Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ethics vs. Morality - Not the Same Thing But They Both Matter

Well, it seems to me the lunatics have officially taken over the asylum! A young woman, possibly unwell, admitted to wanting to bring the St Kilda Football Club undone by improperly obtaining photos that should never have been taken by a fellow player and kept in the first place. The high profile player manager paid to protect the reputation and interests of his players and specifically Nick Riewoldt is embroiled in further scandal only weeks after a settlement was finally reached and everyone was meant to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. Today, Ricky Nixon now admits to "inappropriate dealings" with this young woman. Regardless of the extent of those dealings, and we will all be left to speculate, he has surely placed in jeopardy his player contracts with Riewoldt and others, his professional and personal credibility, his livelihood and for all we know, his marriage.

Everyone has their own developed sense of morality and sometimes it is seriously questionable. That is why a company cannot depend on any individual who may be afflicted with a disease we’ll call profound error of judgment, to know to do the right thing (and every time).

That is why organisations have to keep ethics top of mind and lay out clearly and regularly what is expected of its employees as ethical conduct. If we rely on the individual to act based on their interpretation of right and wrong, we can seriously compromise brand, relationships, trust and commercial success.

There were so many 'moments of truth' to be faced in this sorry saga for many people. What if a person's moral compass is not facing due north? Personal ethics are personal and can save us or bury us. But ethical conduct demands the asking of good conscience questions regularly. How might this be perceived? Who could get hurt by my actions? Should I bounce this off someone else I trust and respect and see what they say? And finally, how would it look if this ends up on the front page of the Herald Sun on Monday. Any or all of those questions are a pretty darn good place to start.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Backbiting and bundled out (unlawfully!)

The media was in a frenzy today about a young childcare worker who was dismissed last year for breaching the organisational policy on 'backbiting'. Fair Work Australia found she had been unfairly dismissed and today awarded her just under $10K in damages.

You can't outlaw human nature but you can make it clear to people that they potentially threaten their employment through toxic, divisive and malicious acts of badness. You can also run an organisation that lives good values, try to recruit people who want to play nice, treat staff fairly and equitably, lead them well, make good decisions and give them less to malign you over.

The word "gossip" sounds tame but when gossip and rumour mongering morphs into undermining, ridicule and exclusion, you haven't got political correctness gone mad. You have full-on bullying. Ask kids in the playground if they recognise it when they see it or have it done to them.

Whilst it may appear at first glance that people can be very unprofessional and seemingly get away with it, bear in mind that Fair Work Australia is required to do a thorough examination of process by adjudging whether or not the employer a) had a valid reason for dismissal and b) if they went about it the right way.

If the young claimant was asked to work to a vague policy, was not accorded natural justice and the 'punishment was considered disproportionate to the crime', then she was treated unduly harshly, unjustly or unreasonably and her dismissal was therefore unfair.

However wouldn’t it be nice if we could focus our energy on building great culture and rewarding positive behaviours than trying to scare people into submission with a gun to their heads?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Even though we lost, we won.

I have to admit that seeing Australia go down to Japan this week in the dying minutes of the final of the Asian Cup was gut wrenching. As a romantic, a fiercely patriotic Aussie and a football fan - I'm the best athlete never to play the game - I was convinced we would pull off the win, and I wanted it badly for the players who've done so much for our game but who will undoubtedly retire soon. I wanted the win for Lucas Neill, for Tim Cahill, for Mark Schwarzer and of course, for Harry (our national wizard).

However it was not to be. What was therefore the most heart-warming thing to come out of the match were... the surnames. In my recollection, most of the top footballers who've played for Australia had parents who came from the UK and the Eastern Bloc. At this competition, the names on the back of the soccer jerseys were as diverse in racial or national origin as I can ever remember and underscore something I believe in and see working regularly. Diversity works and when that diverse group of people (with names like Valeri, McKay, Ognenovski, Jedinak and Wilkshire) come together with a shared purpose, great leadership, a robust strategy, some serious discipline and some self belief, they can achieve almost anything.

The current era of players have served us well. We qualified for two consecutive World Cups which for our little nation was impressive. The future augers well if the performance of Matt McKay is anything to go by, but more than the sport and the national pride is the national reminder of the power of inclusion and diversity in driving performance and furthering acceptance.