The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

My friend, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, has a new posting on his web site, entitled: The Ethical Link Between Our Beliefs and Our Actions.

Cognitive dissonance is one of the important concepts in ethics, how so often our actions and ideas are in conflict and how we manage to reconcile what to so many would seem simple hypocrisy. Mintz explains the concept and its significance in a brief and clear essay.

Below are the first two paragraphs from the blog post –

Cognitive Dissonance and Ethical Decision-Making

A highly ethical person knows his or her values, principles and beliefs. Those values, principles and beliefs would then determine one’s actions when faced with an ethical dilemma. A person who does not understand or fully know his or her values, principles and beliefs, might act in an ethical situation without thinking through the consequences to others, known as System 1 thinking, rather than first considering how our actions affect others, or System 2 thinking. Later on, rationalizations may be used to reconcile actions to ethical beliefs and reduce cognitive dissonance, that is, the disconnect between what our belief says we should do and what we actually do.

A person who always justifies or rationalizes his actions has a flexible belief system or is lacking in the moral virtues and consistency in behavior. In effect justifications and rationalizations become the belief system of that person and relativistic’ situational considerations inform decision-making rather than sound ethical principles.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage Explains Cognitive Dissonance

As always, in the case of this author, I recommend that you visit his web site and read the full article. And maybe stay and look at some of his other work.

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage Discusses Ethical Organzational Leadership

The Ethics Sage Discusses Ethical Organzational Leadership

My colleague and friend, the Ethics Sage, has a new post which I am privileged to be given early. Please visit his site and join those who follow his blog.

James Pilant

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

Ethical Leadership in Life and the Workplace

Creating an Ethical Organization Culture

Ethical leadership means to set high standards for ethical behavior and establish a corporate culture that supports ethical values such as honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility, and accountability. Gael O’Brien, a frequent blogger on ethics issues, points out that ethical leadership draws on a high level of “emotional intelligence” and the capacity to own an organization’s values as well as one’s own, linking the means and the end in business strategy.

In organizations where the management sets a good example, significantly less unethical behavior is seen in the rest of the organization than when the management sets a bad example. At the same time employees and outsiders are often critical of the lack of role-modeling at the top. The positive side of this criticism is that it conceals an expectation: employees and outsiders expect top management to provide a good example. That means that there is a need for ethical leadership.

Ethical leaders have a moral compass. They explore their environment, with a well-developed vision of right and wrong. They have a clear sense of direction when it comes to deciding what can and must be done to establish an ethical corporate culture. They see and hear what others do not see or hear. They not only draw a clear line between what is and what is not permissible, but at the same time push the boundaries, and raise the bar, for others as well as themselves to become more ethical.

Ethical leaders have courage. They not only know that things must and can be different, but they do things differently themselves. They have the drive and the guts to persist where others give up. Where others are silent, they speak. They demand responsibility.

Ethical behavior is not only for people in management positions. Ultimately ethical leadership should show people that they are not the product of their environment, but are capable of creating an environment in which they can get the best out of themselves and others.

Creating an ethical environment in one’s organization occurs when top management pays attention to the values they set for the ethical behavior of employees. An interesting approach to doing just that is known as Giving Voice to Values (GVV). GVV is an innovative, cross-disciplinary business curriculum and action-oriented pedagogical approach for developing the skills, knowledge and commitment required to implement values-based leadership. The curriculum was developed by Mary Gentile, the director of Giving Voice to Values at Babson College.

I use GVV in the classroom and provide the opportunity for students to script and practice in front of peers, equipping future business leaders not only to know what is right, but how to make it happen.

Ethical leaders pay special attention to finding and developing the best people precisely because they see it as a moral imperative – helping them to lead better lives that create more value for themselves and others. In other words, ethical leaders know the ethical development of those in their organization begins with making them more ethical people in a variety of situations and establishing a framework to make ethical decisions. That foundation can then carry over to the workplace and enhance ethical behavior in relationships with stakeholders – suppliers, customers, employees, and others who rely on the ethics of the organization to treat them honestly and fairly.

