Ethics Whisperer

Monday, January 12, 2009

Incense, Peppermint, Crooked Mankind

The first question is: Why do this?

It is certainly not because I need things to do. It does seem to me that there cannot be many people who have spent more than 35 years providing what is variably called “ethics” or “compliance” advice. I have had the chance to see organizations and executives in serious trouble, in denial about the possibility of being in trouble, and, sometimes, doing the right thing. One thing I have learned is the endeavor of giving ethics-compliance advice is seldom about content. It is mostly about psychology. Specifically, it is mostly about getting people to do what they already think they should do in an environment that punishes correct conduct. So I hope to tell folks a little bit about ethical influence in the coming days and weeks.

Which brings me to topic A. Why all the blather about gifts, meals, entertainment, tickets, flowers, cookies, meals, drawings, free rides and the other dross of corporate life? Surely this stuff is not all that important! Why then do compliance officers spend a good part of their lives answering questions and picking nits about this crap? After a while, compliance officers are actually pummeled into debating dollar limits (per event, per month, per year ……..) and the fine differences between tickets and chocolates. From the viewpoint of corporate conduct, this is all nonsense.

And yet there is absolutely, positively no topic of more importance in compliance. More on this next time.

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