The Workplace Amidst The Me Too And Time’s Up Movement with Kelly Charles-Collins and Business Ethics In A Capitalist And Socialist Society with Andrew Schatkin

TTL 238 | Business Ethics

The Workplace Amidst The Me Too And Time’s Up Movement with Kelly Charles-Collins and Business Ethics In A Capitalist And Socialist Society with Andrew Schatkin

Sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace has long been existing yet never talked about. With the Me Too the Time’s Up movement making a stand and gaining a lot of supporters, these issues have been brought to a level of awareness that changes the entire workplace dynamics. Employment trial attorney Kelly Charles-Collins speaks about how such events has positively impacted the workplace environment, keeping everyone on their toes and more mindful. Kelly talks about the inner struggles employees have to go through in order to be heard, from the dilemma between speaking up or getting fired to the process of investigation.
Educational business consultant Andrew Schatkin talks about business ethics, which is tying business with philosophies. Often times, business people are often depicted as merely profit-driven. While that may be true for some, Andrew speaks about the different possibilities where businesses are also capable of putting up human concern as their motivation together with profit. He talks about capitalism, socialism, and the values he got growing up. Andrew believes an open mind that’s willing to listen could open a person up to an entirely different perception.

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8 Important Business Ethics Cases

For those interested in researching some interesting ethical businesses cases, there are plenty from which to choose. Business leaders may feel squeezed by shareholders to produce profits.  Some have made some ethical blunders in an attempt to remain competitive. Others have used their size to squeeze out the competition.  The following includes some important business ethics cases based on well-known organizations:

  1. Enron – Questionable accounting practices and manipulation of the energy supply brought down this company. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is an excellent documentary movie that explains the scandal.  Check out an excerpt from Enron’s Code of Ethics.
  2. Monsanto – Monsanto has been criticized for its mega-size.  Critics fear they are taking over the food supply as well as creating negative environmental issues. Check out Monsanto’s Code of Ethics for Chief Executives and Senior Financial Officers.
  3. Arthur Andersen – Arthur Andersen is known for its unethical auditing practices. Check out The Fall of Arthur Andersen for more complete details.
  4. WalMart – Studies have shown that WalMart may save people money but they may also negatively impact communities.  Their low prices may also hurt suppliers. The company received criticism when leadership announced they wanted to hire healthier, more productive employees. WalMart has been accused of being anti-union and has survived sweatshop and discrimination scandals. Check out WalMart’s Statement Regarding Code of Ethics.
  5. Countrywide – The company offered subprime loans that later resulted in default.  Critics have claimed that Countrywide employees told clients that their properties would increase in value and that their loans would be able to be refinanced when market values rose.  The market values declined causing many to lose their homes.  Check out Countrywide’s Code of Ethics.
  6. Beechnut – Beechnut’s ethics came into question when it was discovered that they were selling “apple juice” to foreign countries that contained something less than apple juice.  For more information on this scandal, check out Beechnut’s History and Apple Juice Scandal.
  7. Starbucks – Clustering strategy may force smaller companies out of business. There were so many Starbucks on street corners that movies like Best In Show made fun of how there might be one Starbucks right across the street from another.  Check out Starbucks’ Code of Ethics for CEO and Financial Leaders.
  8. Nike – Manufacturing practices included producing shoes offshore to save money. Nike has used its share of sweatshops in manufacturing. They have come under fire for human rights violations. Check out Nike’s Code of Ethics.

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Tainted Tylenol Ethical Issues

I teach several different ethics courses where we look at individual companies and how they handled ethical issues.  Beech-nut selling a product they called apple juice that technically had no apples in it, was a classic case example of a non-ethical way to do business.  

In the 80s, Johnson and Johnson had to deal with tainted Tylenol (The Tylenol Murders) due to product tampering. Their quick and responsive resolution to a potentially imagine-ruining situation has made J&J stand out as a good example of an ethical business. 

Now J&J’s reputation has come into question though as they used bacteria-tainted materials to create their children’s Tylenol.  Although they claim that only the raw material was tainted and the finished product showed no reports of illness, the company had to recall their product. The Wall Street Journal reported, “J&J’s handling of the problem has become a focus of a congressional investigation into manufacturing problems.  J&J has issued more than a half dozen recalls of popular over-the-counter medicines  over the past year.”

CEO Ethics

Top ten ethical blunders

Rather than address the causes for ethical problems, companies too often simply create a filter for trying to catch infractions. This reactive approach failed in addressing total quality, and will fail in addressing quality in ethical orientation.

We now have over twenty years of experience with formal ethics structures in business. By and large these have become one-dimensional programs for delivering compliance, with very little impact on actual business strategy or corporate culture. Enron was touted as a paragon of ethical practices even while its executives plundered shareholder value, and its employees adopted ever more ruthless personnel policies. It is important to realize that such failures are not simply from rejecting ethics, but rather from misapplying them.

The Wrong Way to Strive For The Right Thing

In many ways the whole business ethics culture is at fault. Voluntary codes are not rigorous enough. Structures like ethics or integrity offices have become largely legal services grappling with compliance. Rarely do Boards or strategic planners accord ethics the serious consideration given to finance or marketing. And whistle-blowing systems have been adopted without protecting those who take the risk to do the blowing. Business ethics too often pivot on a business case: tolerated for contributing to reputation or protecting against fines, but considered optional if there is a cost to ethical adherence.  

The most common mistakes are in the most common practices:

  1. Adopting formal codes as a tactic rather than as a strategy, assuming rules will catch mistakes rather than addressing the underlying beliefs, motivations and culture.
  2. Managing ethics as a legal or PR variable rather than creating an operational culture that invites the hard questions and uncertainties of moral dialogue.
  3. Instituting systems of accountability to more clearly assign blame rather than to give more depth to the fiduciary duties for care, answerability and due-diligence.
  4. Defining ethics principles as a top-down or internal exercise rather than by means of a dialogue with stakeholders, critics and those impacted by corporate activities.
  5. Assuming that generic terms are enough to inspire employee adherence rather than interacting with them to discover the precise implications for values, attitudes and behaviours.
  6. Downloading ethical responsibility on employees as a parallel deliverable to business results without providing the tools, skills or leadership for effectively managing the conflicting objectives or ambiguities.
  7. Introducing whistle-blowing structures without creating the culture that supports dissent and rewards those who take stands based on ethical principles.
  8. Making ethical commitments without introducing the hard measures for evaluating and tracking the specific dimensions of trust and integrity.
  9. Embracing ethics programs during crisis or scrutiny without unlearning the habits and values that contributed to impropriety in the first place.
  10. Regarding ethics as a binary option without realizing that it is actually a process of constructive and iterative transformation that actually extends and enhances strategy. 

I teach several ethics classes. I think this is a good article written by the Center for Ethical Orientation. Many of my master and doctoral students are considering starting their own businesses. It is very important to have a strong code of ethics set up from the beginning and to be sure that this message is being delivered.