Tag Archives: niceness

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/8/18: Breaking Radio Silence

Good Morning!

Adventures in Woburn, Mass.:

1. The Event. I guess I should have assumed that some commenting here would go on yesterday about the unpleasantness involving an ex-participant here, while that dispute was causing me to lose all of yesterday between travel and court. (I alomot tried to put up a post late last night, but was too fried.) I have little to say on the matter, which is still being considered, except that I did learn some surprising things, such as that

  • …the weakness of the concept of “lawyer-in-all-but-degree” tends to be exposed in court;
  • …being banned from an ethics website is an existential catastrophe, and actionable, according to “lawyers-in-all-but degree”;
  • …having a great poker face is an essential talent for a judge:
  • ….in  lawyer-in-all-but-degree schools, they apparently teach that the position that “judicial misconduct” and “judicial ethics” are essentially the same topic is ridiculous and libelous, and
  • ….playing the part of Van Johnson in “The Caine Mutiny” just isn’t as much fun in real life as it seems to be in the movie, if you get my drift. It’s kind of embarrassing and sad.

2. A airport encounter:  In the airport on the way to Boston and waiting for my flight in an early morning mob, I was anxiously wandering through the crowd when I heard a quiet male vice say, “Nice tie!” It was not obvious who had spoken, but I decided it had to be a young African American airport employee who was helping a traveler in a wheel chair. “Did you just say ‘nice tie’?” I asked him, though he was not looking at me. Then he lit up, said that he had, and got into a long conversation with me about ties. He is a tie aficionado. He has photos of his ties on his cell phone! He loves talking about ties! And thus I connected with a fellow human being in a chance encounter, when he took the step of breaking through the silence and mutual disinterest that increasingly marks the daily interactions of Americans, even neighbors. I also ensured that he would not feel like I was ignoring his existence when he had taken the risk of an unsolicited overture to interact. [Unlike the female jogger I write about here.] Contrary to some of the comments that I received then, I don’t think anything about the chance encounter yesterday should have been different if the participants had been different ages, races, ages, or stations in life. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, Character, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement

A Concise Ethics Rant On A Chance Encounter While Walking Rugby

It was cloudy and rumbling, and Jack Russell Terriers are notoriously difficult if they don’t get at least one good walk every day. So I decided to try to beat the rain and get Rugby out for a swing around the neighborhood. It kept getting darker, windier, and the distant thunder was getting louder. Rugby was in fine fettle, I must say, though he felt compelled to pee on every bush, rock, or tuft of grass. I have never seen a dog who seemed to enjoy a walk so much. I wish there was something, anything, I could get that excited about every day.

We were in the home stretch, about to loop around the church that faces our house across a parking lot and a row of trees. Then a young woman, maybe in her 20’s, dressed for the task, jogged toward us, pony tail swinging. She had that cold, stony, “I don’t want to acknowledge anyone” look on her face that so many younger people cultivate today. I looked at her and smiled anyway. That was how I was brought up, you see. We acknowledge each other. We signal good will, and that we are part of the same community. We are nice.

As she jogged past, I said, certainly loud enough that she could hear me, “Don’t get caught in the rain!” That is an incidental, spontaneous, friendly comment between strangers. I must engage in, and respond to, dozens of such comments a week, while shopping, teaching, or walking the dog.  They require a response: a nod, a smile, a brief answer like “I won’t!” What I got was a snub. No response at all.

I felt like I was being treated like an unfamous Morgan Freeman, as if my statement was, “Hey, honey, good form!” I wasn’t flirting with her, or harassing her. I was being a human being, and doing what human beings need to do to make life bearable.  And I felt insulted.

Yup, I’m old enough to be her father…grandfather, even. That, I was taught, makes showing some respect, like acknowledging that I spoke to her in a friendly, neighborly manner, even more mandatory as an ethical social response.

If this is where feminism, #MeT00, and  generational bias is leading young women today, they will poison the next iteration of our society, not cure it.

Meanwhile, I am pondering whether there is an ethical, effective follow-up response to the next jogger who treats me like a turd on the sidewalk.

The options I am thinking now clearly would not be  constructive.

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Filed under Animals, Character, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, U.S. Society

Discrimination Or Negotiation? The Phony “All The Money In The World” Pay Controversy

As usual, the headlines are misleading, and the reporting is soaked with emotion.. Michelle Williams Is Reportedly Worth 1500% Less Than Mark Walberg To Sony…

is a typical example. Fake news. Mark Wahlberg reportedly made 1500 times what Michelle Williams did for All the Money reshoots. True, but misleading. Here is what happened:

“All the Money in the World” is the film that had to be substantially re-shot after tyhe decision was made to make Kevin Spacey, in a major role, disappear, with his part taken by Christopher Plummer. This required far more re-shooting than a typical finished film requires. Most movie contracts require a certain number of reshoot days as a routine stipulation for the actors, who must make themselves available as needed. If more than the usual additional filming is needed, however, actors are not obligated to work beyond what they reasonably expected.  Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg had agreed to appear in “All the Money in the World” for less than their standard fee, but when they had to go an extra mile to let the film be completed, they each took a different tack.

