Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thinking a Lot About Ethics

I've been a lot of training in the last month, much of it very repetitive of past training. Many sessions are something for my current position to just check a box that it was completed. The ethics training the other day, now that one, while duplicative of other training I''ve had, has had me thinking. I've been thinking about  a lot of gray matter in society today, and quite frankly, in my own day to day way I function and see others functioning in the world. Courses like this are good for that. I believe we all need to regularly examine our own code of conduct, look at our conflict of interest, and look at our actions from the perspective of an observer.. Of course in the work place, violating codes of ethics, as defined by the company, is more than just our own code to live by, violating them cause for discipline or even losing a job. Yet, even there could be what is seen as gray matter-is it right or wrong, or is that answer in the eye of the beholder? An action might, not technically breaking a rule or violating policy, but might raise some eyebrows.I can justify my actions with the best of them, which is why self examiniation is valuable to me personally.

In a training video, they kept referring to the newspaper test. How would the action be perceived if it was printed and on the front cover of a newspaper? Would it still seem innocent? With ethics, it is important to realize different situations may also create just a perception of being a conflict of interest, and that too needs to be considered and disclosed. My job carries a lot of this, both internally and externally because of the nature of my work and where I work. I've always felt held to a higher standard than the general public, but the training reinforced that. I don't think anyone is immune from looking backwards at your own behaviors or behaviors by others and relooking at how ethical behavior was or was not in play. For me, the training reiterated that the unethical practises I regularly witnessed at my old company and lack of the highest leadership discontinuing even when pointed out, were indeed, ample reason for me to leave. Furthermore, each day I stayed, made me complicit because my job was interwoven in some of the practises.

Not all decisions of ethics are life changing, demanding a public stand or leaving the work place, relationship ending, or triggering media attention. Still, there are masses of situations that might sniff of being unethical, yet might seem trivial. Just for fun, here's a few of said situations I've encountered, either directly, o r learned aboutbefore or after the fact, that may or may not have been handled ethically. No real names are being used. I'd love your take on any, so play along in the comments. 

1. Jan is charged with ordering lunch for an upcoming meeting that 40 people will be attending. Leftovers are brought back to the division for staff to enjoy, one of the few food related perks because of the tight budgets. She contemplates increasing the head count, with the rationalization that some meeting attendees might not have responded. 

2. Brian and his neighbor are putting up a side green border together and made an agreement to purchase the same type of shrubs. Brian finds a sale of three shrubs for the price of two. Together they need 18, but only end up having to pay for twelve because of the sale. Brian is contemplating giving his neighbor the cost of nine, figuring that since he was the one that to found the sale and went and made the purchase, the savings could just flow to him as the neighbor was expecting to pay for nine anyway.

3. Leah joins her friends out for a spring book club happy hour. She's not a drinker, so just orders water. She was going to be eating supper with her family later and decided she didn't want to spend the money on food at the bar. Her friends appetizers come, and she is invited to help herself, and ends up with nice assortment of nibbles. She decides she has no obligation to put any money towards the bill when it comes since she didn't order anything, and was just sharing  a little offered food that would have probably gone uneaten anyway. (Note-this is a somewhat regular habit of Leah.) 

4. Bob's son needs to have two signatures documenting his participation on an activity. The group leader is not available. Bob signs,as he was a parent volunteer, but makes note of the actual leaders name on the form. His son;s friend asks if he will also sign for that child. Bob is not aware if the child did or did not participate because he was not in his son;s group. He knows the kid and doesn't want him to miss out on the credit so considers signing for him as well. 

5. Jennifer's daughter is applying for a scholarship. There is an essay portion but her daughter is running out of time. Jennifer quick writes up a sample essay including various activities her daughter has done that contribute to the topic. Later, her daughter does a quick review and slight edits, but copies and pastes for the most part, what Jennifer wrote. Jennifer figures every parent helps their child with homework from time to time and this was just a little bit of help since her daughter had to review and edit anyway. 


Dilemmas, dilemmas! Ethics, an interesting topic to me and not just because I'm a political wonk. To live in a civil society, there needs to be agreed upon definitions of what is and is not ethical. Easier said than done when there are so many different belief systems. 