Ethics is not a spigot we can turn on and off at a whim. True ethical leaders know this and they cultivate ethics in everything they do in directing the organization to accomplish ethical goals.

Ethical leaders ‘walk the talk’ of ethics. They demonstrate through actions and words that unethical behavior will not be tolerated and those who witness such behavior within the organization must report it to higher-ups so that appropriate action can be taken.

This leads to my final point, which is that whistle-blowing is the key to improving the culture within organizations. That is why the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act include protections for whistle-blowers and, in the case of Dodd-Frank, financial rewards for blowing the whistle on corporate wrongdoing where the government can bring a successful lawsuit against the organization for fraudulent behavior.

Former Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, said it best in commenting on ethical behavior: “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 12, 2013

From around the web.

From the web site, SORSONGB.

In every business, leaders are the key driving force of the business, because they can be the one to drive their employees and the decision they make will affect the organization. Recent research (Resick, Hargis, Shao Dust, 2013) shows that, ethical leader are the one who “use their social power to represent the best interests of their organization and employees, set a personal and professional example of ethically appropriate conduct, and actively manage ethical”. Ethical leaders can create important positive effects on both individual and organizational effectiveness. The word “Ethic” may have many definitions but the main point of the word is “knowing and doing what is right”.

Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) is the quality of exchange between a supervisor and an employee (Walumbwa et al., 2011). The LMX theory explained that the “more frequently employees interact with their immediate supervisors, the more likely the relationship will be stronger (Walumbwa et al., 2011)“, this show that with ethical leadership can lead to better relationship with the employees. Ethical leadership always encourages opinion from the employees, which will boost the individual effectiveness and may boost organizational effectiveness as well.

‘Revenge Porn Bill Signed in California: Another Sign of Declining Civility in Society, The Ethics Sage

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

(This post is written by the Ethics Sage, Steven Mintz, and I am proud to have the opportunity to post his work on my blog. James Pilant)

Here is a link to his full web site – I recommend you add it to your list of favorite sites.

‘Revenge Porn Bill Signed in California: Another Sign of Declining Civility in Society
Are ‘Revenge Porn’ Postings Protected Free Speech?
On October 1, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would make it illegal for people to humiliate ex-lovers by posting indecent photos or videos online. California is the second U.S. state to criminalize the act of revenge porn, though as a misdemeanor. New Jersey considers it a felony.
Under the new California law targeting “revenge porn,” distributing sexual images “with the intent to cause serious emotional distress” would carry a fine of as much as $1,000 and as long as six months in jail — even if the pictures were originally taken with consent. The law bans only images taken by the person posting them, meaning that self-photos aren’t protected. That’s good news for Anthony Weiner, I guess.
The posting of ‘revenge porn’ photos by a disgruntled ex of a past partner illustrates a new low in civility in our country. It seems as though all too many have lost their sense of right and wrong — they act only in their own selfish interests. And, all too many have lost the ability to reason ethically, assuming they ever possessed that skill.
Whether it’s random and senseless violence against another, road rage, cyber-bullying, or other offensive acts that are occurring with increased frequency in our society, the U.S., as a country, has lost its moral compass.
Whether it’s gratuitous violence, sexually-charged images, hateful speech, and downright rudeness, the U.S. has morphed into a narcissistic country that values self-indulgence above common sense and common decency.
Some will say the generalized examples I cite are the exception to civil behavior and not the rule. I say it is becoming the norm with increasing frequency and the fact that we tolerate it as a society reflects our willingness to go along with declining ethics rather than fight the good fight. The fact that Hollywood and the social media continue to spark the flames of hedonistic behavior simply means that these institutions believe they are giving us, or being used, in ways that we want.
What about the First Amendment issues? The First Amendment guarantees you the right to post naked pictures of your exes on the Internet.
Here’s exactly what the First Amendment of the Constitution says:
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Despite this guarantee, courts have established exceptions to free speech, notably defamation and child pornography. Revenge porn could be held up as another exception, since it obviously wasn’t considered by the framers of our Constitution (even if courts have ruled that some “speech” such as Facebook ‘Likes’ is protected by the Constitution.)
Victims of vindictive pornography distribution, aka revenge porn, are often women who originally shared naked pictures of themselves with their boyfriends. The distribution of the photos online can be thoroughly humiliating for the woman in those pictures.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right to some pretty offensive behavior including, in March 2011, that that noxious, highly offensive protests conducted outside solemn military funerals are protected by the First Amendment when the protests take place in public and address matters of public concern. In that decision, America’s highest court ruled the Westboro Baptist Church has a Constitutional right to hold hateful protests outside military funerals.
In order to withstand Constitutional challenge, the ‘revenge porn’ law in California was narrowly construed to require the person who posted revenge porn to do so with the intent to “cause serious emotional distress.” The final law also says the other person had to actually experience emotional distress. Well that’s great news. More money for the lawyers to hash out in court exactly what these terms mean.
The bottom line is ethical behavior cannot be legislated. Our desire to act ethically comes from within and not because of an externally exposed measure of acceptable behavior. Each individual must monitor his or her behavior and always strive to act in accordance with societal norms.
No one is perfect. However, the ethical person constantly questions his or her own behavior and evaluates against the norms including honesty, integrity, fairness, respect, and responsibility.
As for our First Amendment right, there is a difference between what we have a right to do and what the right thing to do is.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 3, 2013

