September 2008 Archive
September 16, 2008
In this presidential election year, the issue of authenticity is on people's mind. Seth Gittel of the New York Sun wrote, "no current candidate is deemed more authentic than Obama."
Mike Allen, the White House correspondent of Time magazine said that the reason people in the past have liked McCain was his authenticity.
Authenticity is sometimes presented as something extraordinary when it really should be the minimum expected, not only of politicians, who ask us to trust them with our vote, but from anyone of us.
"Personal authenticity is one of the few ideals that are nearly universally praised in mainstream American culture," says David Flory, in his review of Charles B. Guignon's book "On Being Authentic."
However being true and faithful to oneself is not always easy.
We live in society and not in isolation and therefore it is not always possible to say exactly what you think or do what we know would be the best. That is why we sometimes have to compromise. Comprise is very much part of our lives because we never or rarely agree with each other on everything.
However compromises can become a slippery slope. How can we make sure that the compromise we make do not threatened our integrity and reputation?
Here are a few ideas:
1. We should not be afraid to recognize and acknowledge a compromise when we face one.
2. We should make sure we can justify to ourselves and to others the reasons for making the compromise.
3. We should identify the values that we will not compromise. In other words, we should draw the line between comprises that are acceptable and those that are not. We should not compromise on fundamental moral principles.
Ayn Rand once said with humor:
"In any compromise between food and poison it is only death that wins."
September 29, 2008
I was recently asked by a well known journalist if I thought it was ethical for someone to listen in on a conference call? He admitted that he had and was criticized for it. "Have I done anything wrong? He asked me. Here is what I replied."
I think that it would be perfectly ethical if the following two conditions were met:
- The person has been authorized to participate. (Participation does not always include intervention or speaking so listening-in is a form of participation.) An invitation would qualify as an authorization as long as the person inviting is allowed to do so. I can not invite someone to a party that I am not hosting unless the host agrees.
- The person identifies himself or herself to the other participants, otherwise listening in would be equivalent to eavesdropping, which I do not believe can be considered ethical.
From an ethical point of view, I think there are two other considerations.
- What is the motivation of the anonymous listener? Is it for the benefit or the detriment of the participants?
- What action will the listener take with the information obtained from listening to the conversation? Will the action be beneficial or detrimental to the participants or their organization?
The answer to these two questions will help determine whether listening-in is acceptable or not.
Before responding to the journalist, I spoke to a few of my colleagues about the practice and found out that one of them has, occasionally listened in on conference calls between a client and some senior staff. The colleague did not identify herself to the client. I do not see any major problem with it because:
- She was asked to participate to take notes of what was being said and to better understand the issues.
- The purpose of her participation was to better serve the client.
But why did she not identity herself?
She thought it was unnecessary and that the client would not mind. She is probably right. However, I think it would be more appropriate if the silent listener did identity herself in the future.
Transparency, even when one has nothing to hide is preferable to ambiguity.