Call for Papers: Journal of Business Ethics on Historic Corporate Responsibility

This post is part of an invited series, in an effort to share ethics-related opportunities, news, and projects lead by AOM Divisions, Committees, and members.
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Sins of the Fathers:
Organizations and Historic Responsibility
by Robert A. Phillips, Judith Schrempf-Stirling and Christian Stutz

What are the responsibilities of current managers and the organizations they lead for the actions of long ago predecessors? When historians found that forebears of the U.S. bank Wachovia owned slaves, Ken Thompson, chairman and chief executive officer in 2005, publicly apologized stating, “On behalf of Wachovia Corporation, I apologize to all Americans, and especially to African-Americans and people of African descent“. Wachovia has not been the only company – or even the only bank – to publicly apologize for its history. That same year, J.P. Morgan Chase issued an apology and announced it would provide a $5 million scholarship fund for its role in owning slaves who were used as loan collateral.

In 2011, German fashion company Hugo Boss apologized for its use and harsh treatment of forced labourers during World War II. The company’s public statement stressed “its profound regret to those who suffered harm or hardship at the factory run by Hugo Ferdinand Boss under National Socialist rule.”  Nor is this limited to for profit corporations. In 2017, Yale announced it would rename Calhoun College due to John C. Calhoun’s active support of slavery. While history is in the past, it remains very much in the present. Examples like these raise fundamental questions about the historical actions of organizations and the related responsibility in the present.

We share our history in the form of stories and narratives when we talk about the foundation, origins, developments, changes, and goals of our organizations. Those stories form and express identity and legitimize current activities. Our stories co-create our collective organizational memory. However, stories and narratives are substantially subjective. Due to their own past and experiences and current position, individuals will have different takes on historical and current events – that is, history can be contested. Even when we experience the same event, this does not mean that we think or talk about it in the same way. Different narratives can co-exist about the very same historical events. History, as such, can be a powerful tool. These narratives can be, and often are, used strategically. Non-governmental organizations or activists might (mis-)use history for moralizing purposes to receive greater public attention and support. Corporations may manipulate how the public views past events by sharing only part of the story or discrediting other narratives. Often these organizations are also the stewards of the very documents and artefacts needed to inform our readings of history. Of course, some level of interpretation and selectivity is unavoidable. Examining an organization’s past, how that past is interpreted in the present, and how these sometimes contested interpretations influence today’s managers and organizational stakeholders present fascinating scholarly possibilities.

To provoke and promote deeper examination, we have launched a call for papers for a special issue in Journal of Business Ethics on Historic Corporate Responsibility in which we encourage scholars to consider some of the following pressing questions in relation to organizations and their histories:

  • Can organizations be responsible for the actions of prior generations of leaders and members?
  • What, if anything, can current leaders do to recognize, mitigate or limit responsibility today for past actions?
  • What can leaders today do to affect how they and their organizations are seen in the future? What role can concerns for legacy have in influencing current decisions?
  • What, if any, effect do attempts at re-organization (e.g., acquisition, mergers, bankruptcy, re-branding, changes in leadership, etc.) have on responsibility?
  • Is there a limit to how far back the claims of historic responsibility can go?
  • What would adequate restitution look like? To whom and in what form and magnitude? Can an organization be forgiven? Can an organization apologize and who can accept it?
  • What are the boundaries of past and current organizations? Are there affiliational responsibilities from the past?
  • Who can legitimately speak for the past?
  • What is the role of forgetting and selective memory?
  • What, if any, duty do organizations have to be transparent about their past?
  • Should stigma attach to individuals who were participants in past transgressions? How do we define participants?

Many of our colleagues have been hard at work for many decades within the Academy of Management, particularly within the Management History Division. Tremendous potential remains, however, for exploring how the past continues to affect the sorts of questions that have historically (ahem) been considered part of other domains of the Academy.

