Ethics? Let’s talk! Plan now for Atlanta sessions.

rightandwrongdecisionsWhat does it mean to act ethically?

Is it basically to “do the right thing”? We only have to peer out of our office windows to see that what one thinks is the right thing, the appropriate attitude, justifiable behavior, is utterly, perhaps terrifyingly wrong to someone else. What is the right thing, and who is the arbiter?

As academics, scholar practitioners, or students, much of our work is done privately. No one can see what we’re doing when we’re crafting a paper, analyzing data, or conducting a peer review on someone else’s work. If we cut corners or cheat the risk may not be obvious, or it may take time before those closed-door deeds become public. Other activities are public, and may have an immediate impact on other’s well-being, or careers. Even so, the right action, the ethical behavior, may not be entirely clear.

Members of the Academy need to be on the same page about what is right, and we can readily find that page– it’s called our Code of Ethics. The code spells out expectations for all of us in General and Professional Principles. Ethical Standards spell out “enforceable rules” for activities within the context of the AOM.

All members are expected to uphold the Code, but it is clear that many have not reviewed it to see what they have endorsed by joining the AOM, or perhaps wait until a problem arises before consulting it.

Like any document of this kind, it is useless unless we bring it to life in the ways that we think and act. The Ethics Education Committee (EEC) is responsible for bringing the Code of Ethics to the attention of our members– and the Ombuds Committee is responsible for providing guidance when dilemmas arise. EEC members are available to assist your Division Consortia, or other sessions you offer at the annual conference. We offer a flexible menu of options, and encourage you to contact us to discuss the best way we can work together in Atlanta.

We can offer the following types of sessions for your meeting, Division Consortium or Committee:

  1. Presentation and Discussion: A 60-minute interactive session to provide a broad overview of business and professional ethics, values and the AOM Code of Ethics.
  2. Focused Session and Discussion: A 30 to 60-minute session on a specific topic such as academic honesty, ethical dilemmas in collaborative research and writing, or an area you identify.
  3. Q & A Forum: Collect the questions your doctoral students or early career faculty have about ethics and the AOM in advance, and will come prepared to answer, and discuss them.
  4. Code and Procedures FAQ: A 30-minute introduction to the AOM Code of Ethics, who does what at the Academy in the ethics area, including the role of the Ombuds and ways to get help.
  5. Discussant: An EEC member can attend an ethics session you are offering in a consortium, PDW, or symposium, and answer questions as needed about the AOM Code, Ombuds roles etc.

Please contact EEC Chair Janet Salmons (jsalmons[at]vision2lead.com or with the contact form below) to discuss ways the EEC can help ensure that new and returning members your area of the Academy are familiar with the principles and standards they agreed to uphold.

Journal editors – unregulated and unmonitored

HI Friends

I’ve been quiet for a couple of months – summer schedule and all – and wanted to get back to the blogosphere. I’ll try and be more diligent.

Many strange things have been brought to my attention over the summer, but I thought I would start with a more personal experience. That way, if anyone want’s to comment, at least one side of the equation is available.

Last spring we sent a paper in to an unnamed FT50 journal. Normally, these top journals reply within three months – at least – that has been my experience until now, for the most part. One consequence of the enhanced competitive environment is that journal editors seem to invite submissions by promising faster turn around.

In any case, a full six months went by, without hearing from the journal. As a result, I contacted the editor directly.  The editor immediately responded, on a Friday,  by saying “I should have contacted him earlier” and that he would ‘get on it’. By Monday, we had our rejection, along with only one review, and a note from the editor saying he was unable to get a second review. He didn’t even bother adding his own comments to the rejection letter. Needless to say, the first review was not very helpful, but that is beside the point. This little exchange once again brings me to question the authority, transparency, and lack of professionalism sometime exhibited by editors of even top journals. One cannot help wondering, given the importance of these gate-keeping roles, how it happens that we have processes that appear cavalier, with no recourse regarding accountability, transparency, appeal, or arbitration. In this particular case, my career does not hinge on the outcome – but I must report – in many cases where individual careers are in jeopardy, I have more often observed arrogance than compassion.