The Ethics Sage Advocates for Ethics

ImageThe ever-invaluable Ethics sage has a new posting –

Here is a brief selection below:

Understanding Appropriate Conduct

Working in a corporate environment is a two-way street.  The leaders have to respect the team and vice versa.  This involves knowing the correct way to behave in a professional setting.  Many younger team members may come to the team with fewer boundaries than their older counterparts and there have been clashes in the corporate environment due to these differences.  Most of the time, this includes comments that are too personal or inappropriate, taking breaks that are too long or coming in late every day.  For a business to operate at its full potential, the employees have to be on the same page about what is expected, encouraged or discouraged.  This helps to create harmony and expectations that everyone can live up to. 

I fully agree. There can be few in business who would not benefit from following the Ethics Sage’s writing.

James Pilant

From around the web.

From the web site, C-Suite Mentor

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work these simple principles out. So why do highly educated professionals and seasoned businessmen and entrepreneurs make the mistake of forgetting business ethics? It requires the courage of your convictions and a good moral base in the individuals. Dishonesty does give you cash in the short term, much like sawing off the branch that you are sitting on gives you timber for a short time. So it will always be a temptation to those with weak morals coupled with financial pressure. In many cases it takes raw courage to be honest, but out of the troubles that businesses go through, its reputation grows, and businesses with good reputations are successful businesses. Naturally, you still need a good business plan and a hungry market, as well as ethics, to be successful. But good ethics are vital to keeping you successful.

