” at the hands of his tyrannical and abusive boss, who, among other things…

  • Made him perform personal tasks not in his job description, such as parking Terzi’s car and bringing him coffee.
  • Required him to work a 60-hour week, including 26 Sundays annually, with no sick days or vacation.
  • Cheated him out of six months salary and commissions worth $129,320.

Wait! I haven’t gotten to the juicy stuff yet! Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Chess Lesson: The Tale of the Kidney and the Ungrateful Boss”

New commenter Christine has a valuable personal experience to relate, as an individual who donated a kidney to a stranger herself.  The main thrust of her post covers a topic that I have written on before but did not mention in this case, though I should have. Someone who performs a kind and generous act counting on rewards, copious thanks and gratitude, is  doing it for the wrong reasons. The act itself is all that matters. Certainly, gratitude is the right way to respond to generosity, but an act done in anticipation of personal benefits isn’t really altruistic. It is opportunistic. This is a cliché to be sure, but true nonetheless: the generous act must be its own reward.

Here is Christine’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Chess Lesson: The Tale of the Kidney and the Ungrateful Boss.

I want to also commend Christine for following the comment policies, which many of the new visitors here who commented on this post did not do. I prefer full named on posts, but I only require that I am informed of  every commenter’s real name and have a valid e-mail address within a reasonable time of their first submitted comment. One way or the other virtually all of the regular commenters here have managed to do this, and it makes a difference, even in my responses. I regard such commenters as collaborators , not just marauders, and most of the time, I treat them accordingly:  tgt, Steven, Lianne, Margy, Glenn, Tim, both Michaels, Karl, Neil, Karla, Rick, blameblakeart, Barry, gregory, Eric, Curmudgeon, Eeyore, Julian, King Kool, Joshua, Jay, Tom, Bill, Danielle, Elizabeth, Patrice, Ed, Bob, The Ethics Sage and Jeff…I know there are others.   Thanks to all of you for letting me know who you are.

Now, Christine: Continue reading

Ethics Chess Lesson: The Tale of the Kidney and the Ungrateful Boss

Ethics chess is complicated, but ignore it at your peril!

Ethics chess is the process by which one considers the likely chain of events that follow from an act, and tries to predict the ethical dilemmas that may result before they occur. Debbie Stevens and Jackie Brucia didn’t play ethics chess. This is what happened to them.

When  Stevens was exploring the possibility of returning to the Atlantic Automotive Group, where she had worked previously, she met with Brucia, her former and potential boss, and somehow got on the topic of Brucia’s health problems. She needed a kidney transplant, and had found a donor, though it was not yet certain that the kidney would be hers. Stevens said that she might be willing to contribute her own kidney if that donor didn’t work out.

Later, Stevens was hired by Brucia,and two months later, in January of 2011,  Brucia called Stevens into her office and told her that she had lost her organ donor. “Were you serious when you said you would be willing to give me one of yours?’ Brucia asked.  “Sure, yeah,” Stevens says now. “She was my boss, I respected her. It’s just who I am. I didn’t want her to die.’’ It wasn’t exactly a direct donation, but Stevens donated her kidney to a stranger who matched up well with it so Brucia could be advanced on the list and get a better matched kidney from another source. Nonetheless, Brucia got a healthy kidney because Steven’s gave up one of her own. Continue reading

Unethical Employer of the Week: William Ernst

There has been an increase, it seems, in news reports about outrageously abusive, sadistic, unfeeling or generally unethical conduct by employers, either because the nation’s economic problems are bringing out the worst in people, or because I’m getting better at finding them. This story settles it: I’m establishing a new regular category, “Unethical Employer of the Week.” And there couldn’t be a more deserving initial awardee than William Ernst, the owner of a chain of QC Marts in Iowa and Illinois. Continue reading