Tag Archives: condescension

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/22/17

Good Morning from sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, where I recently arrived to prepare for an ethics seminar I will be giving to a most ethical law firm. Ironically, the law firms that least require my guidance are the only ones that hire me. The law firms that desperately need ethics training don’t care.

1. Today in line (Group 6) to board my 6:45 AM American Airlines flight and wishing I were dead, my eyes were treated to the brilliant yellow jacket being worn by a young woman in front of me. In part because I wasn’t awake, I blurted out, “Thank-you for that jacket! The yellow is exactly the stimulation I need right now!” She smiled broadly and said, I think sincerely, “Thank you!” And suddenly I was reminded of the  phony anti-Trump outrage of ten days ago, when the President allegedly embarrassed the nation and showed that he was a pig by daring to say to Mrs. Macron, “You’re in such good shape!”

By the reaction across the media, you would have thought he said, “What a great rack!” while drooling. There is nothing inherently inappropriate abut a spontaneous compliment on a woman’s appearance. It’s dangerous in the workplace, because there are women who are locked and loaded to cry harassment at such comments, no matter how mild or innocent, and if a women feels harassed, sayeth the law, you’re probably a harasser. However, actual human interaction involves reading people and situations, and every one is different.

Trump’s comment can easily be justified. I’m sure he’s used to women feeling like trolls when forced to stand next to his model wife, and a sincere sounding compliment is probably well-received. I was once passing through a receiving line that included a woman whom I had not seen for a year or so, and she had lost a great deal of weight. “You look great!” I said without thinking every hard about it. She appreciated the compliment; she had worked hard to lose the weight, and was glad I not only noticed, but that I said so.

Another encounter came when a young woman got on the elevator with me at a hotel a few months ago. She was wearing a sleeveless something or other, and her bulging biceps were hard to ignore. “Nice guns!” I said. She responded immediately with, “Thank you! I worked hard for them. Most guys think they’re gross.”

“Nah, they’re just insecure,” I said. “Being jerks. Don’t let them discourage you.”

“Thanks for that too!” she said, smiling, and got off on her floor.

Lots of factors go into whether a compliment is taken as a benign social gesture or a rude salacious intrusion. My actors in the ProEthics sexual harassment seminars do a skit in which “Good morning” is delivered in a way that could be sexual harassment, and “Wow, you look terrific this morning!” is said in a manner that raises no red flags at all. A chraming and skilled speaker can make comments that would have gotten me thrashed by that female bodybuilder sound like a sonnet. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex

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

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Leadership

The Chivalry Curse, the President, and the Dazzling Smile

The Chair of the Democratic National Committee

The Republicans seldom look more silly—and politics seldom looks more cynical— than when the GOP complains that the media or liberal interest groups are ignoring conduct by a progressive politician that they would vociferously criticize if a conservative politician behaved similarly, even though the Republicans themselves see nothing wrong with the conduct, and would scream that the criticism was unfair if it was focused on a conservative. This is yet another of the funhouse mirror versions of the Golden Rule in action, being employed for a dubious “Gotcha!”: “Do Unto Others As You Would Do Unto Me, Even Though If You Did That Unto Me, I Would Condemn You For It.”

It is the game Republican women’s groups and  conservative pundits are playing now, because the National Organization for Women hasn’t rapped the knuckles of President Obama for calling Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D.-Fla.), the Democratic National Committee Chair, “cute.”

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America (a conservative women’s organization), called out NOW on its double standard, and said,“Of all people who ought to be offended at President Obama’s statement it should be an ardent feminist like Wasserman-Schultz. Isn’t objectifying women by their looks a mortal sin among feminists?” Charlotte Hayes, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, the conservative twin of NOW, argued, “If a conservative had said this, [NOW] might have gone quite crazy. The Democrats might have gone quite crazy and tried to have his head on a platter. I guess Democrats could get really mad because you say a woman has a charming smile.”

But, she added, “I’m not one of those people who gets mad if you said I have a charming smile. I would be flattered.”

For its part, NOW has said that it has more pressing matters than criticizing a major ally’s politically incorrect gaffe, much as it couldn’t be bothered to criticize Bill Maher for calling Sarah Palin a “dumb twat” or MSNBC’s Ed Schultz for describing conservative pundit and single mother Laura Ingraham as a “right wing slut.” The President and the woman with the cute smile, meanwhile, are ignoring the whole thing.
Here is the irony, and the problem: they are all wrong. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions, U.S. Society, Workplace

Apology I.O.U of the Month: Gawker to Sarah Palin

Don’t you just hate it when you give a snarky, belittling, “you’re such an idiot to believe that” response to someone’s complaint, only to discover that they were right and you are the idiot? I sure do, and yes, it has happened to me.

The ethical way to avoid this, if you are Gawker, the habitually unethical gossip website, is to 1) not violate copyright laws by publishing long, bootlegged excerpts from Sarah Palin’s as yet unreleased new book without the publisher’s permission,  2) not respond, when she suggests in a tweet that this is illegal, by saying—

“Sarah: If you’re reading this—and if you are, welcome!—you may want to take a moment to familiarize yourself with the law. Try starting here or here. Or skip the totally boring reading and call one of your lawyers. They’ll walk you through it.” Continue reading

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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, The Internet

Adrian Fenty and the Leader’s Duty of Likability

Arch Lustberg is an old friend, and also a wise man. He is a communications trainer and expert par excellence, and the number of failed politicians who would have been elected had they hired him is legion, and growing with every election. One of Arch’s mantras is that likability is essential to trust. A public figure can be brilliant, creative, eloquent and effective, but if he or she is not liked, all of those assets may be not be enough to win the support of the public. Arch was proven right once again when D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, praised by the D.C. media for a series of reforms in the city, notably of the infamously bloated and ineffective school system, lost his bid for re-election. Fenty, as reported by the Washington Post, really believed that doing his job would be enough, that the symbolic gestures and image-building activities used by savvy leaders to cement their electoral base were unnecessary, a waste of time. Now he is out, defeated by an opponent who embraced the endorsement of Marion Barry, whose corruption of the D.C. political culture still endures, three decades after he was mayor.

If you think I am going to argue that Adrian Fenty is a principled public servant laid low by public ignorance and warped priorities, you are wrong. Continue reading

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