From the web site, The Importance of Ethics for Professional Accountants

As accounting requires skills and ethical familiarity to a great extent for that ethics are most important for professional accountants. The concept of right or wrong can be cleared by learning about ethical terms thoroughly. To make correct decisions, they help you to make your personal guts strong. The Winnipeg accountants seem familiar in ethical terms and you may take a look at their ethical behavior to explore your knowledge. You may get aware just by searching out Winnipeg Business Directory and choosing the accountant’s category will lead you to all accountants of Winnipeg. When an accountant keeps ethical factors in his mind, he can easily come out from any pressurized situation. After being a proper professional accountant by applying ethical condition at yourself, you will never give your big attention in satisfying investor by keeping up income growth. This attitude make you think for long term as all successful organizations manage for long terms, not for short term. In case of fraud, your ethical behavior makes you able to confront your special relations. You get an inner strength by concentrating on ethical factors and any fraud point you do never ignore. As an accountant, ethics becomes your first priority you can confidently treat with ethical dilemmas and areas without focusing on black and white. You feel comfortable meeting with grey areas people. After getting informed about accountant’s basics and ethical skills you should present your services for public to be useful and popular as well. You can advertise your skills by using online business directory just get listed in Winnipeg Business Directory as this business directory is providing a gorgeous access its visitors to get in touch with each other regarding relevant business, service or product need. You never under represent your time for implementing required terms. You never compromise with ethical factors and will easily go along with the crowd to do what your managers tell.

The Ethics Sage, KPMG Insider Trading Scandal Damages the Reputation of the Accounting Profession

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Steven Mintz
Steven Mintz

(I honored to have the Ethics Sage, Steven Mintz, write a post for my blog. Please visit his blog at Ethics Sage.)

KPMG Insider Trading Scandal Damages the Reputation of the Accounting Profession

What possesses an audit partner to trade on inside information and violate the accounting profession’s most sacred ethical standard of audit independence from one’s client? Is it carelessness, greed, or ethical blindness? In the case of Scott London, the former partner in charge of the KPMG’s Southern California’s regional audit practice, it was some of each that motivated him to violate ethical standards and, in the course of doing so, causing the audit opinions signed by London on Skechers and Herbalife to be withdrawn by the accounting firm.

This case has a local twist as pointed out by Stephen Nellis in his column “Deckers, PCBC were victims of auditor leaks” in the April 19-25 Pacific Coast Business Times. Nellis notes that two companies affected are Goleta-based Deckers and Pacific Capital Bancorp, the former parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust now part of Union Bank.

Overall, Shaw is charged with leaking confidential information to his friend, Brian Shaw, about Deckers, Pacific Capital Bancorp, Manhattan Beach-based Skechers, and Los Angeles-based Herbalife. The leak of information about quarterly earnings information led to Shaw’s unjust enrichment of $1.27 million. Shaw, a jewelry store owner and country club friend of London repaid London with $50,000 in cash and a Rolex watch, according to legal filings.

The leaking of financial information about a company to anyone prior to its public release affects the level playing field that should exist with respect to personal and business contacts of the leaker and the general public. It violates the fairness doctrine in treating equals, equally, and it violates basic integrity standards. The KPMG scandal concerns me because a pattern of such improprieties may be developing.

In 2010, Deloitte and Touche was investigated by the SEC for repeated insider trading by Thomas P. Flanagan, a former management advisory partner and a Vice Chairman at Deloitte. Flanagan traded in the securities of multiple Deloitte clients on the basis of inside information that he learned through his duties at the firm. The inside information concerned market moving events such as earnings results, revisions to earnings guidance, sales figures and cost cutting, and an acquisition. Flanagan’s illegal trading resulted in profits of more than $430,000. In the SEC action, Flanagan was sentenced to 21 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to securities fraud. Flanagan also tipped his son, Patrick, to certain of this material non-public information. Patrick then traded based on that information. His illegal trading resulted in profits of more than $57,000.

The KPMG case is a particularly egregious one because it involves insider trading by an auditor of client stock. This incident jogged my memory and I came up with a characterization of London’s actions as “stupid is as stupid does.” Scott London, the partner in charge of audits of Herbalife Ltd. and Skechers USA Inc., traded on inside information for personal gain.  KPMG resigned as the auditor of both companies after learning that London provided non-public information about the companies to a third party, who then used the information in stock trades. The firm fired London.  

In resigning the two audit accounts, KPMG said it was withdrawing its blessing on the financial statements of Herbalife for the past three years and of Skechers for the past two. KPMG stressed, however, that it had no reason to believe there were any errors in the companies’ books. Both companies said they are moving to find new auditors.

