Interview with Dennis Gentilin, Whistleblower, Author and Consultant on Corporate Citizenship
What are your main areas of research/work?
Let me begin by stating that I don’t see myself as a scholar (at least not formally). However I do see enormous value in using the findings and tools from the social and behavioral sciences to help address the ethical challenges facing the business world. This is one of the many reasons I am a big advocate of Ethical Systems.
As one would expect given my experience and background (outlined below), my primary area of interest is employee voice and speak up cultures. What my experience showed me is that even the best “formal systems” (rules, regulations, compliance and other such artifacts) have shortcomings. The best (and arguably the only) way to overcome these is to nurture the “human systems” within organizations. A speak up culture is a core component of this latter system.
In a captivating article for Fast Company ES collaborator David Mayer, of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, outlines “Why Your Hiring Process Keeps Missing Candidates' Character Flaws.”
We at Ethical Systems talk a lot about hiring for ethics and culture, as opposed to hiring for skills and personality, during the interview process. The reason is that the dialogue between employer and potential employee is wrought with miscues, overestimations, hyperbole and a reliance on presenting the best possible version of oneself. In addition, research by ES collaborator Nick Epley, and cited in the Fast Company piece, highlights how we are actually less reliable than we may think when it comes to identifying deceits and spotting potential bad apples.
Interview with Dr. Robert Hurley, Professor of Organization Behavior at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business
How does your work on trust help companies that want to improve themselves as ethical systems?
We work with collaborators all over the world to examine in depth what stakeholder trust is and precisely how organizations that earn and sustain that trust operate. We very much agree with the eco system approach adopted by Ethical Systems. In 2012 we formed the Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations to translate this research into practical tools to help organizations move along a path to becoming more trustworthy.
Examples of these tools are executive programs where we teach leaders about trust in leadership and the need to create congruent organizational systems that create a reliable infrastructure to meet stakeholder needs. We have also developed survey tools to diagnose which elements of an organization need improvement to make the organization more trustworthy. Interestingly, our work has shown that there is not a one size fits all approach to developing a more trustworthy organization. Organizations, like people, are unique and our contests present different challenges. As such we must start with a full diagnosis that shows us in what ways we are trustworthy and in what ways we are not. Only then can we start moving in the right direction to meet our own and stakeholders needs.
Imagine an executive at a company leaves their job in January, six months before the company becomes embroiled in an ethical scandal. The executive now has the taint of a botched job attributed to him/her and, like the smelly car from Seinfeld, it is hard to wash off and seems to follow them everywhere.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review illuminated this phenomenon, shows how much of a long term impact scandal can have on people. The results were shocking (though not so much odiferous).
White collar criminals typically conjure images of dark boardrooms, wealthy conspirators and syndicated, international crime rings. Yet, in a new book, Eugene Soltes shows white collar crime is less a cause of pernicious plots and more a product of a lack of focus, proximity and context.
What distinguishes Why They Do It from others on the subject is Soltes’ extensive use of almost 50 interviews with those convicted of white collar crimes- which he defines as individuals in high social standing who committed crimes while doing business. The main takeaway is that corporate leaders are more or less normal people, who are as susceptible to the same conflicts of interest and ability to rationalize decisions made in the moment as the rest of us. By virtue of their position, however, their decisions can do harm not only to themselves but also all with whom they do business.
Internal reporting is one of the quickest ways employees can alert relevant organizational- and governmental- contacts that something is amiss. While extensive research shows that a major impediment to doing so is fear of retaliation, new research from ES collaborator David Mayer and others demonstrates that for organizational leadership, speaking up is an asset while keeping quiet about ethical lapses is viewed as detrimental.
The study, “When are Do-Gooders Treated Badly? Legitimate Power, Role Expectations, and Reactions to Moral Objection in Organizations,” [PDF] to be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, identifies important implications for both people and organizations.
Among the active debate among compliance professionals, lawyers, and commentators about the proper role of compliance within a corporate hierarchy, there is an emerging consensus that lawyers have become the “loophole finders” and that compliance must step in to protect the firm’s integrity and ethics.
Azish Filabi, CEO of Ethical Systems and Jim Lager, ES collaborator, have written a piece for Corporate Counsel that addresses this ongoing conversation. Read the piece on "Professionalism and Ethical Leadership From General Counsel’s Suite." >>
David Mayer, associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business has recently signed on as a monthly contributor to Fast Company, writing about business ethics and leadership.
From their website: Fast Company "is the world's leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethical economics, leadership, and design."
You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, says an old adage. In today’s economy, companies would be wise to continuously tend to their hives in order to maximize and motivate their worker bees.
A recent study published in Harvard Business Review examined the importance and benefits of fostering an “emotional culture” at work and its findings reinforce much of the buzz within behavioral and organizational psychology: that employees thrive in environments where joy, love and fun are the predominant cultures, as opposed to anger, fear and hostility.
As we all know, last week the car manufacturer Volkswagen admitted to installing software in over 11 million of their diesel engine cars that was designed to cheat emission tests. At worst, some commentators have suggested that Volkswagen are responsible for the premature death of people with respiratory conditions. At best, it is extraordinarily deceitful and unethical conduct.
It is highly unlikely that a scandal of this magnitude is the work of a handful of rogues. Rather it points to a systemic disrespect for principled conduct at numerous levels of the organization. No doubt the pending investigation will uncover failures in governance and compliance. However, as with all corporate scandals of this nature, my hypothesis is that at least one (or some) of the following five factors would have been at play: