Ethical behaviour

August 2015 – Ethical behaviour

Sometimes the importance of behaving in an ethical manner is forgotten or overlooked. The current ethical media storm has been created by Speaker Bronwyn Bishop. Whatever your political bias one cannot overlook the facts about travel and expenses charged to the Commonwealth. Sometimes we need to refer to our core role description (or some other reference point) to see if we are on the correct road. In the Speakers case the parliament website provides useful guidance including this. “As a rule, Speakers have been sufficiently detached from government activity to ensure what can be justly claimed to be a high degree of impartiality in the Chair. Members are entitled to expect that even though the Speaker belongs to and is nominated to the position by a political party, his or her functions will be carried out impartially. At the same time, a Speaker is entitled to expect support from all Members regardless of their party.”

Unfortunately for Mrs Bishop her recent “helicopter-gate” error has provided a platform where every error including her lack of impartiality in the Speakers chair is being exposed and amplified. Such public exposure rarely occurs in business but in the past few months Fiat Chrysler has commenced significant court proceeding against two former Australian CEO’s. The company claims that Veronica Johns (CEO March to October 2014) used company money to help fund renovations to her family home. They also claim that cars intended to be donated to charities were gifted to her husband and a building company owner who worked on their home. Johns who had been with the company over fourteen years replaced Clyde Campbell who joined the business in 2010 from Mercedes Benz. In a current Melbourne case, Fiat Chrysler claim that Mr Campbell misappropriated $30 million using the money on a yacht, plane, luxury holidays and other gifts to friends over his four-years at the helm. In an unexpected twist to this very sad story, Campbell has claimed that Fiat Chrysler Australia underpaid tax through a transfer pricing scheme now of interest to the Australian Taxation Office. What a mess!

For managers and leaders most errors in judgement rarely attract such public exposure. But when you look inside your own business how often do you see a behaviour that could be considered as counter to the best interests of shareholders, employees, partners and customers? Big problems can sometimes begin with a “small” ethical lapse. Possibly you have seen an exaggeration in a press release or a product capability statement? Possibly information is withheld from a fellow employee to position you in a better light with a manager? Possibly you have condoned bad behaviour by not calling it out?

While you are considering helicopters cars and expenses if you are looking for a very short read that addresses ethics and other behaviour themes, Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker is available from Booktopia.com.au for $11.99. It is a good read and I recommend it to you.
John

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