In a statement that should raise red flags for all CPA firms that audit public companies, KPMG stated it had concluded it was not independent because of alleged insider trading. Independence is the foundation of the accounting profession and the cornerstone of an audit conducted in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. The public (i.e., shareholders and creditors) relies on auditors’ independence, objectivity, and integrity to ensure that the audit has been conducted in accordance with such standards and that the financial statements are free of material misstatements.

I’m having a hard time understanding the stupidity and moral blindness of London in this case. Surely he knew of his ethical obligations. All audit firms supposedly have been carefully assessing independence in the aftermath of financial frauds in the late 1990s and early 2000s (i.e., Enron and WorldCom). Firms generally have quality controls in place to prevent compromises to audit independence.

Trading on insider information for cash and gifts is bad enough, and when done by an audit partner it is unforgiveable. Even more baffling to me is that the quid pro quo for passing along stock tips about clients to a friend for London was to receive cash and gifts in return. According to London, he received a discount on a watch, and the friend bought him dinners from time to time and on a couple of occasions gave him $1,000 to $2,000 in cash. A cynic might say he sold himself cheap.

So, what happens next? Both Herbalife and Skechers will need to have their financial statements re-audited, not an inexpensive proposition. Even though the companies were not at fault, the public may misunderstand and think the companies were complicit in the matter.

For KPMG, the insider trading investigation is a setback. The accounting firm has worked hard to rehabilitate its reputation after coming under scrutiny last decade in a wave of corporate accounting scandals and the firm’s role in the marketing of fraudulent tax shelters. KPMG paid large nine-figure settlements to resolve lawsuits related to accounting scandals at the drugstore chain Rite-Aid and Oxford Health Plans. In 2005, the firm paid a $456 million penalty to the government related to tax fraud.

I have to wonder whether insider trading by partners at Deloitte and KPMG portends a larger scandal on the horizon. It seems every ten years or so the accounting profession finds itself in a “pickle” and hauled before Congress to explain its actions. It is about that time following financial frauds at Enron, WorldCom and a host of other companies. I don’t know how to get the message across to those in the profession that every time such incidents occur, and now insider trading, the public loses patience with the profession and doubts begin to surface about whether the profession truly acts to protect the public interest.

Blog Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on April 12, 2013


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The Ethics Sage Discusses Birthing Tourism


Steven Mintz
Steven Mintz

The Ethics Sage Discusses Birthing Tourism

The Ethics of ‘Birthing Tourism’ – Ethics Sage

Is it ethical to establish a “maternity hotel” in the United States to accommodate Chinese women who want to give birth to their children in the U.S. solely to reap the benefits for their child of U.S. citizenship? The question is real as “birthing tourism” in the U.S. has become the destination of choice. According to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution (ratified in 1868), anyone born in United States automatically becomes an American citizen and obtains access to public education, university loans, voting, and so on.

The Ethics of ‘Birthing Tourism’ – Ethics Sage

Steven Mintz has a good article on “birthing tourism,” the practice of visiting the United States to give birth to citizens. It’s a fascinating article and should a college student be accidentally peering at my site, an excellent topic for a paper.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Omnitalk:

Once that child is 21, a petition can be filed to obtain legal U.S. residency for the parents. Another immigration loophole that no one had bothered to close.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics the mothers of 7,719 children born in the United States in 2010 reported that they lived overseas, an increase of almost 55 percent since 2000.

And this practice has become even more common in California, where there are now more than 40 maternity operations hosting around 1,000 foreign women in the Los Angeles area alone, according to the Bee.

From the web site, Canadian Immigration Rights:

The Harper government is considering changes to the citizenship rules to target so-called birth tourism — where a foreign national comes to Canada to give birth so the baby can get Canadian citizenship.

But critics say closing the loophole will deter bona fide immigrants and harm the economy in the long run.