So, this brings me to raise an important question – and I must highlight – this question does NOT apply to Academy of Management journals, where transparency and fairness seems to be much more institutionalized.

Who appoints these people as editors?

Who governs their behavior?

Why do we allow autocratic and incompetent behavior by editors, even of prestigious journals?

In my view, we have a serious professional need for an equivalent of ‘rate my professor’ for academic journals. Such an idea was posed a few years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Robert Deaner who called for a “consumer reports for journals”. We could monitor and evaluate the review process, the editorial process, the time taken, and other aspects of peer review. If anyone is interested in starting such an activity, please let me know – as I think we really need some monitoring out there.

Happy Research!

Benson

 

Let’s explore ethics in Anaheim!

ethics clipartThe AOM annual meeting is just around the corner. If you are like me, you are sifting through the ginormous digital program to constructyou a personal schedule– and hoping it will require you to run around too much in order to attend the sessions that interest you.

If ethics is a topic of interest, perhaps this compilation of sessions will help you find the ones you want to attend:

Sessions about Ethics 
AOM 2016 Annual Meeting Custom Program for Ethics

Of course, I hope you’ll join us in the Ethics Education Committee Open Forum sessions on Saturday! All are welcome: students, practitioners, new and experienced academics from any Division.

These Open Fora give us a chance to discuss issues and concerns related to our membership in the Academy of Management as well as in our academic and professional lives. The Ethics Education Committee truly listens to the dilemmas and great examples shared in the sessions and we use the notes to guide our activities in the coming year.

Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship
Program Session: 423 | Submission: 18385 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 6 2016 4:00PM – 5:30PM at Anaheim Marriott in Elite Ballroom 1

Facilitators Janet Salmons, Deborah Mullen, and Charles Fenner will catalyze discussion about ethical dilemmas in research, instruction, and publication arenas. 

The 2nd forum will focus on global issues in Academy membership and our field. Luckily, no running is involved between our sessions!

Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business & Academia
Program Session: 454 | Submission: 18386 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 6 2016 5:45PM – 7:15PM at Anaheim Marriott in Elite Ballroom 1

Special guests: Jonas Haertle, Head, Principles for Responsible Management Education Sec & Academic Affairs, UN Global Compact Office, United Nations

and

Mark Meaney, Chairperson, North America Chapter
Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)

Join us in Anaheim at AOM’s Annual Meeting!

The Ethics Education Committee at Anaheim

We look forward to discussing the ethical dilemmas you are encountering in your academic and professional lives, and in your interactions as an AOM member.

Ethics: What is expected of AOM Members?

ethics-cropped-1024x555Did you realize that as a member of the Academy of Management you “agree to uphold and promote the principles of the ‘AOM_Code_of_Ethics’ and to adhere to its enforced ethical standards”? Do you know what principles and standards you agreed to uphold?

Like most people, you probably think the Code of Ethics exists as a reference to consult when things go horribly wrong.   Understandably, studying the AOM Code of Ethics is probably at the very bottom of an extremely long to-do list.

So why would you read and think about the AOM Code of Ethics? First, yourightandwrongdecisions might want to know what the AOM expects of you as a member, and what you can expect of other members. Are there specific ethical guidelines you should know about, as related to participation in activities in your Divisions, committees, the annual conference or other AOM events? What about guidelines for your professional life outside of AOM– as a researcher, instructor, consultant, or as a student?

Second, you might want to know where you can find help or answers when you encounter ethical dilemmas. Who should you go to within the Academy? What are the roles of the Ethics Committee including the Ombuds Committee, the Adjudication Committee, as well as the Ethics Education Committee (EEC)?

Finally, you might want to know what is contained in the current Academy of Management Code of Ethics, so you can provide input on periodic revisions. How can we make sure this Code is up-to-date and relevant given emerging dilemmas in our world?

