Cognitive dissonance: how much is too much?

by Grace Garland | Published on 27 May 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

If you have ever promised yourself the night before that you’ll go for a run in the morning, and then you don’t, you have experienced ‘cognitive dissonance’. It is that uneasy feeling when your beliefs and your actions are not in sync. So, you really want to go for a run and you have aspirations of maintaining an active lifestyle but, now that it comes to it, the bed is warm, you’re tired, and the extra rest will do you good. The twinge of guilt is easily rationalised away, you roll over, and never quite become the runner you want to be. The pattern looks something like this: (1) form a belief about something important, (2) fail to find it or bring it about in actuality, (3) suffer some mental discomfort. It can happen in just about any context, and to varying degrees of severity. The environmentalist who eats meat knows the feeling. The smoker desperate to quit knows the feeling. The ethics professional who submits an inflated expense claim knows the feeling.

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Real openness better than an open-door policy

by Thobile Madonsela | Published on 25 April 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Sometimes, one can talk to people about their workplace experiences and receive such different impressions that it is hard to believe they are talking about the same organisation. This is especially the case between senior management and non-managerial staff members, where the saying ‘it’s always rosy at the top’ carries a great deal of truth. What is the reason for the huge disparities among people’s experiences – is it simply that one’s position on the organogram determines one’s ‘view’, or is it something else? And, most importantly, how do we close the gap?

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Ethics by candlelight: meditations on virtue

by Grace Garland | Published on 25 March 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

The current power crisis is doing many things – damaging our economy, causing our nerves to fray, and exposing as laughable South Africa’s claims to be leap-frogging into the fourth industrial revolution. As many witty commentators have pointed out, we seem not to have got the second industrial revolution right yet, and should perhaps focus on that first. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious. The crisis is something else, too: profoundly unjust. There is nothing fair about what is happening, either to the tax-paying population (who have paid their dues and received darkness in return), or to the rest of the population (who are rightful signatories to the social contract of a transforming welfare state). We are all on the losing end of systemic ethical failure – what can we do about it? The corruption has already happened, the money’s gone, the power stations are gutted. How do we do ethics in the dark?

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The time to strengthen whistle-blowing mechanisms is now

by Liezl Groenewald | Published on 25 February 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Being in South Africa in the current social and economic climate, and especially participating in business here, is not for the fainthearted. According to the PWC Global Economic Crime Survey (PWC, 2018), South Africa has again reported the highest percentage of economic crime in the world. Asset misappropriation is listed as the most committed crime, and procurement fraud, and bribery and corruption, are third and fourth respectively. These findings tie neatly (and painfully) in with the evidence presented at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (to name but one such inquiry) that huge amounts of government and shareholder assets have been, well, wasted. The effects of these crimes on society are too many and too great to mention in this article, but it is fair to say that they are felt by every citizen in one way or the other.

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Thoughts on Plato's Allegory of the Cave

by Grace Garland | Published on 25 January 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Learning, real learning, is transformative. Once you have learned a thing, something about you fundamentally changes, and you see the world “with new eyes”. This is, of course, a figure of speech, a metaphor, one that can be connected to a two-and-a half-thousand-year-old allegory about education by the Greek philosopher Plato. As the country digests the latest matric results, and all the subsequent commentary trying to make sense of them, I wish to share the famous story of Plato’s cave, along with some educational themes that arise from it.

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Let's just declare conflicts of interest and get on with it?

by Prof Leon van Vuuren | Published on 3 December 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

When TEI subject matter experts present on conflicts of interest during training workshops, the response from trainees is usually something along the lines of “the interest should be declared, and then it is fine”. The word ‘disclosed’ is also often used. Seldom do we hear the response that transparently declaring an identified conflict, without taking any further action, is not sufficient. Many people (and this applies even when we are working with members of a governing body or senior leadership team) hold the view that the fact that the conflict has been declared makes it totally acceptable to carry on with business as usual, despite the continued existence of the conflict. According to this approach, acknowledging conflicts makes them go away.

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Winning Ethics Initiative: "Quick Quiz"

by Daniel Udochi | Published on 25 October 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

As ethics practitioners around the world celebrated Global Ethics Day on 17 October, I found myself reflecting on the ethics journey of MTN Sudan, where I have been responsible for corporate governance, risk and compliance management for over two years. A major milestone was reached recently when our “Quick Quiz” initiative was recognised as the Best Ethics Initiative at The Ethics Institute’s (TEI) first ever Ethics Initiative Awards. What was particularly special was the fact that the final selection was made by colleagues and practitioners in the ethics field from both TEI and the Ethics Practitioners’ Association (EPA); what could be more satisfying than getting acknowledgement from peers?

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Marking a milestone: 100 programmes over 14 years, 881 certified ethics officers

by Prof Leon van Vuuren | Published on 25 September 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

The Ethics Institute (TEI) began offering the ethics officer certification programme (EOCP) in 2004, with the very first intake of just five attendees. During August 2018, 14 years later, we presented the EOCP for the 100th time. The EOCP is an intensive five-day in-class programme where attendees are taken through a comprehensive curriculum which is now in its fourth generation, and which is tailored for private-sector and public-sector groups. Our entire team of subject matter experts, including associates of the institute, is involved in teaching the various modules. Attendees then have 90 days to complete a practicum assignment in which they must demonstrate their ability to apply what they have learned to a real organisation. Those who achieve the required mark are certified as ethics officers and each is assigned a unique ‘EO’ number.

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Doing business with family - bench-marking of current practices

by Kris Dobie and Mary-Jane Ncube | Published on 27 August 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

 

Theoretically, conflicts of interest are an easy matter to deal with: one should not allow personal interests to interfere with professional responsibilities. Put differently, one should always be able to take unbiased decisions in the best interest of the organisation, or in line with one’s professional duties. This might sound relatively straightforward for an ethically sensitive individual to do but, in reality, managing conflicts of interest at an organisational level can get complicated.

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What every ethics office needs: ambassadors and champions

by Grace Garland | Published on 27 July 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when there were no ethics officers in South Africa. Ethics management was, sort of, spread, among a number of different organisational roles such as internal audit or risk management, or it was tucked somewhere under the legal and compliance person’s job description. Today, while we cannot claim that all organisations have an ethics office/r, it is fair to say that ethics has become a material concern in many organisations, and there is a growing acceptance that specialist expertise is required to handle the responsibility.

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'Strength in numbers' applies to business too

by Celia Lourens | Published on 25 June 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

In the context of evolving global legislation and intensified support for the United Nations’ and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s missions of combating corruption, businesses face increased pressure to comply with ethical standards, rules and laws.

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The ethics of respect

by Mary-Jane Ncube | Published on 25 April 2018 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Respect is a topical issue for people of all ages and in all spheres. Whether it is at preschool, in the home or workplace, we all have an innate expectation that we are owed respect by those around us. This is especially true of the people whose opinions we value most, such as our partners, our children, our co-workers and our peers.

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