Independence – A Central Tenet of the Work of an Ombuds

by Gregory K. Stephens, Ph.D., AOM Ombuds

On occasion, when faced with knotty disputes, I have shared the issues with a long-time mediation partner (now retired) and asked for feedback and creative insight. Part of the reason those conversations were so valuable to me was because, though she was insightful, wise, and careful, she had (as we say in Texas) “no dog in the hunt.” That is, she was an independent resource, one who I could depend upon to be thoughtful and unbiased, and who would not be obligated to share my challenges with someone in authority.

This, at its core, describes the first of the Standards of Practice under which we operate as Ombuds for the Academy of Management — Independence. We are independent from other organizational entities, such as the Ethical Adjudication Committee. We do not hold other positions within the AOM that might compromise our independence. Within the constraints of the other IOA Standards of Practice, Confidentiality, Neutrality, and Informality (to be discussed in our next blog post) we have discretion over whether or how to act in response to  an individual’s concern or trending issues of concern to multiple individuals. In short, we do not have pressures to reveal information or act in any obligatory way, outside of our concern for the individual.

In practical terms, what this means is that we can help our “visitors” navigate the policies and procedures of the AOM organization, see their issues through different eyes, explore different ways of handling their concerns, and even deal with both parties in a dispute (again, acknowledging and abiding by expectations for confidentiality, impartiality, and neutrality). Because we are independent from formal disciplinary mechanisms, we are not obligated to reveal information shared in conversations with our visitors, nor are we expected to share individually identifiable issues with others in the AOM hierarchy.

Independence of the Ombuds in any organization is important to avoid both the reality and appearance of divided loyalties. As Luis Piñero,  University of Wisconsin-Madison Assistant Vice Provost for Workforce Equity and Diversity, said, “Ombuds cannot be seen as extensions of the power structure. If they are not perceived as independent, people may not seek them out.” Our whole goal is to help our visitors to find ways to resolve their concerns and disputes, with a goal of avoiding the blunt instrument of formal authority. Achieving that goal would be difficult or impossible without independence.

We (the AOM Ombuds) are here to help, and want to serve the dispute resolution needs of the members of the Academy of Management. We commit to abide by the Standards of Practice of the International Ombudsman Association, including independence, and the Academy of Management has likewise committed to those standards. If you have questions or if you are in need of our services, please reach out to us at Ombuds@aom.org.

AOM, Political Positions & Realities

In this tumultuous political climate, many professional associations and research institutes are finding themselves in a challenging situation. The AOM is not immune. Indeed, the global nature of the Academy means we have a number of complex dilemmas to consider, as well as practical problems associated with travel to the annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia next summer.

The Academy’s Executive Committee advanced a proposal to amend the policy on political stands:

“On February 5th, the Executive Committee unanimously approved an amendment to allow stands on an exceptional basis. This amendment was approved on February 10th in an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Governors. The AOM will take a stand when our purpose, existence, or function as an organization is threatened. The policy will be embargoed for 90 days while a task force explores how the policy will be elaborated and implemented (please see below for additional information on both the policy and the task force).”

In the meantime, it is important that leaders and members know what can and can’t be said and done in the name of the Academy of Management.  Please take a moment to review updated answers to frequently asked questions.

The mission of the AOM is to “To build a vibrant and supportive community of scholars by markedly expanding opportunities to connect and explore ideas.” Our Code of Ethics reminds us of of our commitment to “respect the dignity and worth of all people” and points out that “Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community.” Standing for our values and principles is easy when they aren’t tested!

We are also exploring a range of member suggestions, such as increased reliance on web-based technologies and video-conferencing. If you are directly affected by the ban, or you have suggestions for other ways in which we can support and enable scholarly participation by affected scholars, contact Taryn Fiore at tfiore@aom.org.

 

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)

PDW Making Ethical Codes Meaningful

SIM and the Ethics Education Committee collaborated on a caucus held in Vancouver. In small groups, participants examined themes and potential revisions to the AOM Code of Ethics. We are now using the notes from that caucus as we work to propose changes to the content and format of the Code. In Anaheim, SIM will offer an excellent opportunity to continue the conversation, and consider ethical codes in the context of this year’s theme of “Meaningful Organizations.” I invited Scott Taylor and Laura Spence to share information about this important PDW, and I hope to see you there! –Janet Salmons, Chair, EEC

Making Ethical Codes Meaningful – Change, Community and Voice
Scott Taylor and Laura Spence

#161 MAKING DIVERSITY & INCLUSION MEANINGFUL: MOVING FROM DE JURE CODES TO DE FACTO PRACTICE
Friday August 5, 4.15-6.15pm
Sheraton Palm Hotel, Palm East. All welcome!

