Featured Guests:

  • Stan Horton – Former Enron Executive; President & CEO, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, LP
  • Scott Keith – Regional President, North & Central Florida Region, BB&T
  • Marshall Schminke – BB&T Professor of Business Ethics (Management)
  • Robert Folger – Distinguished Alumni Endowed Professor in Business Ethics
  • Merrell Bailey – Managing Partner, Your Caring Law Firm

Episode Transcription:


Stan Horton:                      I was on the Enron executive committee when the company went bankrupt. I just witnessed firsthand how a company can implode just due to poor ethics. I saw good people do bad things.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s not just about good people doing bad things.

Marshall Schminke:        But it’s also interesting to figure out why bad people do bad things and good people do good things. Right?

Paul Jarley:                         It focuses on what people do rather than what authorities say they should do.

Rob Folger:                         The advent of behavioral ethics was the advent of doing research on what people do and why they do it rather than telling them what they should do.

Paul Jarley:                         And it might empower people to step forward and question things. Even when it turns out their wrong.

Merrell Bailey:                  How would you be able to train a teller to say it’s okay to tell a client no and we will back you up and you won’t lose your job and you won’t lose your health insurance and your…

Paul Jarley:                         Even if you’re wrong?

Merrell Bailey:                  Even if you’re wrong.

Paul Jarley:                         Right.

Paul Jarley:                         Behavioral ethics holds the promise of helping companies do the right thing. But will firms provide faculty with the access necessary to help them solve their deepest problems? Or, will they just keep them locked up in the closet?

Paul Jarley:                         This show is all about separating hype from fundamental change. I’m Paul Jarley, Dean of the College of Business here at UCF. I’ve got lots of questions. To get answers, I’m talking to people with interesting insights into the future of business. Have you ever wondered, “Is This Really a Thing?”

Paul Jarley:                         On to our show.

Paul Jarley:                         This podcast is a little different. It was done over drinks and hors d’oeuvres before the Colleges’ Deans’ Advisory Board Meeting in September. We brought together five people with a common interest in ethics, had a conversation, and edited it down to what you’re about to hear. Our guests were:

Paul Jarley:                         Merrell Bailey. Merle is a four-time alumnus of the College. She’s on our Deans’ Advisory Board and has degrees in Accounting and Law. Two fields with extensive codes of ethics.

Paul Jarley:                         Scott Keith is Regional President for BB&T in North and Central Florida. BB&T sponsors both an ethics class in the College as well as the faculty member who teaches that course, Marshall Schminke. Marshall is the BB&T Professor of Business Ethics. He joined us for the evening via Skype because he was speaking at a conference in East France.

Paul Jarley:                         They’re joined by Rob Folger. Rob is considered the Father of Behavioral Ethics. He sits in an endowed position that was funded by our last guest.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan Horton. We caught up with Stan a couple of weeks after the event and added his insights into the conversation. Stan is an alum of the College and the President and CEO of Boardwalk Pipeline Partners. Stan was the only member of Enron’s top management team that was not indicted in the Enron scandal. He closed Enron. It is not a stretch to say that the biggest corporate ethical breach of the last century started a chain of events that led to a whole new way to study ethics and that that is happening at UCF.

Paul Jarley:                         My first question was for Scott Keith.

Paul Jarley:                         Could you explain why BB&T has had a long-term interest in ethics and what it hopes to get out of ethics education?

Scott Keith:                        To BB&T, the people, the values that we have is the culture of our organization. There are three non-negotiables in our organization: our vision, our mission and our values. We want to be the best financial institution possible but the only way that we do that is by living-out ten core value which we deem the ethics of BB&T. We have thirty seven thousand associates; we’re bringing new ones on all the time. We think it’s critical that we invest in the future of not only BB&T but the future of the markets that we serve. To do that, we have the opportunity to team up with wonderful institutions like UCF’s College of Business. For us to be able to partner with Marshall and have a course speaking to young-minded, young professionals with bright futures about ethics and the importance of that in business is helping us live out our mission. It’s critical to our culture long-term. We want to hire folks that live that way because they’ll fit within our organization.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan, tell me a little bit about your motivation for giving the gift that led to the Ethics Chair.

