As we all watch events in Washington unfold, each of us knows that the organizations we work for expect us to behave ethically in all that we do. We sign confidentiality agreements; we complete conflict of interest disclosures, and we receive ethics training.
Whether you consider yourself a “rules follower” or one who likes to “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” you know that you must act ethically and lawfully.
I appreciate the advice I received from a boss early in my career — always do what’s right for the organization. If there is any doubt when I fill out my conflict of interest form, I err on the side of disclosing more rather than withholding information.
And then there’s nepotism — something both small and large organizations need to manage. Unless you are a family owned business, you should not be hiring or managing family members.
I worked at an organization that was named by the Ethisphere Institute as a “World’s Most Ethical Company” five times since 2012: University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. Their Chief Compliance Officer, Kim Bixenstine, and the entire executive team took great pride in this honor. And they should. University Hospitals is one of only seven healthcare providers named to the list in 2017.
Ethics starts at the top. At University Hospital, the CEO, Thomas F. Zenty III, speaks through a video to all new employees on the importance of ethics and what it means concretely in their daily work. Regarding the Ethisphere honor, he said “As this honor continues to grow in prominence, we hope more organizations worldwide recognize that high ethical standards are fundamental to success.” Bixenstine says that a culture of ethical decision-making is part of their DNA as an organization.
I’m currently serving as interim CIO at Stony Brook Medicine. Like all healthcare organizations, it has a very strong compliance program. Our Chief Compliance Officer, Lori Strauss, regularly reminds us that “compliance is everyone’s responsibility.” Everyone who holds her position in any organization will say the same.
So even if you have never taken an ethics course or read a management book on ethics, the company you work for should have an ethics policy and basic expectations which you must comply with. That policy most likely encourages you to confidentially report any unethical behavior or actions.
When someone worries about whether there is something unethical or illegal going on, they may joke that they don’t look good in orange. It’s time then to speak up, not hide or joke about it.