Tag Archives: ethics training

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Christmas Eve 2017: I TRIED To Find Upbeat, Inspirational Items Today, Santa, I Really Did…

Goooood MORNING!

1  I believe the correct term is “rude”...Social norms are necessary to maintain ethical standards, and they need to move quickly when conduct begins to resemble the “broken windows” that trigger urban decay. Years ago there was much complaining about solo diners talking on cell phones in restaurants, a gripe based on “ick” and not ethics. A diner’s table is his or her domain, and if one chooses to talk to a friend who is physically present or one who is elsewhere, that’s no other diner’s business unless the conversation breaks the sound barrier. However, walking around a store while having a loud, endless conversation via earpiece and phone is obnoxious in the extreme. That’s a public place, and the market is an important traditional locus for social interaction and community bonding. Technology is creating toxic social habits that are creating isolation and the deterioration in social skills, including basic respect for the human beings with whom we share existence. I almost confronted a young woman at the CVS last night who was cruising the aisles, laughing and dishing with a friend over her phone,  sometimes bumping into other shoppers in the process.

I wish I had. Next time.

2. I hadn’t thought of this, but it’s obviously a problem of longstanding. Local school boards are traditional gateways to public service and politics, but the previously typical citizens who become involved often have no experience or understanding regarding the basic ethics principle of public office. In San Antonio, for example, a jury acquitted San Antonio Independent School District trustee Olga Hernandez of conspiracy to commit honest service wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes, the result was dictated by her utter cluelessness rather than any doubts about what she did. Testimony revealed an inner-city school district where vendors and board members developed relationships that created conflicts of interest and compromised judgment. The vendors knew what was going on, but the school board members may not have.

Hernandez, for example, testified that she considered the plane tickets, complimentary hotel stays, jewelry, meals and campaign contributions she received from those connected with a local insurance brokerage firm doing business with the school district as favors and gifts from friends. Coincidentally, none of them had been her friends before she was in a position to help them make money.

The beginning of careers in public service is when ethics training is most crucial, not later. How many school board members are required to attend a basic ethics seminar regarding government ethics? I would love to know. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/25/17

Good Morning!

1. The National Review began its story on this topic thusly:

“California and New York will become the first states to allow illegal immigrants to practice law and be sworn in as lawyers. In so doing, they will grant the privilege of upholding the law and defending the U.S. Constitution to people who have intentionally violated the rules, and who have no right whatsoever to be here.”

This is a fair and objective description. I detest conservative radio talk show host Micheal Savage, who wrote a right wing attack tome called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder” just as I detest that title, and the approach to civil discourse and political disagreements that goes with it. (Ann Coulter preaches the same message, but is funnier when she does it.) However, when I read about things like this, I feel a magnetic pull to the position. In 2013, Governor Brown  signed into law a provision allowing illegal immigrants to be awarded licenses to practice law in the state California. At the same time as he vetoed nother bill passed by his reliably wacko legislature that would have allowed those who would not obey the nation’s immigration laws to be eligible to serve on juries, and thus pass judgment on the alleged crimes of U.S. citizens. Ponder that contrast for a minute, and see if your head explodes. Brown had a convoluted explanation for the seeming contradiction, but what he was doing was obvious: he was pandering to illegals and their supporters. Serving on juries is an obligation of citizenship that citizens find onerous: telling illegals that they didn’t have to meet this obligation while still harvesting citizenship benefits was a welcome decision.

At the time I wrote,

“I am not surprised by this turn of events, just made nauseous by it. I almost closed comments for this post. If I really have to explain to someone why those who have never taken affirmative steps to become citizens in this country should not be allowed to practice its laws after years of being in defiance of its laws, I’m not sure its worth the effort.”

Continue reading

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Least Surprising Headline Of This Or Any Other Year: “Trump’s Team Nixed Ethics Course For White House Staff”

Of course they did.

Simulation of a typical ethics training session...

Simulation of a typical ethics training session…

From Politico:

President Donald Trump’s team rejected a course for senior White House staff, Cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management, according to documents obtained by POLITICO….But the contract was never awarded because after the election the transition team shifted its priorities, according to a letter the General Services Administration sent to bidders such as the Partnership for Public Service. The program was expected to cost $1 million, the documents show. The contract-based training program was authorized in 2000, and the Obama and Bush transitions both received the training.

“It has been determined that the requirements as defined in the RFQ do not accurately reflect the current needs of the Presidential Transition Team,” the GSA contracting officer, Matthew Gormley, wrote in the Jan. 10 letter.

Comments:

1. Welcome to my world. With very, very rare exceptions, most organizations, including the government and all levels of it, still regard ethics training as a luxury, a low-priority, a necessary evil, a waste of time, or all of these.