“We don’t want to encourage birth tourism or passport babies, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the CBC’s Power and Politics in an interview. “This is, in many cases, being used to exploit Canada’s generosity. The vast majority of legal immigrants are going to say this is taking Canada for granted.

“We need to send the message that Canadian citizenship isn’t just some kind of an access key to the Canadian welfare state by cynically misrepresenting yourself.… It’s about having an ongoing commitment and obligation to the country.”


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The Ethics Sage Calls for H1-B Visa Reform

The Ethics Sage Calls for H1-B Visa Reform

Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage
Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage

Limitations on H1-B Visas Harm Economic Growth in the U.S. – Ethics Sage

Life in immigration limbo is awful. Immigrants on H1-B visas, which are issued to workers, must be sponsored by a specific employer. This visa can be used to employ a skilled foreign national for up to six years. They cannot change jobs without jeopardizing their application. Their careers stagnate. They do not know whether they will be deported, so they hesitate to put down roots, buy a house or start a company. Sometimes their spouses are barred from working. More and more immigrants look for alternatives and places such Canada, Australia and Singapore are ready to welcome them with open by handing out visas swiftly and without hassle.

Limitations on H1-B Visas Harm Economic Growth in the U.S. – Ethics Sage

Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage see problems in the way America’s Visa program for professionals and entrepreneurs works. He believes in the need for H1-B Visa Reform. Obviously, an article thoroughly grounded on facts, often unpleasant deserves attention and action.

James Pilant

Other comments from the Web:

Here’s one from a web site simply entitled H1-B:

I decided to interview a fellow international friend of mine, who graduated from American University in May. In the short interview she describes the difficulty of finding a employment due to her international status and its links with the H1-B program. It’s just one example of thousands of how difficult it is for recent graduates to find jobs. This interview also brings to light the necessity of colleges and universities better training its international students on immigration policy. While I know immigration policy is one we have to run after, it would be interesting to have more seminars on campus about the transition of student to employment authorization status to H1-B status. The more recent graduates can learn about the H1-B process prior to graduating, the better off they are in their job search process.

From the web site, Immigration Services and Forms Blog:

Two weeks back, the quota for H1-B Visas ran out within just 10 weeks of time after it was opened on April 1st. In year 2010 quota was completed in Jan 2011, and in 2011 cap was filled in Nov 2011. First every quota was established in year 1990. This is good news for immigrants and the employers who are petitioning because of the improving job market. Bad news for the US citizens, they want skilled immigrants to stay competitive in the market.

Most of them still think H1-B workers take US jobs, but this isn’t the case. Hiring of these skilled workers doesn’t come at very less cost, government and legal fee runs in thousands of dollars. Fee of $ 1,500 must be paid by US Companies for each H1-B petition for training and scholarship fee. So for a year 65,000 visas, it comes up to $2 billion according to NFAP. This amount is used for more than 53,000 scholarships for students, several programs for 190,000 students and 6,800 school teachers and train up to for more than 55,000 US workers.

From the web site, Definitely Filipino: (I went a little lengthy on my quote. The author has so much interesting to say. JP)

Let’s just say their chances depend on the basis of qualification alone, how sure are we that human resource/personnel departments do not adjust their preferences, in favor of co-Americans to subscribe first, to the Obama Act and second, to the American nationalism?

If this is the case, why give H1B visas intended for foreign nationals, if there are no U.S. companies/institutions ready to provide sponsorship at all? False hopes or merely a part of U.S. recovery efforts? By the latter means the government admits its failure to achieve an acceptable standard, in terms of economics. To date, there are still no instructions that temporarily prohibit the provision of H1B, so we expect more casualties coming for the next quarters.

Critics including H1B holders themselves are saying that Obama’s resolution on the matter directly contradicts the provisions of the Equal Employment Opportunity and the United State’s principal role in advocating globalization, which means being in subscription to the free market of labor and workers. (H1B Visa and Employment, published September 21, 2010)

The agony and hopelessness that foreign visa holders experience will definitely strengthen their cores. But more than anything else, this clearly shows a piece of evidence that America is suffering from many different insecurities, a direct contradiction to its superpower facade.