The Ethics Education Committee is here to help. At the coming Annual Meeting in Anaheim we can offer the following types of sessions for your meeting, Division Consortium or Committee:

  1.  Presentation and Discussion: A 60-minute interactive session on business and professional ethics, values and the AOM Code of Ethics.
  2. Overview and Q & A: A 30-minute introduction to the AOM Code of Ethics, who does what at the Academy in the ethics area, including the role of the Ombuds.
  3.  Discussant: An EEC member can attend an ethics session you are offering, and answer questions as needed about the AOM Code, Ombuds roles etc.

Please contact EEC Chair Janet Salmons (jsalmons[at]vision2lead.com or with the contact form below) to discuss ways the EEC can help ensure that new and returning members your area of the Academy are familiar with the principles and standards they agreed to uphold.

The EEC will also be offering these opportunities for discussion at the Annual Meeting:

  • Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship on Saturday, August 06 from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business & Academia on Saturday, August 06 from 5:45 PM – 7:15 PM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Committee Meeting: If you are interested in joining us, our (open) meeting will be held Sunday, August 07, from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.

 

 

 

Invitation to Publish Ethics Teaching Tips

 

The Academy of Management Ethics Education Committee (EEC) focuses primarily on “educating” AOM members about how to understand our Code of Ethics and use ethical practices in our work as researchers, practitioners, and teachers. When we are in instructional roles, we have a responsibility to develop the next generation in the management field—hopefully with some sense of ethical ways to practice their chosen professions. We may teach courses devoted to business ethics, but more likely, we may want to create opportunities to incorporate a focus on ethics in courses on other leadership and management topic.

To encourage an exchange of ideas and approaches, the EEC is partnering with the Business Ethics Education Initiative at Kansas State University to publish novel tips for teaching ethics in virtual and face-to-face classrooms.  Presently, seven such tips are published on the K-State Initiative website in the section called “Ethics Education,” and soon these tips will be published here on The Ethicist as well.

The AOM Ethics Education Committee invites Academy members to submit your Teaching Tips by sending an abstract of 50 to 100 words that describes your novel method for teaching ethics, along with a link to the fuller description. Please send tips to ethics[at]vision2lead.com. For format guidance, see the examples of Teaching Tips published at the Kansas State University site in the section called “Ethics Education” at this link. Select Teaching Tips will be published here and on the K-State Ethics Education Initiative site.

See a popular example from Diane Swanson, Professor of Management at Kansas State University and Ethics Education Committee member. She uses three Star Trek characters to introduce students to ethics in decision making and the importance of moral courage. Students read her short essay “To Go Boldly! Trekking for Moral Courage” as a point of departure for exploring these topics in class.

We hope by sharing our approaches online throughout the year and at the annual conference, we can create a worthwhile forum where members can interact regarding their roles as ethical instructors who practice what they teach.

 

 

 

The Meaning of Ethics

We’re long overdue here at the Ethicist to get back into the swing of things! Obviously, we’re now looking forward to the annual meeting in Anaheim, which has an especially fortuitous theme for the Ethics Education Committee. As this year’s program chair, Mary Ann Glynn, points out, meaning and ethics are closely related issues for organizations:

Recently, there have been highly publicized corporate scandals, Wall Street corruption, and failures of government to meet the needs of its citizens, with a resulting rise in public distrust and questioning of organizations’ reasons for being.  We often take as given that an organization’s purpose to produce economic value; and, although economic value can often add to social value, sometimes it does not.  This disjuncture raises the question of meaningfulness.

Avoiding scandal and fostering trust is arguably the very meaning of ethics. And if it is true, as I think it is, that communities are essentially constituted by their ethics (show me your ethics and I’ll tell you a great deal about what kind of community you’ve got) then there’s no doubt that frequent scandals and and deepening mistrust would raise fundamental questions about an organization’s “reason for being”. What’s going on? What’s it all about? Why are we here? What does it all mean? Important issues to think about.