2. And, to be fair, most ethics trainings, and I am certain this is true of virtually all government ethics training, cover ethics rules and laws, and provide no real training in ethical decision-making and ethical problem solving at all. This means that as far as actually improving the ethics of the staff and management goes, they are a waste of time.

3. If I’m not facilitating them, they are also usually tear-your-eyes-out-of-their-sockets boring. Continue reading

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From The “It’s No Fun Being An Ethicist” Files: I Offend Some Seminar Attendees…

mao

I facilitated a professional ethics seminar a while ago for a scholarly institution, (The locale, names and client have been changed to protect the guilty.) The discussion came around to rationalizations and my favorite on the list, #22:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. Yet amazingly, this excuse is popular in high places: witness the “Abu Ghraib was bad, but our soldiers would never cut off Nick Berg’s head” argument that was common during the height of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal. It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

In this case I did a sarcastic riff that is usually well received, about the common example of #22, “It’s not like he killed somebody”:

“Well, you can’t argue with that logic, can you? And if he did kill somebody, it’s not like he killed two people. And even then, that’s not as bad as being, say, a serial killer, like Son of Sam, who, when you think about it, isn’t nearly as bad as a mass murderer like Osama bin Laden. But he’s not as bad as Hitler, and even Adolf isn’t as bad as Mao, who killed about ten times more people than Hitler did. And Mao’s no so bad when you compare him to Darth Vader, who blew up Princess Leia’s whole planet…”

It made the point, and the audience laughed. Then, quite a bit later, I received an e-mail from a participant, complaing about this section. Can you guess what the complaint was?

Think about it a bit…

Time’s up!

Do you have an answer? Continue reading

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Why Is This News?

To again quote a wise baby: "This is my shocked face..."

To again quote a cynical baby: “This is my shocked face…”

From McClatchey:

No record that Clinton, aides took required ethics training 

“There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton or her top aides completed ethics training when they started at the State Department as required by federal law. State Department records show only three of nine top Clinton aides took the mandated training for new employees. Records also suggest that none of seven top aides required to take subsequent annual training completed it.”

I’m sorry: I actually laughed out loud when I read this. STOP THE PRESSES! Actually, the news would be if Hillary attended any ethics training.

Anywhere.

Ever.

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Good News On Business Ethics? Maybe: The Ethics Research Center’s 2014 National Business Ethics Survey

ERC surveyThe Ethics Resource Center, a distinguished Washington, D.C. based ethics research and consulting firm, performs a survey of business employees every two years to measure trends in workplace ethics. It’s 2013 survey and report was released last week, and appears to bear good tidings. Workplace misconduct is on the decline, the data says.  41 percent of employees observed misconduct in 2013, way down from 55 percent in 2007. Moreover, ERC’s “National Business Ethics Survey,” which polled 6,400 U.S. employees, found that only 9 percent of employees polled felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13 percent in the previous survey in 2011.

ERC Chairman Michael G. Oxley  (of Sarbanes-Oxley fame) said in a release,“The results of the survey are encouraging and show that companies are doing a better job of holding workers accountable, imposing discipline for misconduct, and letting it be known publicly that bad behavior will be punished.”

Among the survey’s intriguing findings:

  • “Over the last two years, observed misconduct fell in every one of the 26 specific categories we asked about in both NBES 2011 and NBES 2013.
  • “Pressure to compromise standards, often a leading indicator of future misconduct, also was down – falling from 13 percent in 2011 to nine percent in the latest survey.”

Less encouraging are these: Continue reading

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Unethical Ethics: How Business and Government Encourage Unethical Thinking In Their Ethics Training

Show us the way, O Wise and Ethical One!

Jack Abramoff, the corrupt lobbyist turned federal prisoner, then author and now ethics expert, will be giving a lecture on government and personal ethics at The University of Texas at Austin’s business school on May 2. This is not as unusual as it seems. My biggest competitors are felons and disbarred lawyers—they literally step right out of professional disgrace, and sometimes jail, into the lecture circuit. They are draws, and in a field like ethics, which is often prescribed as substitute for barbiturates, this is irresistible to professional development programmers and conference organizers. It also attracts the participants that most need real ethics training, but who seek what these fake ethics presenter usually have to offer:  real life-based advice on what you can’t get away with. This lesson has about as much to do with ethics as it does with Parcheesi, but unfortunately, that’s what is generally regarded as practical ethics.

Characters like Abramoff don’t have ethics alarms; they have survival alarms.  Business schools, politicians and the media still believe that aiming reforms at those alarms, in the form of tougher rules and enforcement, will make business and government more ethical. Think about it: the cultures will still be unethical; the people in them will be just as unethical, but because proven scofflaws and ethics corrupters like  Jack Abramoff will explain where they went wrong, all these people with dead ethics alarms, further deadened by absorbing  the wisdom of the most corrupt of a corrupt breed, will stop behaving unethically.

Good plan. Continue reading

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