Ukraine is facing criticism today because of its suspected use of petal mines near Russian positions.
Ukraine has been invaded and it has a right to defend itself. It probably feels that it has an obligation to defend its citizens by all means necessary, including using landmines that it promised not to use 25 years ago by treaty. Ukraine is facing a difficult choice: protect its citizens’ lives or uphold a treaty. It’s a difficult choice because Ukraine has to choose between two “rights”. It’s much easier to choose between right and wrong.
Which leads me to ethics training in the corporate world (remember, this is a business ethics blog, not a geopolitical one). Most off-the-shelf training use scenarios where employees must choose between obviously right and wrong solutions: “Should John look the other way when Mike skips a critical safety test on the assembly line, or should he report it?” This type of training might create some awareness but it doesn’t do much in terms of critical thinking.
Surely your company faced a difficult decision in the last few months. It was probably one where the “right thing to do” would impact one stakeholder favorably and another one unfavorably. Why not have leadership share with employees how they made the call? What arguments and consequences did they consider? Why did they land with one course of action over another? This type of transparency generates trust.
And consider using that scenario (or a similar one) in your training. By asking employees to make and justify their own call, you will sharpen their skills for the next tough decision.
In workplaces around the world, employees are coming together to help the Ukrainian people, especially the refugees. It’s a beautiful thing to see amidst the horrors of war.
Before money and necessary items can be collected and shipped to the front lines, someone at work needs to ask for donations. And this is where it gets tricky. Who can ask, and how the requests should be made, is often regulated.
It’s regulated for two reasons. First, companies want to avoid abuse-of-power situations. When senior leaders, or even first-line supervisors, ask employees to donate to a cause, many feel obliged to donate amounts they can’t afford, to causes they don’t believe in, for fear of embarrassment or retaliation. Second, some companies block all forms of solicitation, even for charitable causes, because it opens the door to union-forming activities (we won’t get into that here).
Therefore, many employers prohibit all types of solicitation in the workplace. No Girl Scout cookie sales, no toy drives during the holidays, no blankets for refugees.
Is that the right answer? Do we need such drastic measures to prevent the posting of a union flyer in the cafeteria? Here are some guidelines that can help you do good in the world without giving angst to your employer or putting undue pressure on your colleagues:
- Ask a front-line employee to make the donation request, not a manager or leader.
- Avoid face-to-face or email requests. Put a flyer up in a common room inviting people drop items off in a box or to donate anonymously to a GoFundMe page.
- Clearly state that all contributions are voluntary, and make it credible. Use language that acknowledge the fact that many employees have already donated to the same cause outside of the office. Mention that some employees may not be able to give at this time.
- Run your campaign by your HR professional and ask for feedback. Do the same with your ethics professional if you have one.
The news that Russians see on their TVs about the war in Ukraine is different from the news the rest of the world sees.
When the US decided not to send Olympic officials to the last games in China, the reason behind that decision wasn’t shared on Chinese media.
When a Democrat searches for climate change on Google, she doesn’t get the same results as a Republican would.
All of this leads to confusion and division. A divided world is a weaker world.
How is information shared in your organization? Do all corners of the company get the same message? Do some things get lost in translation? Do the answers change based on who asked the question?
In the last few days, Russia has restricted its citizens’ access to social media and made it illegal to publish news that contradict information provided by the Kremlin.
Truth is the first casualty of war, as they say.
In some organizations, gentler but similar tactics are employed by leadership. Employees are not allowed to use social media at work. When they use it at home, they can never mention their employer on their profile or their posts. Articles published on the company’s intranet have no comment section for employees to chime in. Employees cannot ask questions before, during or after town hall meetings. I could go on.
The message is clear: the company has one voice, and it will not be contradicted.
Is your company at war with its employees?
“We must undergo a hard winter training and not rush into things for which we haven’t prepared.”Epictetus, Discourses, 1.2.32
Back in the days when war was a series of summertime raids, soldiers spent their winters in training. Every day of the winter.
Today’s employee is like a soldier. When at the front lines, she is interacting with colleagues, dealing with a supplier, negotiating with a customers, or meeting with a government official. Ethical bullets are fired at her and compliance grenades lobbed at her. The key to winning each raid is in the training she received previously.
In too many companies, the training is provided once, during a kind of boot camp after enlistment. In other companies, the training is repeated but once-a-year. Rare are the companies that prepare their soldiers for battle every winter day by embedding their values in every act and every communication.
Which is why so many soldiers are wounded or die in battle, and why so many companies lose wars.