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.