It was reported yesterday, that instead of spending jail time, Susan Gwinn, a former Athens County Democratic chairwoman will pay a $1,000 fine for falsifying campaign-finance reports.
Former President George Bush addressed corporate misconduct in 2002 stating, “We need men and women of character who know the difference between ambition and destructive greed, between justified risks and irresponsibility, between enterprise and fraud.”
Many of us watched in disbelief a CareerBuilder’s ‘Casual Friday’ Super Bowl 2010 ad featuring “professionals” working in a corporate office clad in their underwear and bras (see clip below). What has become entertaining to some has become demoralizing to others.
Almost daily we can tune into an update on Tiger Woods and/or John Edwards with add-ins of sexual indiscretions of Catholic Priests and Bishops. Unfortunately, unethical, immoral and callous “in your face”
misconduct seems to have become commonplace and routine in every arena of society.
When looking out over this laisser-faire business as usual horizon, we see a jumbled mess. Political and business “leaders” are asking–what’s ethics got to do with it? What’s etiquette but a sweet old fashioned notion?
As my grandmother would say, “Grown folk will do as they please.” But the question remains–What kind of example are adults leaving for their children? We never know which champion of indecent behavior will weigh in next. Families are hurt, leaving the next generation stewing and feuding over our mess.
Doesn’t anyone have scruples anymore?
Speaking of weighing in–the word “scruple” has an interesting background. According to Wilfred Funk, “Word Origins,” when Rome was young, a scruple was a tiny stone representing the smallest unit of weight.
After the 15th century, it came to mean to have great sensitivity to matters of conscience (like having a pebble in your shoe). A thick skinned person would not feel the pebble and would remain untroubled–hence, without scruples.
When we look at the ethics of etiquette, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines ethics as a guiding
philosophy; a set of moral principles or values guiding behavior. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
As an educator, I find myself in countless discussions regarding teens and the potential for some to
become a “menace.” A good teacher will find ways to awaken the potential in a student. One way is to use, “shock value.”
Recently, I did this by asking a teen who had his pants strapped around his thighs to pull his pants up. He ignored me so I asked, “Do you want me to show my underwear?” He said with disgust, “No!” I replied, “Well, why do you think I want to see yours?” While pulling up his pants, he said, “I want to be a thug.”
According to Wilfred Funk, “Word Origins”, One hundred years ago a “thug” was a cheat, a mugger and/or a murderer. It means the same today. Adults are often critical of our youth, but, how does our code of conduct show any more than thug mentality?
Stephen R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, quoted Aristotle. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Our name may be Tiger, John or Susan. Whether we wear our pants around our waist or strapped around our thighs, someone is watching. Whether the act is swinging a golf club or campaigning for President; we can easily become insensitive to the pebble in our shoe.
In The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, Brian Carroll says, “Without credibility, you can’t lead.” Credibility is foundational to character. The ethics of business etiquette requires that we not only do the right thing at the appropriate time, but be the right person when no one is watching.