Time to think about a mandatory vaccination at work

If you work for a company that has a Code of Ethics, chances are your employer promises to create a safe working environment for you.

This means clear paths (no tripping hazards), low-noise environment, safeguards on the machines (so you don’t lose fingers) and a no-alcohol/drug policy – among many, many other obligations.

Soon, your employer will also have to decide if this commitment includes mandating that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19. To be clear, employers can legally impose such a mandate.

But will everyone in the c-suite agree on what the right thing to do is?

Words

Words can make a lover’s heart melt. Or break.

Words can inspire an entire nation. Or divide it.

Words are powerful, and thus they must be used carefully.

And defined carefully.

Oxford Languages has just published the 2020 Words-of-the-Year list. The entire document is worth a read but you can skip to page 36 for the definitions.

There you will find words that are critical to your being an ethical leader. Words like allyship, anti-masker, covidiot, systemic racism and wokeness.

The right word can open a door, a mind, a heart.

It’s gotta hurt

Major League Baseball has just severely punished one of its players.

The punishment is severe because the infraction was severe. Canó tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and, as a result, has been suspended for an entire season. He will also forfeit his $24M salary.

Given that this was a repeated offense, I don’t understand why Canó wasn’t simply fired. He clearly demonstrated that he cannot be trusted. Perhaps it has something to do with his contract or with the union. In my company, if you survive one major violation, you won’t survive a second one.

That said, Corporate America might want to follow MLB’s lead and go after big bonuses more aggressively than it has in the past. An executive involved in serious wrongdoing, but not quite serious enough to get fired, should see their bonus disappear – completely. Perhaps the punishment should not be announced on Twitter, like the MLB did with Canó, but it should be shared with other executives, as a warning.

I’m sure Canó had plans for his $24M. And now he has time to reflect on why these plans won’t materialize.

Two sides to each conflict

What should you do if your spouse gets a job offer from a competitor of your employer?

Most people know they should report the potential conflict of interests to their ethics office. And most ethics officers will work with you and your colleagues in creating processes that will avoid actual conflicts and leaks from your organization.

But what about your spouse and the competitor? What is your and your organization’s responsibility? That is a step often overlooked by ethics officers. In some circumstances, it might be reasonable, even advisable, to ask the spouse to inform the competitor of the apparent conflict. In other cases, the ethics officer might even call the competitor’s ethics office to discuss the matter.

Think of it this way: we ask employees to disclose conflicts to their organization in part because if something goes wrong later on, it will look suspicious if the conflict was not disclosed, even if the conflict had no bearing on the thing going wrong. Similarly, we need to consider how our organization will be perceived if something goes wrong and we made no attempt to let the competitor know that we knew of the potential conflict, even if the conflict had no bearing on the thing going wrong.

To some, this might feel like overreaching. To me, it’s a reasonable additional layer of protection for all involved.

Exercise for the coming week

  • Write “Ethical Dilemmas” on a blank sheet of paper and leave it on your desk where you can see it.
  • At the end of each day, write down one ethical dilemma you encountered.
  • Right next to it, write down your decision and why you decided this way.
  • Next, identify how you could share your decision with your entire company, or your team, or at least one person.
  • Then go ahead and share one decision at the end of the week.

Repeat next week.

Insider creativity

We have a rule preventing company insiders from trading their stocks on non-public material information.

This rule is frustrating to some insiders who otherwise could make millions of dollars. But what if there was a way around this rule?

Well, there is. Another SEC rule, Rule 10b5-1, allows company insiders to set up a predetermined plan to sell company stocks. The price, amount, and sales dates must be specified in advance. The rule assumes that insiders can’t possibly match these future trading dates with the release of material information. That’s an obviously wrong assumption in my opinion. Insiders are the very people who are most likely to be in a position to control when material information will be shared with the public.

And so, today, NPR reports that the Pfizer CEO implemented his 10b5-1 plan last August 19 and, the next day, announced positive news related to Pfizer’s work on a COVID vaccine. Pfizer stock soared. Then, this Monday, Pfizer announced that its vaccine candidate was found to be 90% effective. The stock soared again. Oh, and Monday was also the day that the CEO sold $5.6M worth of stock, as detailed in the plan filed in August.

Purely coincidental, right?

Of course we can expect the SEC to change the rule to prevent this type of abuse. And then we can look forward to the creativity of another insider.

Daily briefings

Trump’s refusal to recognize Biden’s victory means that Biden is not receiving the daily intelligence briefings that the president elect is traditionally entitled to.

This fact reminded me of The President’s Daily Briefing, a top secret folder delivered to the president each morning to help him (and someday, her) make sound decisions. Each time I think of this practice, I think about the types of informal daily briefings that a CEO gets to inform their decisions. What is in them, and what type of E&C information is included?

As an E&C professional, do you provide a daily briefing to your leadership? How about a weekly briefing? Monthly?

How often does your leadership want to hear from you?

Checkmate in three

Last night I finished watching the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.

The main character is a fictional female teenager from the ’60s. She’s a chess prodigy and climbs her way up the male-dominated chess world, eventually playing against chess grand masters. She goes on to beat several of them. Some gracefully shake her hand in admiration while others storm out of the room in embarrassment.

As the last episode concluded, I used my TV’s remote to switch from the Netflix app to ABC News, wanting an election result update. What I saw was a player realizing the inevitability of his loss, a player with no intention of gracefully resigning. Doing so would require civility and respect for the electorate, virtues he does not possess.

We’ll have to play this game to the end.

Masks and tone at the top

Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine wishes Trump “had a more happy relationship with masks.”

His state is suffering from its highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and DeWine understands how tone at the top works. When the President attends rallies in red states with tens of thousands of tightly-packed and unmasked supporters, what’s a Buckeye to do?

It reminds me of the day I walked into the office and my boss wasn’t wearing a tie. When I asked him why, he said his boss wasn’t wearing a tie the day before. His boss’ boss was the newly appointed CEO, who decided he wasn’t going to wear a tie to the office. By the end of that week, the entire corporate office was tie-less. No memos went out. We just followed the leader.

The fact is, we don’t need to be President or CEO to impact our corner of the world. We all have people looking up to us or depending on us. They watch our every move and will behave in ways they hope will gain our approval. It’s our responsibility to set the right tone.

Over 230,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the US. One thousand more just yesterday. Forty-seven percent more people were infected yesterday than 2 weeks ago (over 100,000 in one day).

Please wear your mask. It saves lives.