Nor is the academy (and even the Academy) able to keep itself entirely aloof from these questions. In the world of research, there have also been scandals and mistrust, and we need to face these issues squarely in our own research practice and communities. That’s where the Ethicist and the Ethics Education Committee would like to be of help.

We’re currently reaching out the AOM divisions to offer our help in developing and implementing ethics modules in their PDW’s and consortia sessions. It is our view that ethics is best approached as a conversation, not a merely a code of conduct. While we have the Code to guide us, the  really interesting work happens in a discussion of the details. And that conversation always has to be anchored in the actual practices that constitute the wide variety of research communities with the Academy of Management. Accordingly, our first responsibility as ethics educators is to listen and learn from members about the situations they face.

This post, then, is an invitation to engage in conversation. Feel free to leave comments below about the sorts of issues you think need to be faced, either by your own discipline or by the management field in general. Also, I am coordinating our consortia contributions this year, so if you are leading a consortium session for your division and would like include the EEC, either in your presentation or in your planning, please contact me by mail so we can work out the details.

 

Trust

This blog is committed to facilitating a conversation about ethics among the members of the Academy of Management. There are two reasons for this. First, the topic demands it. It is not enough for a professional organization to have a code of ethics, nor even for that code to be rigorously enforced. In order to have a positive effect, ethics must be the subject of an ongoing conversation among the practitioners that work in the relevant communities. There’s no straightforwardly “right and wrong” way of doing a particular thing. We become “better people” by talking about what we do and how we do it, and the consequences of our actions on other people.

Second, it is my firm belief that blogs are best engaged with as conversations, even if only as conversations “overheard”. When I write a blog post, I’m not really pretending to be an “author”. It is certainly not my intention to “lecture”. Your role, as a reader, is not simply to try to understand and then believe what I tell you. Rather, implicitly at the end of the post, there is the question, What do you think? Often (since this is a blog about ethical behavior), What would you do?

So I’ve been thrilled to talk to an anonymous reader in the comments to my post from a couple of weeks ago. Focusing mainly on publication ethics, Anon123 began by saying that he* was “deeply skeptical of any attempts to teach ethics other than by our everyday conduct and, perhaps more importantly, the conduct of the leaders of our field.” I share his worry but am, perhaps, a bit more optimistic. I think that, if the conversation about ethics is being had throughout the many forums of the Academy, our leaders will have both better conditions and better opportunities to set a good example. Perhaps they’ll even find their efforts rewarded in journal and business school rankings. But, for the past 20 years or so, it is true that we have taken ethics somewhat for granted, assuming that people are generally well-intentioned and that errors are generally honest. This has perhaps made us less vigilant than we should be–even, I often emphasize, as regards catching those honest mistakes.

The result, as Anon123 points out, can sometimes be a bit dispiriting:

I have been in the field a fairly long time but I find myself unwilling to believe much of what is published in our journals anymore. The work on the Chrysalis Effect, researcher degrees of freedom, p-hacking and HARKing makes it clear that a substantial proportion of our collective scholarship cannot be trusted, but it is impossible to know precisely what to trust and what not to trust.

These are all issues that concern me too. I’d highly recommend Andrew Gelman’s blog for anyone who is interested in a technical discussion of the many ways in which statistics can be misused, out of either malice or ignorance. (See this post, for example, about how what is sometimes called p-hacking often actually results from perfectly sincere statistical naivety.) Of course, it hardly matters whether people are cheating or just careless (and we do, of course, have an ethical obligation to be careful) if the result is that the published literature becomes an unreliable source of knowledge. And that’s exactly what Anon123 suggests, in very strong terms:

If you told me that 5% or 10% of my favorite cereal brand is infested with worms but that I can only tell that after I have purchased the cereal (or have tried to eat it) I can guarantee you that I would no longer purchase that cereal. Similarly, I feel disinclined to continue to “purchase” many of the paper published in journals like AMJ or JOM – or recommend them to others.

