Above the law

The very first motion I filed in a US court was an order to show cause, seeking a judgment of contempt of court against an executrix who was not complying with a court order in favor of my client. The executrix faced imprisonment as a result. You simply can’t ignore a court order.

So it has been interesting to observe how Donald Trump has been defying court orders with little consequences. The same person who expected everyone to comply with his executive orders is now disregarding judicial orders. And if the judicial branch is hesitating to find him in contempt now, imagine their restraint if he gets elected again.

In the workplace, we see similar behaviors from senior executives who believe that the Code of Conduct or certain corporate policies don’t apply to them. They expect loyalty from everyone else but feel bound by no person or rule. These leaders create a toxic culture at the top, which quickly seeps into the lower ranks. Within a few years, most of these organizations are embroiled in scandals, and many implode.

Corporations, courts, and countries should never tolerate someone who believes they are above the law.

Clarity and compliance

Some members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are proposing to change the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

They assert, rightly so, that the law is poorly written and behind the times. More importantly, they believe it played a key role in the insurrection of 2021 by poorly defining the role of the Vice-President.

Do you have a policy at work that is difficult to understand? Perhaps it was written by lawyers for lawyers, instead of being written in plain English for employees? Maybe you have an “email policy” that hasn’t been updated to account for mobile devices and social media, leaving new and young employees perplexed?

Such policies create uncertainty. At best, this uncertainty creates a drag on your operations (people avoid doing things they should do for fear of getting in trouble). At worst, they protect wrongdoers who can claim that they didn’t understand the policy (we’ve all seen this).

Like laws, corporate policies are intended to be followed. Let’s write them accordingly.

What is it about us?

When employees engage in wrongdoing, internal investigators determine how it was done. From there, management decides on corrective and disciplinary actions.

The ethical leader goes further and asks “What is it about our culture that made them think it was OK, or that they would get away with it?”

The citizens that stormed the US Capitol yesterday will be prosecuted and the building’s security will be enhanced. But our political leaders must go further and ask the same question. What is it about us – about our culture, about our system, about our laws, about how we take care of each other, that led to this?

Good corporate leaders do not simply label wrongdoers as a “bad apples”. Neither should good political leaders.

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.

Election day

The current pandemic has demonstrated that most people do not have to be at the office to get the job done.

Which means that most employers could easily let their employees leave work for an hour or two to vote on election day.

In fact, a more perfect democracy would make election day a paid national holiday, a stand-down day for freedom and justice.

Until our “elected officials” choose to create a better election system, employers should do all they can to preserve their employees’ right to vote.

What was the last thing you said?

Last night, a politician won his election by a narrow margin. The night before, the President of the United States had visited the politician’s district to show support. The visit is credited by many as responsible for the win.

In the workplace, many employees make decisions based on the last message they heard from leadership. Was it a message about making the numbers or was it about quality? Was it about shipping on time or about safety?

How visible and vocal is your leadership about the importance of ethics & compliance?

Vote for your employer

Today is election day in the US. Ordinary citizens will vote to elect lawmakers. We’ll give away some of our independence in exchange for the creation of rules that we hope will be just and fair for the community.

In the corporate world, ordinary employees do not vote to elect decisionmakers. It’s not a democracy. In exchange for our work, we receive some personal benefits. The history of master-servant relationships is not a shining example of justice and fairness. In fact, slaves/servants/apprentices/employees have long had to rely on elected lawmakers to keep the masters/decisionmakers in check.

Today, more and more employees actually get to cast one vote: selecting their employer. The new generation of employees is less keen on buying a home and a car and getting into all sorts of debts, making them less dependent on a salary. Technology allows them to run a side business from their phone while lying in bed. When selecting an employer, they can more easily choose the ones that put employees ahead of shareholders.

Come to think of it, we vote for our employer every day when we show up at work.

We should make that vote count.