Ethics at the Interface…to be continued!

Thanks to everyone who participated in Ethics Education Committee PDWs, Caucus, Consortia, and meetings in Atlanta! We’re in the process of assembling notes, slides, and resources to share. We are already thinking ahead to Chicago, so feel free to share your ideas!

Confidential

By Nancy Day, AOM Ombuds

Our jobs as faculty can be among the most satisfying – at least in terms of Hackman and Oldham’s (1975) Job Characteristics Model. We use a lot of different skills, often find our work meaningful, and we have a great deal of autonomy. BUT – our jobs can also be among the most stressful: publication pressures, student demands, and difficulties working with colleagues, both other faculty and administrators.

As members of the Academy of Management, you are fortunate to have resources to help you navigate conflicts and related issues. The AOM Ethics Ombuds Committee is composed of three members, all of whom are trained ombudspersons, who will try to understand your story, clarify your goals, help generate options that may resolve the issue, and assist you in planning your next steps.

As member of the International Ombudsman Association, we adhere to four Standards of Practice: Informality, neutrality/impartiality, independence, and confidentiality. In our last contribution to the Ethicist Blog, Ombuds Committee member Mary Sue Love covered neutrality and impartiality. Today, I’d like to describe confidentiality.

Confidentiality means we won’t divulge what you tell us to anyone, unless you give us permission to do so. Confidentiality is critical so that our “visitors” (the folks we’re trying to help) feel they can be candid and complete in telling their stories. Like all organizational Ombuds, we keep no records, so there’s nothing that will come up in any legal discovery process, should that occur. The only people who will know about your consultation with AOM Ombuds are you and us, unless you choose to tell someone else. Our confidentiality standard requires we neither confirm nor deny who’s consulted with us.

Confidentiality is critical so we can effectively help Ombuds visitors. Exceptions to it are very limited: If we believe there is “imminent risk of serious harm” to an individual or the Academy, we are obligated to report that to the appropriate person.

As Ombuds, our goal is that by telling us your story, you’ll have both a clearer understanding of the situation and some ideas about how to move forward in a positive direction. In our next few blog posts, we’ll explain the other Standards of Practice, independence and informality.

So if you want an avenue to confidentially try to resolve Academy-related issues, please contact us at ombuds@aom.org. You can find more information on the Academy’s Ethics webpage: www.AOM.org/ethics.

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