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Framing the Language of Business

Framing is not just how you present a painting. Framing helps to communicate the type of art, it complements subject matter, and it influences how the viewer perceives the image. Framing also matters when it comes to business, and the language we use can deeply affect both the rules we follow and those we are willing to break.

While business has its own lexicon, a new piece in Ethisphere by Scott Killingsworth, Senior Counsel with Bryan Cave LLP in Atlanta, illustrates that when we couch the business of business in terms of war and gamification, we prime the pump for pernicious results.

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Why CEO Activism Could Change the World of Public Companies

Guest post by Ann B. Graham

In the past few months, a string of CEOs from large American public companies have spoken boldly on some of the most divisive societal concerns of our time: LGTB rights, gun control and racism and police brutality. The business press has dubbed them “Activist CEOs.”

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Featured Collaborator of July/August: David Mayer

Interview with David Mayer, associate professor in the Management and Organizations Area at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

What are your main areas of research? 

I am an organizational scholar who focuses primarily on one fundamental question: When and why do individuals in organizations engage in unethical and prosocial behavior? More specifically, I am interested how the social environment in organizations (e.g., leadership, peers, organizational climate, organizational practices) impacts unethical and prosocial behavior.

I am also fascinated with the question of whether employees and leaders think that business and work are part of the moral domain of social life and I have worked on several papers that demonstrate that at times “business” and “ethics” are inseparable and at times they are, as the truism suggests, an oxymoron.

In contrast to the bulk of work taking a social science lens on ethics, I typically take a positive lens by not focusing solely on identifying pitfalls and biases that lead to unethical behavior, but by understanding how the context at work can improve prosocial behavior, how employees and leaders in organizations can influence others to do good, and when leaders and employees are most likely to act in ways that suggest they consider work to be a moral domain.

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Meet Azish Filabi, our new CEO

To Our Community, 

We are proud to introduce Azish Filabi, our new CEO. 

After a comprehensive search over several months, we identified several potential candidates to take over the helm of our organization. However, one stood out above all others and we are thrilled that she has come on board. 

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Poisoning the Well: The impact of incivility in the workplace

Culture matters more than any other factor in determining the level of ethical conduct within an organization. Knowing this, leaders need to be ever vigilant to how toxic day to day interactions can poison the working environment.

Christina Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University and co-author of “The Cost of Bad Behavior” recently published an op-ed and online quiz (“No Time to Be Nice at Work,” Sunday, June 21, 2015) in The New York Times illuminating the dramatic degree in which courtesy and consideration in the workplace actually impact individuals. 

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Interested in an Ethical Culture? Build an Ombuds Program

Guest post by John W. ZinsserPacifica Human Communications, LLC.

There is a mechanism for employees of all levels to safely (without fear of retaliation) raise any concern or ask a needed question — an organizational ombuds program.

Properly constructed and executed organizational ombuds programs provide those who access the function a place to:

  • Consider possible solutions;
  • Navigate the complexity of today’s organizations;
  • Sound out an idea; and
  • Build a plan of action to address a situation.

As a result of being involved in these activities, the ombuds program is positioned to raise leadership’s awareness and understanding of key issues the organization faces.

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Book Review: Richard Thaler's "Misbehaving: The making of behavioral economics"

What do economics, psychology, and experimental science have in common? As Richard Thaler implies in Misbehaving: The making of behavioral economics, most economists would say little to none — but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Misbehaving is, first and foremost, a story of how modern economics, finance, and theoretical analysis have become increasingly specialized and narrow without substantial practical value. Utilizing empirical studies and anecdotes, funny stories, and even some jokes, Thaler persuades the reader that behavioral studies — or psychology-motivated disciplines which focus on humans, not mythical rational agents — are here to stay. 

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Book Review: Margaret Heffernan's "Beyond Measure"

Margaret Heffernan's new book "Beyond Measure: The big impact of small changes," is an original manifesto for business leaders. Creating strong organizational cultures does not require multi-million dollar programs; instead, small actions by each employee- from Custodian to CEO- matter more and have the biggest impact.

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FIFA: Corruption, Bribery and No Surprises

Global sport has come to resemble big business in its reach, influence and profit margins- as well as its operating environment in which corruption can, and does, thrive. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that it would have been a surprise if the organization were not corrupt. The game that FIFA has played for so many years is not the one you see on the field.

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Ethics and Wall Street: Reactions and Reform

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, many thought ethics reform would come quickly to Wall Street. New laws did come, in the USA and UK. But is the culture changing for the better? A new report (The Street, The Bull and The Crisis: A Survey of the US & UK Financial Services Industry) suggests that there has been little change in the last three years, and there may be some worrying trends among younger employees. 

You can find a quick summary of the report in this article by NPR. To go beyond the summary, we asked our expert suite of collaborators for their reactions. 

The bottom line is that better ethical behavior will come when legal reforms lead to, or are supplemented by, changes in the culture and norms of the financial industry. As Tenbrunsel explains, "Just more regulation without addressing the individual, organizational and industry-level factors probably isn't going to have a very significant impact." Addressing all of those factors simultaneously is our goal at Ethical Systems.

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