Right, wrong and emigration

by Grace Garland | Published on 27 January 2020 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

The number of emigration queries by South Africans increased by 70% from 2018 to 2019, according to a report on immigration consultancy data. In other words, an unusually high number of people are considering leaving the country, and no doubt a sizeable portion are doing so. There are various ways to interpret this statistic. One straightforward interpretation is that those who can afford to move (so, a miniscule proportion of the populace!) have calculated that the future prospects of staying have become more bad than good, and so are deciding to avoid that future. The state of South Africa’s economy, political environment, education system, healthcare system, crime rates... Pick any of these factors, and they will almost certainly feature in the reasons given by the prospective emigrants, and it is invariably in this type of language that emigration trends are reported on. Shocker headlines like ‘devastating brain drain’ and ‘emigration is killing the country’ abound. Let’s review what may be going on.  

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Getting everyone ‘on board’: the winning Ethics Initiative of 2019

by Tara Mousavi | Published on 25 October 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Today, the use of ‘gamification’ is expanding in business because it offers an opportunity to have fun and to learn in the workplace. Friendly competition gets people out of their usual ‘work mode’, boosts engagement and generates energy, all while teaching serious points via the game. For many people, this is the best way to learn, rather than through textbooks or formal training. As it is sometimes said, "what is learned through play will last longer".

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The forms and dangers of wilful blindness

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

It is psychologically impossible to focus on a large number of things at the same time, because we are not endowed with unlimited powers of attention. We must choose which parts of the world around us to hone in on if we are to make sense of it. Of course, on the way, we leave things out. This is known as ‘selective attention’ and it is a critical and unavoidable part of meaning-making that informs the choices we make and the way we behave.

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Why spirituality is a business imperative in managing organisational ethics

by Khali Mofuoa | Published on 26 August 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

Spirituality is a controversial subject by nature in any context, and is even more so in the secular business world in South Africa. For me, ‘spirituality’ is concerned with the human qualities of a sense of responsibility and accountability to oneself and others (see Dalai Lama, 1999). According to Zinnbauer et al. (1997), spiritual people are more likely to feel connected with others (group cohesion) and exhibit self-sacrificing behaviour (altruism).

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Ethics: not for the faint-hearted

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

There is one obvious way in which ethics is not for the faint-hearted: converting one’s ethical beliefs into actions takes guts. For example, speaking honestly when the truth will be painful, or blowing the whistle when it isn’t safe, or being vegetarian at a South African braai. These things require courage.

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The drivers of ethical culture change

by Dr Paul Vorster and Liezl Groenewald | Published on 26 June 2019 for The Ethics Institute monthly newsletter

The South African Business Ethics Survey 2019 is the fifth national survey of this kind conducted by The Ethics Institute since 2002. The findings of this year’s survey provide new, exciting insights into factors that have the biggest influence on shaping ethical culture in organisations. These findings are important. Though there is general agreement that an ‘ethical culture’ is critical to organisational success – indeed it is enshrined in the second principle of King IV – how to get it right is something of a mystery to many.

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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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