Ethics: Conspicuous In Its Absence

March 27th, 2014 5:04 pm

A good ethics program is a lot like a good defensive back in football: conspicuous only in his absence. Take, for example, Jimmy Johnson. Johnson was an All-Pro cornerback for most of his 16-year NFL career from 1961-76—all with the San Francisco 49ers. Despite never being among league leaders in interceptions, he was named to 5 NFL Pro Bowl games (the NFL All-Star Game) and inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame because he simply was so good at pass defense that no one threw the ball anywhere near him.  

Like Johnson, a good ethics program is best when the players (managers and employees) pay attention to you (the ethics advisor), but the spectators (media and general public) don’t.  Granted, even the best ethics program, as well as the agency or company it serves, is at the mercy of people and their actions.  And, what’s worse, those people may not even be inherently unethical—they may be acting out of the best of organizational motives.  Yet, ethics is all about appearances.  How do these actions look to the public or to customers and clients? 

While no ethics program can ensure against a scandal, one cannot overstate the importance of reducing the potential for ethical improprieties that can undermine an agency or company’s reputation.  In this respect, education is critical.  Whether communicating laws and rules in a governmental environment, or informing employees of the values of the company, the greatest “bang-for-the-buck” tool for an agency or company in staying under the ethical “radar” is training.

Let Ethos help provide ethics training for you.  Our team, including Judges, Ethics Officers, and professional Trainers, has more than a century of combined ethics experience with both public and private-sector entities.  We are a keystroke or a phone call away.