The Damage Our Stories Can Create

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

Consider the self-fulfilling prophecy and the role of assumptions and stories in this cycle; two people work together productively for many years, collaborating on a variety of scholarly works. After a while, though, one of them is interviewed for a podcast, and refers to their work as “my” work, and uses “I” in response to the interviewer’s questions. The other, hearing this seemingly selfish appropriation of their collaboration, begins to wonder whether her collaborator really respects her contributions. That doubt, and the subsequent questions about mutual respect, begins to take root in her mind. Concerned that her collaborator may have ulterior motives, she begins to withhold certain ideas, worried that he might take them for his own. He, in turn, begins to wonder why she is suddenly and seemingly less creative and less interested in the collaboration they once enjoyed. It doesn’t take long before they both start looking elsewhere for professional collaboration and stimulation, and a promising and productive relationship begins to die.

Any attorney or police officer will tell you that most people make terrible eye witnesses. Why? Because we rarely have all the facts, but in the same way that nature abhors a vacuum, our minds abhor an incomplete understanding of a situation. So, we intuitively generate stories (we in the social sciences would call them hypotheses) to fill in the gaps. The problem lies in that, all too often, we believe those stories as if they were fact. And unlike the hypotheses we generate in our research, because we think of them as facts, we don’t explore them or test them to find out if they are accurate. Not surprisingly, difficulties inevitably follow.

As Ombuds, an important part of our role and function is to help our visitors to differentiate between fact and story, challenge their stories, explore plausible alternatives, and then determine ways to discover whether and which stories might be true. A key element of this process is to move away from accusation and toward curiosity. Simply differentiating story from fact, and acknowledging that the story might not be true, is often enough to replace pain and accusation with curiosity, leading to questions rather than recriminations.

Strong relationships, whether professional or personal, necessarily require a certain forbearance, a willingness to think of the other with tolerance rather than leaping immediately to the worst possible story when confronted with what seems like ill behavior. Yes, there is risk in that stance, but without it, the risk of unhealthy or sundered relationships may be even greater.

The following passage is attributed to the Buddha: “If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” As Ombuds, we would suggest that if the answer to the first question is “possibly not,” then your attitude should properly be one of curiosity, and your subsequent actions should be built around healthy dialogue. With that mindset, many of the issues that come our way each year would quite likely be resolved without the need of a neutral third party.

So, what are your stories about those with whom you work?

Communities of Practice Fostering Moral Strength in the Workplace: An Example in Silicon Valley

by Leslie E. Sekerka, Ph.D.
Menlo College, Atherton, CA

Communities of Practice (CoP) are an important means of sharing information and fostering development among business ethicists. An exemplary model of a particularly effective CoP is the Business Ethics Partnership at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics in the Silicon Valley. The design of this CoP is specifically geared toward the promotion of collaborative discourse between executives and scholars. Meeting throughout the year, members and visiting guests increase their knowledge about how to effectively manage ethics in their own organizations. Founded in 2003, the group includes business leaders, academics, and practitioners who share a common goal of honing ethics and compliance practices and processes. Together, partners work to advance the state of business ethics by sharing common solutions and ideas, as they explore innovative ways of achieving ethical strength in the workplace. Partners have the advantage of efficiency and effectiveness, exchanging knowledge, keeping up with ethics education and policy news, and collaboratively working to address new and emerging ethical challenges.

Recently the CoP focused on how to cultivate productive discourse toward addressing discrimination and microagression in a proactive manner. Offering insights, Leslie Sekerka, Professor of Management and Ethics in Action Center Director at Menlo College (Atherton, CA), presented a workshop entitled “Fortifying Workplace Respect through Balanced Experiential Inquiry (BEI).” Partners and guests engaged in an adult learning process (BEI) to better understand and address Islamophobia and anti-Muslimism and other forms of discrimination. Dr. Sekerka underscored the critical nature of diverse work environments that encourage respect for all. Although a thoughtful regard for others is often assumed, this requires work to become an realized and sustained. Without respect, friction among coworkers can lead to ethical issues of discrimination, contributing to inequality and a lack of civility. The professor led the BEI session while also providing insights about how to conduct the process itself. Robert Shanklin, a philosophy lecturer at SCU (Santa Clara, CA), helped participants understand how seemingly little things —a string of offhand remarks or common assumptions— can lead to unhealthy cultures and even lawsuits. Participants in this session worked together to better understand how micro-aggressions can contribute to corporate culture problems and to consider how responses to such negativity can be more effective and ethically appropriate.

In all, the gathering helped members practice the use of tools that will help them lead and foster mindful awareness and respect toward others in their respective workplace environments. Participants left the session with a sense of how to respond to ethical challenges with moral courage through the use of specific moral competencies, skills that enable people to address
ethical issues like anti-Muslimism, with compassion and care.

