Ethical Dilemmas Abound: Input Sought

(Chuckling, ironically: this is the second ethics column in a row. It's by chance tho' it seems that more attention is being paid to ethics.)

Indulge me please in this blog as I wrestle with two ethical dilemmas, one industry-specific. These are the type of dilemmas about which the late Rush Kidder  and those at the Institute for Global Ethics  talk – the dilemmas that have no “right” or “wrong” and do have everything in between.

 Your input is sought – good discussion here and/or at the Forum (click on "discussions" and look for "Ethical Issues Abound".)  Please describe your thinking and the “why” of what you recommend for one or both of these issue - and/or the questions you have. If it is not appropriate for you to write a response, publicly, send it to me  and I will share it, unattributed.

 If you know or recognize or even think you know or recognize any specific people or organizations in these scenarios, please do not “out” anyone. That would add to the ethical challenges these present.


Dilemma One:

I have a friend (“Q” for the purpose of discussion) who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. “Terminal” means maybe only weeks to live or it could be a few months. My heart hurts over this potential loss of someone so wonderful who is far too young to die.

 Q’s employer, who I also know, is only aware that Q is sick and is not aware of the severity. Right now, the organization is covering the position, believing Q will return in the near future.

 On the one hand, the employer should know that Q will never return to the job. They have projects that must be covered, short- and long-term, and will need to hire someone. On the other hand, Q needs the insurance benefits while in ICU and the full check v. disability payments. Q's bills continue to mount and will even after death.

 Ethically, with whom should my loyalties lie?  Morally, with whom? Are they different?

Dilemma Two:

Ever since the CMP Board wrote the Disciplinary Procedures  to address violations of the Code of Ethics by CMPs (found at the same link), many have come to me asking what they should do when they encounter a situation in which that Code has been violated. My advice has always been to talk with the CMP/s who may have violated the Code and find out more. If, after learning more, you are still convinced there is a violation, follow the procedures shown and file a report.

Most people are hesitant, sometimes citing future business as a reason they do not want to report a violation and thus potentially damage a business relationship and future income. I understand the thinking although I am saddened that our industry has mostly aspirational v. enforceable codes and thus no one is really ever accountable.

 So now it’s my turn to figure out what to do about a CMP: I have indisputable evidence of violations of a number of the Code’s provisions by a meeting professional, a CMP, we’ll call “Z”. These include but are not limited to:

Maintain exemplary standards of professional conduct at all times.”

“Never use my position for undue personal gain and to promptly disclose to appropriate parties all potential and actual conflicts of interest.”

“Communicate all relevant information to my employer in a truthful and accurate manner in order to facilitate the execution of my fiduciary responsibilities.”

Z, a member of a few industry associations, has violated those associations’ (aspirational) codes of conduct as well.

 I’ve talked with Z’s immediate past employer who is hesitant, for various reasons, to report Z to the CMP Board. They are in the best position to write the report since a) they have the same information to which I have (legal and ethical) access and b) Z’s actions has and may further negatively impact their budget. My role is such that it would be awkward and put the former employer in a difficult position if I reported the actions.

 On the one hand, as a teacher of industry ethics, chair of an association’s ethics committee and someone who believes we need to improve what we do and how we are seen, I want to report Z. On the other, I understand that by doing so might keep this person from working or put the former employer in a difficult position.

Join my struggle, won’t you, and let’s hash this out. It is likely you too will be in the same or similar position as I am .. if you aren’t already.


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