18 comments:

  1. My answers: 1) Yes, but only clearing it with my cost center manager. 2) NO! If I was the one actually buying the shrubs I would split the cost 50/50, period. If I was the other neighbor, though, I would also offer to compensate for the time/nuisance spent procuring the shrubs. 3) I wouldn't find myself in such a position, so can't really answer. I try not to either eat, or spend without intention. If I was Leah, I would have made my plan clear before I went in. Even if I didn't eat anything, I would realize I am taking space up in the establishment, and would put in for the tip. 4) Tough: The group leader isn't present, and that's not the kid's fault, so I would probably sign my son's form, and make a note of the situation. With the other kid, again, not the kid's fault group leader isn't there, so I would do it, but let the kid know he was on his honor to be truthful...might make him write up a statement too. 5) Absolutely. I will be the one footing the bill for the education, so heck, yes. But, I would have had kid work waaaaay beforehand to produce a standard college entrance/scholarship essay to have at the ready. This one needs more detail, though. We don't know what else the kid has been doing while Jennifer typed up a sample...did she have a huge project due in honors English which prevented her from working on this, or a commitment to a stage production, like orchestra, choir or dance? Or was she frittering away her time on nonsense?

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    1. Ineresting responses and not what I might have guessed on one of them. Thanks for playing!

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  2. Wow, very interesting. I've always lived by the definition of the word Integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. (1)No, if 40 people is the head count then order food for only 40 and pray that 20 of them don't show up! (2)This happened to me recently and I made my neighbor aware of the savings and split it with her. I didn't even get a thank you, but I know I did the right thing. (3) Oooooo, this one! When I was going to school about 10 years ago, we had a study group that would get together at a local Mexican restaurant. One girl would show up and order only water and eat bowls and bowls of the free chips & salsa then at the end she refused to pay anything because those were "free", just like the water. (4) I used to teach a Sunday School class and the students were required to attend the church service afterwards and then have the teachers sign that they saw that student in class. Several never actually went in and just stood outside waiting for teachers (of which I was one) to come out and sign for them. I would never do that, I had to have seen them at the service, so several of them would come sit in front of me LOL! (5) I've never had this happen, but I would have make bullet points and had the child actually write it out herself.

    Well those are my answers, this was an excellent post!

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    1. The freebie grazers drive me crazy, but then I learned that someone I know that behaves like the Leah in this scenario, was actually struggling financially and didn;t feel she could afford to go out, but missed being a part of things. I try to think more "kind" than I used to.

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  3. Interesting ethical dilemmas there. Some to me a blatantly ethical violations and some are not as clear.
    1. If there were generally leftovers anyway, I would not order for non-responders figuring there would be enough food for a couple of extras.
    2. Divide the total cost in half, tell the neighbor what a good deal you got and see if he then feels ethically inclined to dig the majority of the holes or at least spring for lunch on "dig day".
    3. This is the big huge ethical violation on many fronts for me. First to go somewhere and order water only is a huge no-no. At least order a sparkling water or cup of coffee or tea, and tip generously. You can't expect someone on a server's wage to bring you something free with no compensation. There also should be some financial offering to the person who shared their order. On the flip side if I ordered and offered to share I would expect nothing because I would be offering freely. (I do have a friend like this and it does get old)
    4. I am on the fence about this one.
    5. Sorry but if you are going to apply for college scholarships and have no time or inclination to write your own essay, you really have no business applying. I never even read my kids essays after they had been written, because I was not the one applying.

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    1. I love your response to number 2-something similar happened in our neighborhood and the person that had been expecting to pay more thrilled withthe great deal, supplied the post work beer for their little worker party. We all also chipped in for pizza later on and it was a good neighborly experience.

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  4. Okay, here goes from my side:
    1) Would not order more, unless people not RVSPing is a common occurrence. Would certainly not order more in order to end up with leftovers. If that's a benefit of ensuring there's adequate food, that's a different issue.

    2) I would give my neighbor the price I paid, and not pretend I'd paid more. If I have a neighbor that is going in on something with me, I'd want to keep & maintain the relationship. I'd want them to do the same. Finding a great price on something is a nice thing to do, and should be split by all payers.

    3) I'm not a fan of Leah's approach. At all. It comes across as cheap. I'd recommend she leaves the tip for all. That way, she covers a bit of everyone's bill. Paying nothing but eating a chunk of the food isn't okay. Maybe her friends would have taken stuff home & had an extra meal or snack out of the food.