Additional resources:
https://www.scu.edu/ethics/focus-areas/business ethics/programs/business-ethics- partnership/
http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319180892
http://www.innovativelearning.com/teaching/communities_of_practice.html

Ombuds and “Informality”

by Mary Sue Love, AOM Ombuds

juggling tasksI’ve been struggling with a work decision recently. It may come as no surprise to many mid-career academics, but I was feeling over committed and I needed to let at least one service role go.  I’ve attended meetings and listened to about seven different perspectives on whether to let go of this particular officer role.  I’d have loved to talk in detail with any of these seven people, but I knew their perspectives and I didn’t want to be convinced to stay; I just wanted to sort through all of their points and see how they could help inform my choice.  The problem: I was torn and didn’t really know exactly what I wanted, what my motives were, and what was best for me and the organization I was poorly serving.  I needed someone who would listen and help me clarify my own perspective, not share one more!

Turns out, this is exactly when an Ombuds can be helpful.  Not only must they remain neutral, but being informal is much more than just not taking notes or putting anyone on record. Last year, the AoM Ombuds committee started a series of posts on the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice . AOM Ombuds Greg Stephens started the series with general information on the role of an ombuds; then I wrote about neutrality and impartiality. Nancy Day wrote about confidentiality, then Greg wrote on independence.

I’m finishing our series with a discussion on informality, something I recently turned to an Ombuds for myself.  Last spring, Nancy posted on the topic for her university. She does a great job of defining informality, saying, “being an informal resource means I can help you think about your problem in different ways that may help address it without going through the complications of a formal process such as a grievance. Working with me is off-the-record, and no one will know you’ve been to see me unless you tell them.”  She’s right, according to the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice, informality means we are ‘off the record,’ we don’t make binding decisions, and we do not participate in any formal procedures.

You might ask, then, what can an Ombuds do, and how can one help me decide whether to drop this committee obligation?  Ombuds can listen, help you identify issues, discuss a range of options, reframe things, just like Nancy said in her post. But why is this so powerful?

Renowned psychologist Carl Rogers spoke to this in his 1958 address to the American Personnel and Guidance Association.  Titled “The Characteristics of a Helping Relationship,” and reprinted in his book “On Becoming a Person,” many other places, and here , Rogers describes the undeniable magic that can happen when a person is listened to by another who is genuine, empathetic, and non-judgmental.  In this safe space, the individual is able to speak freely and have her ideas and feelings clarified.  In so doing, Rogers found that patients often were able to develop workable solutions to their own problems.  This was quite a departure from the more prescriptive psychological theories of Rogers’ day.

Today I want to share just how magical it is when someone helps you sort through your own mess of thoughts and feelings to find your own workable solution.  I started my conversation with the Ombuds by sharing the nuts and bolts of my obligations, my thoughts as to why this was the one commitment to let go, and the reasons others thought this was a bad idea on my part.  For the first time in weeks, I was able to talk about the issues without fear of judgment and without being pressured by others. Part of my confusion was in the thought of letting down so many other committed individuals. Yet part of what they weren’t hearing from me was how I felt I was already letting them down by not being able to give the role all the time and dedication it required. About halfway through my second round of being listened to without judgment, I started to hear myself say “I can’t fulfill the obligations of this role and…” The last three times I’d started that sentence, I’d been cut off by one of those seven other perspectives.  However, my informal Ombuds didn’t cut me off, she let me talk through all my mixed motives. So as I listened to the last half of that sentence for the first time, my decision gelled and the force of it resonated within me.

The tone of the conversation changed as I gained enthusiasm and momentum for my decision.  We quickly moved from my fears to real solutions.  By the time we finished the conversation, I had a plan for next steps.  Because I was clear with myself, I was able to articulate my decision to others in a way that helped strengthen the leadership team instead of leaving them in the lurch.  It’s been about six weeks since I made the decision to step down from leadership and focus on the sub-committee work for this fledgling organization. I feel better, obviously, but because I took the time to sort my thoughts and feelings with an Ombuds, I was able to find a resolution that benefitted not just me but the organization too.

Yes, we were hacked!