If we know anything with certainty in the field of business ethics, it’s that ethical codes don’t guarantee ethical actions. Many colleagues use the Enron code of ethics in teaching to demonstrate this – a spectacularly detailed, glossy, hortatory 65 page document, that was systematically ignored and derided by most working in that unhappy organization. An extreme example of code-practice disconnect, for sure, but one that we should always have in mind when we develop and promote ethical codes, such as the one to which all AOM members are automatic signatories. Need a reminder of what it you have agreed to? Take a look here.

It is no surprise that we don’t all have the content of the AOM code memorised, and that needn’t mean that we are acting in contradiction to it. Or indeed our practise might naturally exceed the expectations set out in the AOM code. However, there are times when observable practice contravenes the code.  Whatever your position on the value of codes of conduct – and they are subject to critique themselves of course – if you are member of AOM, you have committed to following this one.

To think through and act on the potential for code-practice disconnect, we decided to put together a PDW in Anaheim this year on the topic of bringing codes into practice with a view to identifying practical steps through an interactive workshop. We asked people from Africa, Europe, North America and South America to come together and make provocative presentations about putting formal professional ethics into meaningful practice. Presenters and discussants will talk about their experiences of working with police forces, social movements, and academic colleagues, in practising and analysing how ethics happen in complex organizations.

One of the intellectual reasons for putting this workshop together was the realisation that management researchers and educators have been writing and talking about the gap between codes and practice for as long as management and organization studies has been taught and written. This observation was the central pillar of, for example, Melville Dalton’s classic book Men Who Manage (first edition 1959!): official behaviours, represented in codes and guidelines, and unofficial actions, observed in everyday organizational life, were universally characterised by being markedly different. Why have codes if we don’t intend to act on them? And as the entries on this blog to date show, the key first step is to think, talk, and write about the gaps. That’s the first purpose of this workshop.

Like Dalton, though, we also want to take a second step, towards taking action. To that end, we’re creating a space where people can listen to and talk about very concrete possibilities: social activism, implementing quotas, protecting the conditions for voices to be heard, and occupying formal offices (in AOM and in our own employing institutions). None of these things are easy to do, especially when the everyday demands of academic work is so high, and when so many positions are precarious, framed by short-term contracts, pressures to publish, managerialism, and student assessments of our teaching.

However, if we don’t take up the challenge to bring what we know about ethics to our own profession as well as to the organizations that our students work in, then what, really is the point? First, we leave ourselves open to accusations of hypocrisy – if our own house isn’t clean, then we have no right to tell others how to maintain theirs. Second, we’re likely to experience significant cognitive dissonance – and again, we know from the research we do as a community, that’s not great to live with. Finally, it’s simply the right thing to do – as a profession, despite steadily degrading working conditions, many of us still have the privilege of being (mostly) in control of our own workplaces, institutions, and practices. In that sense, we have the freedom to think about and take pro-social, progressive action in our own working lives, as well as promoting this to others.

Do join us, and come armed with your challenges and solutions relating to the practice of ethics in the Academy of Management. We are keen to have a diverse and engaged workshop, so bring some innovation and energy too!

#161 MAKING DIVERSITY & INCLUSION MEANINGFUL: MOVING FROM DE JURE CODES TO DE FACTO PRACTICE
Chair:
Laura Spence, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.

Presenters:

  • Rafael Alcadipani, Sao Paulo School of Economics/FGV-EAESP, Brazil. Practising diversity in extreme organizations.
  • Yvonne Benschop, Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University, Netherlands. Formal and informal networking to promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Lauren McCarthy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Social movement and action, technology and feminism for inclusion.
  • Patrizia Zanoni, Hasselt University, Belgium. The challenges of engaged scholarship on diversity and inclusion.

Panel:

  • Alex Faria, Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration /FGV-EBAPE, Brazil. Practising diversity and inclusion through post- and decolonial thinking.
  • Sarah Gilmore, University of Portsmouth, UK. Bureaucracy and holding office in service of inclusion.
  • Scott Taylor, University of Birmingham, UK. Building inclusive communities.

    Discussants:

  • Eileen Kwesiga, Bryant University. HRM and diversity.
  • Nceku Nyathi, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Values based leadership.

Sponsored by the Diversity & Inclusion Theme Committee, Critical Management Studies, Gender & Diversity in Organizations, Social Issues in Management.

 

 

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.