Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Avoid Unethical Behavior on the Job

The image most of us have had of the U.S. Secret Service is one of stern-looking agents, whispering into their shirt cuffs and ready to throw their bodies in front of the president or other important officials to protect them from harm.

Drunk agents, cavorting with prostitutes and acting like frat members at a kegger is not the standard image, yet one that has penetrated our consciousness as stories of agent misdeeds in Columbia have surfaced.

In a recent Senate hearing, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testified that the behavior – including agents going to a strip club – is not indicative of a widespread ethics problem.

He was met with skepticism by some Senate members and as a result, there will be a wider probe into the agency’s culture.

Still, the question remains that if highly trained Secret Service members can pull such unethical and unprofessional shenanigans, what is happening in other workplaces?

Kirk Hanson is the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University and has been helping companies deal with ethical dilemmas for decades. He says the Secret Service debacle shows the “failure by an institution to think about what are unavoidable ethical dilemmas.”

“You drop these people in another country for three weeks. They have a lot of free time on their hands and a substantial amount of money in their pockets,” he says. “It seems to me that it’s pretty likely they may get involved in some temptations and those kinds of activities need to be dealt with in a deliberate way in training.

“When faced with those situations, what are the choices and decisions that need to be made?” he says. “These are all things that employees must be trained for. They have to decide (read the rest here.)

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