Last Sunday, I told my American Accounting Association audience (AAA) that I tell my accounting students that at some point in their careers they may be asked to do something, or not do something, that makes them very uncomfortable, that makes them feel that something is not quite right. If so, then they need to raise their hand and ask questions.
Ideally, the leaders in the company they are with will explain why their concern is unfounded, or the company will question the situation and take appropriate steps. I mentioned that I tell my students that if they are told to shut up and go back to work, they need to carefully think this through.
Continuing to ask questions may cost them their job. But if they choose not to ask questions, then they could become complicit in the wrong doing. Witness what happened to Helen Sharkey of Dynegy Energy, who I have spoken of in an earlier talks. Unsure in her new position of what was the right thing, she did not question, became complicit in securities fraud and went to prison for not speaking up. It cost her her job and her career.
I told you in my last post I was going to be bold, and I was (well as bold as an accountant can be). My intent was to provoke dialogue with the Kellogg case study and my talk. I did. The audience was visibly disturbed at hearing how the SEC hid my testimony from the public and the FCIC commission forced me to change my written testimony, editing out much of the damning evidence.
In the Q & A, several comments were made about codes of conduct implemented in companies that are there just for show. I related Citi’s situation — a very comprehensive code of ethical conduct with required ongoing employee classes in ethics — but the actual practices of management were at odds with the code. The code of ethics and conduct were seen as hypocritical.
No one raised their hand!
Today, in too many companies there is a growing divide between those who still abide by their ethical principles and those who are determined to skirt around them and make them irrelevant. We’ve certainly seen the effects of this with our power brokers in government and finance. It’s a shame that in two such prominent arenas the deterioration of ethical principles are so visibly displayed.
Greed, corruption, and power have overruled the accepted standards of the behavior we define as ethics. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been mischanneled with government bailouts and very few are raising their hands to stop it. The lack of ethics in government, financial institutions and some businesses is appalling. And if it continues unchecked this behavior could very well become the new norm.
[tweetthis url=”http://buff.ly/1J6joTs”]Greed, corruption, & power have overruled the accepted standards of what we define as #ethics. ~ @RichardMBowen[/tweetthis]
I challenged my audience of thought leaders, educators and influencers that we needed to be more forthright in our actions toward the breakdown of ethical and moral misconduct exhibited by our leaders in business and government. It’s not enough that they (AAA) or any of my audiences are disturbed by my talk and the subsequent cover-ups that were displayed at the SEC and FCIC.
Marianne M. Jennings, J.D., in her seminal book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse, warned of the slippery slope a company takes towards ethical collapse. One sign is “pressure to maintain numbers.” The most chilling sign though is “fear and silence.”
Ethical compromise costs. In the case of government, it costs in massive and deliberate misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and is a violation of public trust.
But there’s an even higher cost: Not raising our hand. Accepting wrong doing as the new norm. Standing by and staying silent.
Raise your hands, my friends.
[tweetthis url=”http://buff.ly/1J6joTs”]Lack of #ethics in government, financial institutions & businesses is appalling. ~@RichardMBowen[/tweetthis]