That is, he would not simply buy the cereal with greater caution–testing it for worms, for example, before eating it. Rather, he’d simply stop buying it. This reminds me that I once discovered a shelf-full of hot wings in the local supermarket that were a month over their best-before date. The store clerk I pointed it out to didn’t really seem interested. He didn’t hurry over to check out the problem (even to make sure that my absurd claim was indeed mistaken), but sort of sauntered on with his day. I guess he’d “get to them” when he was ready. Needless to say, I’ve had a hard time buying anything there ever since. Certainly, I confined my purchases on that day to a few imperishables.

Notice that it wasn’t just the extremely out-of-date hot wings that turned me off the store. It was the conversation about it (or lack thereof) that ensued that undermined my trust. Likewise, knowing that 60% of the results of psychological studies can’t be replicated does not mean (though I am sometimes tempted to let it) that we shouldn’t ever take psychology seriously. It is how the psychological sciences deal with this new knowledge that is important. If we get the sense that they are sweeping it under the rug, or simply not really bothered by it, then it will indeed affect how seriously we can take them.

The recent correction of an ASQ paper about CEO narcissism, has given me some hope that the system is improving. Here’s how Jerry Davis described the exemplary process to Retraction Watch:

A concerned reader notified me of the issues with a published table in this paper a few weeks ago, and also contacted the authors.  The authors came forward with a correction, which we promptly published.  We did not consider this sufficient for a full  retraction.  The concerned reader reports that he/she is satisfied with the corrigendum.  The journal is always looking for ways to enhance the quality of the review process, and if errors end up in print, we aim to correct them promptly.

To me, the key here is that the “concerned reader … is satisfied with the corrigendum”. It is all about feeling that when you share your concerns they are taken seriously. That’s the sort of leadership that is likely to rebuild the trust we need in the management literature. Hopefully, over time, even Anon123 can be brought around.

 

_________

* I had to think about this pronoun for awhile, and I’m sorry if I got it wrong. It is of course possible to get it wrong even when a name (like Jesse or Shawn) is given. In this case, I’ve gone with my intuition based on the style of the comment, its “voice, if you will. If my “ear” has misled me I hope it will cause as little offence as the time I assumed an Italian commenter named Gabriele was a woman.

How should we treat each other as scientific subjects?

At the Academy meeting in Vancouver this year, it was brought to my attention that there were PDW’s collecting research data on participating members – without a clear ethics approval or apparent ethics protocol. That is, there was no informed consent, yet data appeared to be collected.

This was not the first time I observed our collective avoidance of Ethics Review Board (ERB) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol when surveying ourselves.  As previous chair of AOM’s ethics education committee, I was tasked with repeating the ethics survey that we had administered to our entire membership some years before. The first thing that I did was to ask for the ethics review board protocol, in order to be sure I was following accepted procedures.

After a few weeks of embarrassing emails and back and forth confirmations, it was eventually clear that we had never submitted our own ethics survey to any kind of ethics review board. I was told that when the AOM board met to discuss this issue there was some hesitancy to constrain the activities of divisions surveying their membership – and no clear path to indicate who would serve as an accepted IRB for Academy research. My own decision was to obtain ERB approval and protocols from my own university, and proceed with the survey in that manner.

Many of us feel IRB’s are a burden. However, it is worth noting how many of these regulations came about.  For one, experiments on concentration camp victims horrified the scientific community, leading to the Nuremberg code. Much later, the experiments by Stanley Milgrom attempted to understand how people willingly agreed to do terrible acts to each other. His work, as well as famous Zimbardo prison simulation study, have led to tighter constraints on how to approach research, what is acceptable, and when ‘the line is crossed”.

One of my very first sociology professors was Laud Humphreys. He was famous for studying homosexual activities in public toilets, where he acted as the “watchqueen”. Later, he surreptitiously followed participants to their cars, identified their license plates, and showed up at their home disguised as a surveying health worker. This was done in 1960’s before IRB’s were mandated by the US federal government.

In fact, we have Academy members who come from countries where there is little of any oversight regarding research, particularly social science research.  However, I would argue we have a collective responsibility to observe the highest standards of research protocol, despite the burden, for our entire membership.

