Back to Latest Posts

My grandmother used to say, "We're going to Hell in a Handbasket"

We have blogged on ethics in the past.  Our topics have usually been about an isolated incident or a discussion on a point-of-view relating to search.  These incidents of what most people consider ethical lapses seem to be on the rise.  Let's look at a few, but first, let's look at two ethical models that could lead to opposite conclusions.

Consequentialism versus Deontology:

  • Consequentialism – the consequences of an action form the basis for any valid moral judgment:  The ends justify the means.
  • Deontology – you determine the goodness or badness from examining acts.

The scenario - you rob a bank but give the money to charity.  One of the above ethical models could lead to the conclusion that this is a good (or at least an okay) thing.  The other model might lead to the opposite conclusion.

Let's examine a few HR scenarios

Retained search is the lens through which we see things.  We have facilitated sessions on Ethics in Search where the focus has been on off-limits practices of different firms.  This topic was broadened to Ethics in Recruiting where the focus moved to social media.  While these topics have been discussed in the past, we need to bring them out - they are all relatively current topics of discussion.  But let's look at a few other scenarios that are out there as well - current practices that are being debated or, much worse, tolerated.

  • Virtually every HR person I know that is in the talent management field has examples of search firms they know of AND commonly work with that are known to place candidates and take candidates from the same employer - and often at the same time.  
  • Search and assessment of competing clients.  A question we have asked in the past is whether the same firm can assess the leaders of Coke while conducting a retained search for Pepsi.  (See our blog from 12/15/12.)
  • Outplacement firms that attract executives as clients by giving them part of the fee being paid by their corporation in the form of cash to use for updating their wardrobe or technology. (Sounds like a kickback to most people I talk to.)

And candidates are on a slippery slope as well

  • There is a company headquartered just outside of St. Paul that will fabricate a degree, skill verification or employment reference for you - all for a fee. (See our blog from 7/15/13.)
  • Without the aid of the above-referenced firm, we have a 10% to 15% incident of degree falsification on resumes.  These statistics are from candidates we want to interview - that then sign a release allowing us to verify their education. (The assumption is we won't check.  We do!)
  • Candidates are promoting themselves with work titles that are inflated.  The example we often see is calling yourself a Director rather than a Manager because you feel you were working at that level, but simply did not have the actual title.

What is the answer?

The above examples are all real and relatively current scenarios.  We as business professionals are growing more tolerant of (or complacent about) these practices - at least until they impact us.  Ethics discussions are often held in academic settings - or in the heat of an issue you discover at work.

The time is now for business leaders (hopefully co-facilitated by HR) to hold discussions about practices in organizations prior to the actual need presenting itself in a dramatic fashion. Having a standard by which you judge behavior BEFORE the incident makes getting through the issue so much less painful.