For H4 visa holders, we shall say, analyzing their situation is like looking at a glass, half-full or half-empty.


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Does Teaching Business Ethics Matter? From the Ethics Sage

Are Ethics Courses Failing to Produce Ethical Business People? – Ethics Sage

The bottom line is there is no way of knowing whether business ethics education has made a difference. A graduate of a prestigious school might commit fraud in the future, but it doesn’t mean business ethics has failed them or even all students. Organizational pressures and the culture of a firm can create barriers to ethical behavior. The key is to find a way to work through the obstacles and voice your values.

I’m asked all the time why I teach ethics and am challenged whether it is even possible to change one’s ethics by a college course. After all, some argue, ethics is formed at a very early age. I don’t dispute that but do point out that my goal is to get students to reflect on their actions in a safe setting so they can better develop the tools to deal with ethical challenges in the workplace. I am not a guarantor of ethical action.

Teaching ethics should not rely on having one college course in business ethics and that is it. I see the failure of business ethics education to be one of not integrating ethics into each course and each decision in business. When colleges rely on one course to teach ethics, they are not sending the message that ethics counts.  If they cover it in all courses and in the context of functional courses, then they send a completely opposite signal that it is an important part of every business decision.

I can teach business ethics – I know it from past experiences including grading papers, exams, and student presentations and papers on the topics. What I don’t know is whether students will really learn the lesson. Similarly, I can teach Intermediate Accounting to my students but I don’t know if they have truly learned the material and will be successful on the CPA Exam or in their accounting careers.

There is old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”. It is quite appropriate to say that it takes an organization to raise an ethical employee.

Are Ethics Courses Failing to Produce Ethical Business People? – Ethics Sage

(I should mention that a great deal of this posting dealt with the “Giving Voice to Values” curriculum and the work of Mary C. Gentile. I have visited the web site for this curriculum and liked what I saw.)

I guess you could ask if classes in art, history or music are effective? It’s hard to measure the results once you wander even a little distance from the hard sciences, and even they have trouble coming up with hard data at times. Many of the most important subjects like leadership are difficult to teach and have results hard to measure. Ethics is no different. We “cast our bread on the water” and hope for it to return.

James Pilant

“What, no measurable results!”


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The Ethics Sage Addresses Youthful Cybercrime – Hacking and Online Bullying

Cyber ethics education – Ethics Sage

I feel strongly that cyber ethics education is a must. Students tend to react more positively to discussing right and wrong behavior when they are personally invested. After all, it is difficult to discuss with youngsters the ethics of some Congressional representative; they can’t relate; they have no frame of reference. However, using computers to steal information or bully others is front and center in their consciousness.

Dr. Marvin Berkowitz of St. Louis University conducted an analysis of the behavioral development factors that must be considered in searching for an optimal age range for instruction of cyber ethics. Dr. Berkowitz concluded that the 9-12 ages was a “very reasonable” age to target for a first time strategy of cyber ethics instruction. Several factors led to this conclusion. This age range is considered a “gateway” age and has been used by other groups to begin message delivery; e.g. substance abuse and sex education. Absent hard data on the age at which children actually begin to go on line, we can generally assume that by age 13 children have routine access to the Internet. The 9-12 ages is also the point in development where children begin to understand abstract values, for example, privacy rights, and can begin to evaluate the consequences of their actions. It is important to be able to think abstractly, particularly when working in a medium that is routinely described as “virtual.”

Cyber ethics education – Ethics Sage


I also feel strongly about this issue. Ethics training should begin in the schools as early as possible and the article is absolutely correct. Dealing with real current issues is completely superior to hypothetical scenarios.What is happening in your life now is almost always more important and more relevant then what might happen. Hacking and cyberbullying, also referred to as cybercrime, are gateway crimes. I believe they can lead to more serious crimes because they make unethical behavior more acceptable and more routine.

