A few years back, I was required to complete sexual harassment training. Even as a female, I didn’t want to do the training because I was just so busy with other things. But it was required, so I did it. The video was informative and used scenarios to teach the laws that I should obey. But what was missing was the “why” — and by simply answering the “why” question, this training could have been very motivating to me as an employee.
As trained ethicist, I have no doubt that companies would benefit greatly by providing a values-based framework for their compliance training. Compliance shouldn’t just be about telling people “do this” and “don’t do that.” It needs to be set within a larger framework of ethics and corporate values.
One approach that could be very helpful would be that of Narrative Ethics. Narrative Continue reading
In my previous post, I argued that compliance programs in corporations are most effective if they employ a broader ethical/values-based framework. I want to further that argument from a different angle, using findings in cognitive-developmental psychology.
In the 1950s, Lawrence Kohlberg began a research project to determine how humans acquire the moral beliefs that shape their ethical behaviors. Based on his research he argued that there are three basic levels of moral reasoning: Preconventional, Conventional, and Postconventional.
Individuals who operate at the Pre-conventional Level, interpret the rules of social institutions egotistically: right behavior is whatever benefits me. One thinks of Bernard Madoff as an example of a Pre-conventional thinker who earned his wealth by disregarding Continue reading
Biking the California desert
When I lived in Montana a few years back, I discovered a passion for mountain biking. After numerous spills and flips over the handle bars, a seasoned mountain biker gave me a most valuable piece of advice: look in the direction you want to go. If you focus on the single-track in front of you, he said, you’ll stay on the track. If you are constantly looking at the ruts, he warned, you’ll unconsciously swerve that direction and probably find yourself landing on your back, again.
Over time, I discovered that this advice doesn’t just apply to mountain biking. Research shows that it is perhaps THE key to mitigating risk in a corporate environment.
Companies can approach compliance in one of two ways. First, they can focus on preventing illegal activities, i.e. describing and avoiding the ruts. While I’ve not worked at Boeing, a simple glance at their code of conduct indicates that this approach may dominate their compliance programs. The first two points of their code warns against major ethical ruts that Boeing has fallen into in the past decade: don’t engage in activity that is a conflict of interest and don’t take advantage of your Boeing position for personal gain. Certainly, it is important to know where the ruts are located. And in such a highly regulated industry, Boeing has a major challenge in simply mitigating risk.
Yet risk mitigation is far more effective when the programs are informed by an ethical framework that is broader than legal compliance. Thus, we turn to our second approach: Continue reading
This morning, I attended a breakfast hosted by Kiros in which Jean Bartell Barber described her work as Vice President and Treasurer of Bartell Drugs. I was pleased to hear her discuss the ethics that drive company decisions, confirming that Bartell is one of the many companies in the Puget Sound that is seeking to build a company-wide culture that places a high value on people. Barber gave numerous examples of her own efforts to value people while also building a profitable company. For example, after an earthquake struck near the corporate headquarters and caused damage to warehouse and office building, her biggest concern was not losing profitability but keeping her people safe. Or when a pharmacist who had worked for the company for over twenty years made a human error by giving an elderly man the wrong Continue reading
As a teenager sitting at the dinner table while my parents discussed the day, I heard the word again: Integrity. That little word held deep meaning for my father, the regional manager for an HVAC company, who found himself caught in continual battles with the manufacturer of their products. For years the manufacturer had refused to acknowledge defects in some of the machinery sold and distributed by my dad’s office.
As I listened to him describe the day’s battle, I remembered visiting his office months earlier as a call from an irate customer came through. I’d been sitting across from him at his desk, when our conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Joe,” one of his salesmen said, “I’ve got Ron Walls on the phone. I think you’d better talk to him.”
“Sure, transfer him through.” His look told me to sit and wait quietly. The call came through and he picked up the phone, “Joe Smith, speaking.”