Williams was nice, and quickly agreed to return, believing, without being told so,that other participants had made the same decision. She even worked over Thanksgiving,  arranging for her 12-year-old daughter, Matilda, to spend the holiday without her. “They could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted,” she Told the New York Times. “Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.” (…to get rid of Kevin Spacey!)

Her co-star Mark Wahlberg, however, realized that he had leverage over the production team. He was the only major cast member with no commitment to reshoot his scenes. The finished film was set to be released in theaters in about a month, on December 25, so he had terrific leverage. In Hollywood, leverage equals big bucks. He told his primary agent, Doug Lucterhand, to play hardball, and negotiate for as much money as he could get.

The production company ultimately agreed to a $1.5 million payment.

Is this gender discrimination? No. Is it an example of bias? No. Is it unfair? Well, only in that life is unfair, some people are more shrewd than others, Hollywood isn’t kindergarten, and nice guys finish last, as Leo Durocher said. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Journalism & Media, Workplace

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

Introducing Rationalization #63. Irrelevant Civility and #64 A. Bluto’s Mistake

The most infuriating comment threads on Ethics Alarms are those in which one or more intelligent readers are desperately tying to dispute the indisputable ethics breach, and finding no substantive ethical argument because there are none, desperately throw one rationalization after another against the metaphorical wall to see if they’ll stick. They don’t of, course.

Occasionally, however, there is a benefit to the exercise: in their furious effort to find an legitimate argument while hunting through the rationalization dumpster, one of the protesters uncovers one that the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List had thus far missed. So it is with one of the most rationalization-choked exchanges ever to break-out on this site, the debate over the cast of “Hamilton” crossing multiple ethics lines, thick red ones, to exploit the  opportunity for political grandstanding occasioned by Vice-President Elect Mike Peck engaging in the benign and supportive act of attending their show. (The posts on this episode are here and here.) Not only was a new rationalization revealed#63, Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!”—but my thinking about that one revealed that I had also missed another one, distinct but related, #63A, Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

The total number of rationalizations on the list now stands at 80.

Rationalization 63. Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners

Ethics Quiz: Is Nice Necessarily Ethical?

checkin

If it seems like I always have ethics dilemmas to deal with on the road, your impression is correct. I’m at a hotel in Boston, and I have another one.

I arrived at the hotel after a late flight tired, with a headache. The door was locked, which is sometimes the case after 10 or so at small hotels; it was 11:30 PM. So I rang the bell. Nobody. I rang it again. And again. I knocked. Then I rang again. Finally, I went into the pub next door, which was also closed, but the door was ajar. “Does anyone know how I’m supposed to get checked into the hotel?” I asked>

Someone did know: the hotel night clerk, who had gone next door to watch TV.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should I complain to the hotel management about this?

Continue reading

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The Special Needs Student, the Compassionate Teacher and the “Awww!” Factor (UPDATED)

Debra Fisher

Regular readers here are familiar with the “Ick Factor,” the common phenomenon where a situation that causes an emotional response of revulsion, disgust or fear is labelled unethical when there is nothing unethical about it. Many kinds of conduct are icky, but still on the right side of ethics, if only one can put aside the gag reflex. The reverse of the Ick Factor is the less common “Awww!” Factor, where particular conduct seems loving, caring and nice, but is in fact unethical in one or more respects. Such is the case of New York City special needs teacher Debra Fisher.

In October, Fisher was suspended when e-mails were discovered on the school computer system showing that she had been spending school time raising funds for a special project on behalf of Aaron Phillip, a thirteen year old special needs student who is an aspiring animator with his own blog. The project’s goal was to raise $15,000 for a nonprofit devoted to developing Aaron’s talent, an organization called “This Ability Not Disability” founded and administered by Fisher.

Awww!

The problem was that while her efforts on behalf of the student were supported by the school, Fisher, an occupational therapist at Public School 333 with nine years of service, did not have permission to perform them during school hours. Thus she was suspended for six weeks. Now she is suing the school system for back pay, telling reporters, “I’m just trying to fight for what I believe is right.”

If she believes she is right, then she shouldn’t be working at the school at all, because she is in fact dead wrong.

But awfully nice. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Workplace