    4) This sounds like a Boy Scouts thing, & I definitely wouldn't because Boy Scouts is all about teaching responsibility and accountability. The parents are not setting the right example - if you don't know if someone did the work, don't sign off on it.

    5) Kids need to write their own essays. If they want me to read it & give verbal feedback, I might be willing to do that.

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    1. I love the detail you are all inlcuding in your answers! I smile on the first one because our awesome office person has ordering down to a science, and takes our budgets very seriously. Sometimes the caterers, especially when family style, are extra generous or give what I call linebacker size portions and even with scaling back there are leftovers. Ignoring my integrity is not worth a free lunch to me though!

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  5. Gee whiz, you are getting me to think when I have the flu. 1. Since I have seen this scenario time and time again with a member of our extended family (They call it shrewd business) (I call it dishonest)I would order for those who called back. You can always stretch food a little.
    2. I would split 50/50 but my neighbor would not.
    3.My husbands family would allow you to pay for every meal in a similar circumstance. They call it frugal I call it cheap and usury. I think you could get away with it once, but after a few times you would get a reputation and people would talk.
    4. I would not, as I have seen parents do that in scouts when they don't have the skills, and then get into life threatening situations. (ex. tippy test on a canoe in a river)
    5.Heck yes I would help or do this, I foot the bill. But I would be on top of this first and for most.

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    1. So sorry you are still feeling lousy, but thanks for playing along. I love good discussion like this-it gives me hope for our world that people can be open and honest, even if what thye say is difficult.

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  6. 3) Leah should at least chip in towards the tip, even if it's just a little. Since you say this is a regular habit of hers, I would probably think she leans towards being a moocher taking advantage of the generosity of her friends. I've seen this so much.

    5) Jennifer should not be doing a thing except to maybe review the final draft of her daughter's scholarship essay and give her some tips. This is what I did with my daughter for all of her college application essays actually. I wanted my daughter to know she earned it and did it all herself. They need to do their own work, it's how they learn, fail and then learn again from that, and presevere. Ultimately, they will then have the confidence and tools to succeed in life. Sorry, I got a little too passionate on this one - ha!

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    1. I admit that I do a fari amount of proof reading for my kids, but not the work itself. To me, the work needs to start withthe kid, but can't we all benenfit form a second set of eyes and critical feedback? Of course, my way is my way-and others, as seen from comments, have different lines they draw, and these are all good people.

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    2. I would have loved to proof all 3 of my son's essays, but they were all very dogmatic about their work being theirs and private. I never read one of them but they must have been perfectly fine because they were all successful with them.

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    3. SAM: Yes, my daughter's second set of eyes and critical feedback was from me, like I said above, and also from two of her teachers who also gave her tips like me, but she did all the work :)

      Anne in the kitchen: My daughter was the same way, she was hesitant in letting me proofread her essays but let me in the end. I learned a lot about her after reading them!

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    4. So true! My kids freely wanted me to read. Sometimes I'd stop and just think, "really?" Great insight.

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  7. This is such a fascinating topic! I have a very strong sense of right and wrong and would feel enormously guilty if I ever did anything I felt was unethical. People often tell me to get over it, it's not such a big deal but I think it is. If only Trump felt the same way!! Hah - couldn't resist:)

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    1. The gray areas are tough. I too feel like I have a firm sense of what's right and what's wrong, but I'm sure an observer could have a field day with my actions and call me out. Oh, the chief rationalizers of all things rotten in politics-I won't go there today.

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  8. I am really late to this party, but I don't see gray areas anywhere.
    Don't order extra food to take home. Order the number that actually say they are coming. 2.Split the cost like the two of you agreed. 3. Eat before you go and take one or two nibbles not a nice assortment. 4. No way. If you are this dishonest, do you really want your child to know and another child. Now, this adult has something to hold over you. Just be honest. 5. Do your own writing and I will give lots of feedback.

    None of these are gray areas to me. If all the friends insist you come anyway and eat from their food, okay. But, don't just come along and then expect them to offer. If they are trying to help you through a rough spot financially, that is okay. But, don't expect others to foot the bill for your entertainment.

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