I believe that we strengthen our ethics and moral stance by our choices in our life experiences. You can choose to limit television viewing to programs that have strong themes of morality and justice. You can choose motions pictures based on whether or not the film conveys messages of kindness and healing as opposed to wanton killing and theft. You can choose to surround yourself with art, culture and literature choosing to become a fuller and better human being instead of relying on consumerism to make you content in the narrow sense.

Ethics is not just a class in college. It is a lifetime pursuit of the what Greeks called the “good life.” The earlier we begin ethical training and the more relevant it is, the better to begin that internal conversation that builds judgment and wisdom.

There is no doubt in my mind that this society at this time in history needs more judgment and wisdom. We are in the midst of an ethics crisis. The great financial institutions of this country have engaged in trickery and deceit on a massive scaled as well as engaging in the most reckless kind of speculation with other peoples’ money.

Concentrated around Washington and its environs, is a relatively small number of opinion leaders known as “very serious people” or the Washington Elite or the “villagers.” They believe that standardized tests solve educational problems, that cutting the benefits that feed the helpless and keep the elderly out of poverty have to be cut in a time of economic recession and high unemployment. They seem to have no idea how the great mass of Americans live and little curiosity about them. We live in the richest nation on earth and we are unable to maintain our infrastructure or feed the poor. This is immoral. Exalting greed is immoral. Evading taxes by moving money overseas is immoral and unpatriotic. Making corporations already profitable even richer by tax breaks is immoral.

We should start moral education early and if we do so, we see real effects with a little luck in our lifetimes. It is obvious that there has been failures in the moral teaching delivered to this generation.

Let us build a new consensus that “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it”

James Pilant

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Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage Talks Occupy Wall Street, the 99%ers.

I consider the Ethics Sage to be a friend. His writing ranges from business ethics to workplace bullying to economic issues and of late he has written passionately about the death penalty.

In his lastest essay he describes the criticism of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and then responds by emphasizing the serious nature of the complaints presented by the protestors. I am using more than a third of his article and I do this because I don’t want to diminish the power of his message. Of course, you should real the full article if at possible. His heart is in this and I am pleased to consider him a colleague.

Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage

If there is a class warfare that has developed in the U.S. it is because the selfish policies of these institutions caused the financial meltdown, economic recession, and massive loss of jobs – all through no fault of us who play by the rules. The unemployed didn’t cause the crisis. Sure, some people overspent and got too deeply in debt, but that was due in part to the belief fostered by the actions of these institutions that the good times would keep rolling along. Instead, the bubble burst and it was the average American that was left holding the bag.

The Republicans attack over-regulation in the form of Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley that, they claim, has created an uncertainty and unwillingness to expand economically by the very companies being regulated. That may be so and there is no denying it is a problem. However, the Republicans need to look in the mirror of those being regulated to see the face of who created the need for more regulation.

Our free market capitalistic system is based on the notion that by acting out of self-interest, business will create a better economic climate for all Americans. Well, it is just not working out as intended by Adam Smith. According to a survey by, the average salary and benefits paid to the CEOs of the Standard & Poor’s top 500 companies in 2010 was $11.4 million. The average CEO earned 343 times more than typical workers.

Very little has been said this election year cycle about how much the financial crisis has cost the average American in lost wealth. Well, hold on to your chairs as you look at the data provided by The Pew Charitable Trust that covers the period between 2008 and 2009:

  • $100,000: Cost to the typical American family in combined losses from declining stock and home prices
  • $5,800: Average household income loss resulting from declining economic growth
  • $14,200: Average household loss in wealth caused by plunging real estate prices
  • $66,200: Average stock market losses for households from July 2008 to March 2009
  • $2,050: Average household cost to pay for TARP, the main government program to shore up the economy
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