Our own code of ethics addresses this issue, although not as stridently as one might expect, as there is no specific mention of IRB procedures:

Participants. It is the duty of AOM members to preserve and protect the privacy, dignity, well-being,and freedom of research participants.

1.7. Informed Consent: When AOM members conduct research, including on behalf of the AOM or its divisions, they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals, using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons. Written or oral consent, permission, and assent are documented appropriately.

2.4. Anticipation of Possible Uses of Information:

2.4.1. When maintaining or accessing personal identifiers in databases or systems of records, such as division rosters, annual meeting submissions, or manuscript review systems, AOM members delete such identifiers before the information is made publicly available or employ other techniques that mask or control disclosure of individual identities.

2.4.2. When deletion of personal identifiers is not feasible, AOM members take reasonable steps to determine that the appropriate consent of personally identifiable individuals has been obtained before they transfer such data to others or review such data collected by others

Most North American universities are under strict IRB procedures.  They are virtually unanimous in stating that all surveys involving human subjects should be subjected to ERB committees. Here are a few statements from the Canadian “Tri Counsel” that governs Canadian universities:

If the primary purpose, design, content and/or function of such surveys is to conduct “research”2 involving humans, then it would generally require REB review, under TCPS Article 1.1(a):

Very similar statements appear at the Cornell Univ. website:

At the end of the day, each of us, no matter where we do our scholarly work, have a responsibility to protect the respondent as much as possible, in every conceivable way. The distance between our own behavior, and the 16 German doctors convicted of experimenting on human beings without their consent, is an essential red line that we cannot allow to become a ‘slippery slope’. Thus, even when we decide to research ourselves, as professors, and colleagues, I believe we should commit to the highest standards of scientific ethical inquiry. Even if IRB’s are a ‘burden’.

 

 

 

Management Without Borders

As many of us get ready for the annual AOM conference, it is worthwhile considering the theme for a moment, “Opening Governance”. We are invited “ to consider opportunities to improve the effectiveness and creativity of organizations by restructuring systems at the highest organizational levels.”

I believe we can begin with ourselves, as professionals, by enhancing our ability to act as organizational catalysts, stakeholders, managers, and global leaders. Certainly, AOM has created some very important mechanisms to ensure fair and transparent governance, and we refer to our global responsibilities clearly in our code of ethics:

  1. To all people with whom we live and work in the world community.

Sensitivity to other people, to diverse cultures, to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, to ethical issues, and to newly emerging ethical dilemmas is required. We accomplish this aim through:  Worldview. Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community. In their role as educators, members of the Academy can play a vital role in encouraging a broader horizon for decision making by viewing issues from a multiplicity of perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are the least advantaged.

Like most of you, I’ve attended numerous academic conferences where great world issues are actively discussed and debated, including the relevance of management scholarship, of public policy research, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the like. Yet, as I think of our activities revolving around our conference and our professional roles, I often come up empty handed regarding the actual contribution our field makes in today’s current environments, particularly on a global basis. Most of us are fortunate enough to have established positions in wealthy ‘western/northern’ countries. We are rarely forced to worry about basic health care, nutrition, housing, and education, never mind political instability, personal freedom, safety and security, all of concern to most of the world’s population.

Henry Mintzberg, in his most recent book “Rebalancing Society” points out the need for a balance between government, business, and civil society (often referred to as the third sector, or by Mintzberg as the plural sector). He argues that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 was due to an imbalance (overly centralized government unbalanced with other forces) rather than a triumph of capitalism over communism. Our responsibility – as elite professional intellectuals – arguably includes helping to re-establish a balance that, according to Mintzberg (as well as many other scholars of public policy who examine empirical evidence) has become skewed, pushing civil society into the margins as a minority position. Resulting inequality, one consequence, should concern us all.

So, besides attending a conference exploring good governance, what else can we academicians do? What if the Academy developed and sponsored an ‘Academic Management Without Borders’ program? Is there any interest out there?