In Memoriam: John E. Fleming, PhD

Long before the Ethicist Blog and the Ethics of Research and Publishing Video Series, the Academy’s voice of ethics was embodied in John E. Fleming, Professor Emeritus at University of Southern California.  John was a long-time member of the AOM Ethics Committee and a regular contributor to the Academy of Management Newsletter. John contributed articles about ethics that translated ethics experiences in academe to include vignettes on research, professional life and teaching, much like the topical areas found on the Ethicist Blog.  He recognized that being able to articulate our core shared professional values further builds our ethical culture.  Sadly, John Fleming passed away on February 2, 2014 and while he leaves behind his loving family and many colleagues and friends, his words and contributions about ethics will remain in the Academy’s memory.  You can read John’s full obituary in the March 2014 edition of AcadeMY News.

In honor of John Fleming’s memory, we’d like to share one of his later contributions to the Ethics Column.


By John E. Fleming, Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California; Member of the AOM Ethics Committee  (Originally published October 2006 AOM Newsletter)

This column deals with the Introduction, the Preamble, and both the General and Professional Principles in the first part of the Academy’s revised Code of Ethics.  I suspect that you are finding in your reading of the Code that it is a very complete professional document that requires diligent study and thoughtful application.  But there are also a number of important surprises along the way.

The most interesting thing that I have found in my study of this first part of the code is the emphasis that it places on the need for the very highest levels of professional ethics.  If we think of ethics as dealing with relationships between people, the Code requires that such relationships exist at the highest ethical level.  On the first page of the Code in the Introduction this is stated very clearly: “The Preamble, General Principles, and Professional Principles set forth aspirational goals to guide AOM members toward the highest ideals of research, teaching  practice, and service.”

At the beginning of the Preamble a wonderful statement appears concerning our societal responsibility: “The Academy of Management is devoted to increasing scientific and professional knowledge of management practices.  It promotes the use of such knowledge to improve the work lives of individuals, the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations, and the well-being of society as a whole.”  That sounds to me like a challenge to favorably impact the world around us.  Then, at the conclusion of this section, the responsibility of individual members, you and me, is brought home to each of us: “AOM members realize that to maintain ethical standards they must make a personal, lifelong commitment to behaving ethically themselves.”

In the next section of General Principles, the three important ethical values of Responsibility, Integrity and Respect are highlighted.  In the area of Responsibility the AOM members are challenged to “establish relationships of trust with those with whom they work.”  Under the topic of Integrity members are reminded “to promote accuracy, honesty and truthfulness.”  Specifically, members “do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact.” Finally, with the topic of Respect the member is challenged “to respect the dignity and worth of all people and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination.” This is a major commitment that we are challenged to accept.

The section of the code on Professional Principles outlines the challenges in the critical ethical responsibilities that AOM members have in relation to others. With students there is the need for “respect, fairness, and caring.”  In the advancement of managerial knowledge the requirement is a need for “prudence in the research design, human subject use, and confidentiality and reporting of results.”  How often do you think and act with “prudence” in your research? Also, the member is challenged to support the Academy of Management through “service to the AOM and its institutions, and to recognition of the dignity and personal worth of colleagues.” Ethical principles in the relationships of members to managers and in the practice of management are important and challenging.  “It is essential that members who consult be guided by the ideals of competence, integrity, and objectivity.” And finally, in these introductory sections of the Code we find the greatest ethical challenge of all: to have “a Worldview.  Academy members have a duty to consider their responsibilities to the world community.”

Note:  All quotations are from the revised Academy of Management Code of Ethics

Author: Terese Loncar