If you received an odd message from The Ethicist this weekend, please know that we are aware that someone hacked the blog and are dealing with it.

Leading Ethically Through Diversity and Inclusion Policies

Guest Post from Kristine D. Jones-Pasley, Ph.D.

From the AOM Code of Ethics: AOM members are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role
differences, including those based on age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual
orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and they consider these factors when working with all
people. AOM members try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on these factors, and they do not
knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.

We know that a hot topic for many organizations is the creation of a diverse and inclusive work endiversity at workvironment. Organizations tend to focus on gender and race when it comes to the topic of diversity; however, diversity is much more. Let’s focus on diversity as it relates to people with disabilities (PWD).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2017), the unemployment rate in 2016 for PWD was 10.5% vs 4.6% for people without disabilities (para. 1). BLS (2017) stated that the unemployment rate for PWD “was little changed from the previous year” (para. 1).

We need to look at these numbers in context, the BLS report information comes from the Current Population Survey, which surveys 60,000 households on employment statuses in the United States. The information is voluntary and from their data BLS determined that the majority of those surveyed with a disability were over the age of 65. This information leads to several questions:

  • Are those younger than 65 hesitant to acknowledge their disability?
  • If they are hesitant, why?
  • How many in the workforce are hiding their disability?

I want to touch on the last question. How many in the workforce are hiding their disability? This one question leads to a host of several questions regarding leadership and organizational culture. When we think of disability we tend to think of visible disabilities; however, there are a number of individuals who have non-visible disabilities.

Think about your team, how many do you know suffer from chronic depression? Diabetes? Heart disease? Migraine headaches? These are just some of the impairments that are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Can you also see why some individuals do not self-identify as having a disability?

Continue to think about your team. Do you have someone on your team that has used a lot of leave in large blocks due to a mysterious illness. Do you have someone on your team that takes several breaks throughout the day to walk around, in the restroom, in their car, etc.?

Have you as a leader and your organization in general, created an environment where team members feel comfortable reporting that they are facing challenges? Are you currently “watching” a member of your team for one more strike so that you can release them from the company? If you knew that they had a disability would you change your mind about releasing them from the company? If you knew that your top employee had two heart attacks, would this change your opinion of the person and their value to the organization?

Legally, you could release the person from the organization if they are missing large amounts of time or taking a lot of breaks. Ethically, should you do it if mitigating circumstances are presented?

Conduct an audit on your organizational diversity and inclusion initiatives. What is in place regarding reasonable accommodations for PWD? How many leaders/managers/supervisors/team leads have self-identified as having a disability? Although organizations state that they are open to diversity and inclusion, many do not have the initiatives in place to support these statements.

If you are unsure of how to start a diversity and inclusion initiative, join me for the webinar: Defining Diversity and Inclusion for Your Organization.

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LIVE!! Diversity and Inclusion Webinar

Title: Defining Diversity and Inclusion for Your Organization

This webinar provides actionable first steps in creating a diversity and inclusion initiative for your organization.

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Time: 2 PM ET/1 PM CT/12 PM MT/11 AM PT

Audience: Leaders, managers, supervisors, change makers, and human resources professionals.

Register at: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/definingdi

This webinar is limited to 50 people, register now and save your seat. Those who attend will have access to the recording for two weeks.

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References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017, June 21). Economic news release: Persons with a disability: Labor force characteristics summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm

Ethical Leadership through Giving Voice To Values: Free Online Course

Beginning next Monday, September 25, 2017, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, in partnership with Coursera, will offer a 4-week online course, Ethical Leadership through Giving Voice To Values.
This course offers an action-oriented introduction to Giving Voice to Values (or GVV), an exciting new approach to values-driven leadership development in the workplace, in business education and in life.
GVV is not about persuading people to be more ethical, but instead it starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values, but that we also want to feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully.
Through positive, real-life examples, pre-scripting, rehearsal and peer coaching, GVV builds the skill, the confidence and the likelihood that we will act on our values more often and more successfully. Based on research and practice and with more than 1,000 pilots in companies and educational settings on all seven continents, GVV helps us to answer the questions: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?”
Audiences for this course include business practitioners, corporate trainers and leadership/ethics professionals who wish to use the GVV approach in their organizational training and management practices; faculty who wish to find ways to integrate values-related topics into their core curriculum; as well as students and individual learners. Faculty may wish to assign the entire course and/or selected videos and assignments to students in their own classes, as a way to introduce them to the GVV approach before asking them to apply the methodology to cases and topics in their existing syllabi.
The course includes short videos introducing the key GVV topics and approaches, as well as video presentations by GVV users from business, the military and academia; readings; exercises; and peer coaching opportunities.
Learners can earn a course certificate from Coursera for $79. Auditors can access the course materials for free.
Registration
Registration is available now at this link through Coursera. The first cohort for the course begins on September 25, 2017 and runs for 4 weeks. For the remainder of 2017, subsequent cohorts launch on October 23November 20December 18, and every fourth Monday after that.
For more information, please feel free to contact AOM Ethics Education Committee member GentileM@darden.virginia.edu and visit www.GivingVoiceToValues.org and www.MaryGentile.com.

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!

Ethics at the Interface

 


When we interface as individuals, as citizens, or as representatives of institutions or organizations, we often encounter ethical dilemmas. As the description of this year’s conference theme suggests, we might need to navigate uncertain boundaries between insider and outsider status, and determine whose power is legitimate, whose voices are heard. We confront these questions whether we are teaching a class of culturally, racially (and politically!) diverse students, collaborating on research projects or articles, consulting with clients, or making decisions about an AOM activity. What is the right way, the ethical way, to handle our differences, so we can learn, study, or work together?

When we join AOM we commit to uphold the Code of Ethics, which offers some guidance about the necessity of standing for fair, respectful, inclusive practices when we find ourselves at the interface:

AOM members respect the dignity and worth of all people and the rights of individuals…AOM members are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences, including those based on age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and they consider these factors when working with all people. AOM members try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on these factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.

This year the Ethics Education Committee invites you to discuss common dilemmas and to consider ways to address them. Please join us, all are welcome! After the conference in Atlanta we plan to share what we learn in a series of posts on The Ethicist Blog.

Building a Culture Of Respect: Teaching and Conducting Research in a Complex World
Session Type: PDW Workshop
Program Session: 70 | Submission: 15995 | Sponsor(s): (D&ITC, GDO)
Scheduled: Friday, Aug 4 2017 10:00AM – 12:00PM at Hilton Atlanta in Galleria 1
Organizer: Janet E. Salmons, Walden U.
Organizer: David B. Zoogah, Xavier U.
Organizer: Louise Kelly, U. of La Verne
Organizer: Deborah Michelle Mullen, HealthPartners Inst./ U. of St. Francis

Teaching Ethics & Social Responsibility in a Conflicted World
Program Session: 178 | Submission: 16055 | Sponsor(s): (SIM)
Scheduled: Friday, Aug 4 2017 5:00PM – 6:30PM at Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Marquis M304
Organizer: Janet E. Salmons, Walden U. and Vision2Lead
Organizer: Lynn Wilson, Walden U. and SeaTrust Institute

Ethics Education Committee Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship
Session Type: Meeting
Program Session: 433 | Submission: 18158 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 5 2017 4:00PM – 5:30PM at Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Lobby L404

Ethics Education Committee Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business
& Academia

Session Type: Meeting
Program Session: 469 | Submission: 18159 | Sponsor(s): (AAA)
Scheduled: Saturday, Aug 5 2017 5:45PM – 7:15PM at Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Lobby L404

UN Sustainable Development Goals: What Can We Do?
Session Type: Caucus
Program Session: 1823 | Submission: 15758 | Sponsor(s): (CAU)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 8 2017 11:30AM – 1:00PM at Hilton Atlanta in Room 203
Organizer: Janet E. Salmons, Walden U.
Organizer: Mark Edward Meaney, U. of Colorado, Boulder
Presenter: Lynn Wilson, Walden U.

Growing Pains: Globalization and the Threats to Research Integrity
Threats to Research Integrity
Session Type: Caucus
Program Session: 2059 | Submission: 16581 | Sponsor(s): (CAU)
Scheduled: Tuesday, Aug 8 2017 3:00PM – 4:30PM at Hilton Atlanta in Room 203
Organizer: Joseph Lampel, The U. of Manchester
Organizer: Benson Honig, McMaster U.

Join the Ethics Ed Committee in Atlanta!