Ethics Slobs: the opposite of “ethics champions”

In a recent post I noted that “the various investigations into President Trump and members of his administration and others have focused attention on an age-old debate whether careless wrongdoing is as reprehensible as is the intentional sort.”

The answer is, I believe, yes.

I further noted that “I do not have quantitative data on this issue but do have the wise observation of Samuel Johnson who once said: “It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.”

Further, as the economy becomes more complex the need to fully address negligence risks will likely become even greater.  There will, I think, be more things to get wrong, and thus more of a need to make things right.

Some companies do a good job in educating managers on the need for carefulness on C&E matters, but many others could and should do more.  The same is true of governmental bodies.

What else can be said about dealing with “ethics slobs”?

First, the suggestion here is not to be taken too literally. A company should not, as a general matter, formally designate its employees as “ethics slobs, (unless they are being terminated).  But using a more dignified approach to calling out to this issue one can achieve a similar result.

Second, C&E personnel should keep track of “carelessness cases” that arise at the company. This could include violations of law or applicable policy that led to harmful activity even though there was no intentionally wrongful conduct.

Third, based on this inventory of “carelessness cases” one should address this area in company-wide training, other (e.g., targeted) training and other communications.

Fourth, company compensation schemes should be reviewed for carelessness risk.  Indeed, the importance of incentives has been been recently reenforced by Justice Department memoranda on C&E programs.

Finally, the pitfalls of being an ethics slob should be addressed in auditing, monitoring and risk assessment. Here – and elsewhere – what measures is what counts.

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