Stan Horton:                      On that, it’s pretty easy. I was with Enron. I was on the Enron Executive Committee when the company went bankrupt. I was the only member of the Enron Executive Committee that stayed during the bankruptcy and I just witnessed firsthand how a company can implode just due to poor ethics. I saw good people do bad things that I didn’t really know if they knew they were doing bad things at the time. But, some of them compounded themselves and after you look back for while you realized that it was the culture of the company and that culture did not stress or recognize strong ethical behavior. When you don’t do that, over time, the culture deteriorates and what happened to Enron, happens.

Paul Jarley:                         I’m going to turn to Rob. Rob, you’re considered one of the founders of behavioral ethics. I’d like you to talk a little bit about how behavioral ethics maybe differs from traditional ethical approaches and training.

Rob Folger:                         Sure, let me say, first of all, thanks to Stan because part of what behavioral ethics is today is because of him, is because of his support. Ethics, for me, or in business schools, for example, it was dominated by philosophers and so ethics was about ethical philosophy.

Paul Jarley:                         Aristotle, right, if we want to go all the way back?

Rob Folger:                         And so, the advent of behavioral ethics was the advent of doing research on what people do and why they do it rather than telling them what they should do. The kinds of things that Scott, for example, wants to be able to promote, how do you promote it? What motivates people besides the inspiration of the leadership of a company when they’re in the trenches?

Paul Jarley:                         Marshal, do you think its fair to say that behavioral ethics is the study of how and why good people do bad things?

Marshall Schminke:        A lot of people would agree that that’s a pretty reasonable place to start. But, I think we go beyond that as well because it is interesting to try to understand why good people do bad things. But it’s also interesting to figure out why bad people do bad things and good people do good things. Right? My big epiphany came; I spent eight years a an academic fellow with the Ethics and Compliance Initiative. They’re a group of about sixty or so Chief Ethics Officers from Fortune 50 level firms and people from the SEC and VA and that sort of thing. You don’t have to spend very many years with a group like that to figure out what they’re interested in is what levers do we pull to get the sorts of behaviors and the sort of commitment that we need to see among our ninety thousand employees.

Paul Jarley:                         How about you Rob? Would you agree with that?

Rob Folger:                         Oh, yeah. Oh, absolutely, I think that the experience of people in business many times is they don’t always know the levers to pull the buttons to push in a positive, promotive way.

Paul Jarley:                         Merrell, you have degrees in two areas which have had a long history of ethical codes of behavior, and training people to abide by those ethical codes of behavior, and so talk a little bit about what’s been the traditional approach in accounting and in legal areas to questions of ethics and what you think might be the value of behavioral ethics, or not.

Merrell Bailey:                  Well to quote Marshall, my epiphany was realizing that two different professions, because I’m licensed as a CPA and also as an attorney, can have different ethical standards that are completely diametrically opposed. I don’t think most professions realize that they have different ethical standards. So the ethical standard for a CPA is, for auditors, they’re supposed to keep everyone informed and share information on an equal playing field. And attorneys, we have to advocate for one person and forget all the rest. I’ve got this information, I’m going to use this information and I’m not sharing it and, in fact, it would be a breach of my duty if I did share it. So, I think that’s part of the tension of CPA’s working with attorneys because the CPA is like, “Well if we all would work together and you gave up this we, and I gave up that, we’d all have a really great solution” and the attorney is like, “Screw you. I’ve got my client and I want all of the pie”.

Merrell Bailey:                  Every single profession that I deal with has a different ethical standard.

Paul Jarley:                         Hmm. What would behavioral ethics have to say about that gentleman? About resolving those conflicts where ethical standards vary?

Rob Folger:                         Ah, it’s interesting you’d bring that up. There’s a topic that is one of our core topics. It’s called Role Morality and it’s about the conflict of different standards in our… the different hats that we wear. The technical definition of the term is when you would do something in a given role, like at work, that you wouldn’t otherwise do outside.

Paul Jarley:                         Can you give us an example? Have you every had a situation where the accountant ethics in you conflicted with the lawyer ethics in you?

Merrell Bailey:                  It primarily would have to do with negotiating a contract where I was representing two out of three partners. We had all the information as CPA’s. We knew all the financials. But I was actually representing these two as an attorney and the other attorney was not a CPA, that was representing the third party, and he didn’t understand the numbers. He just rolled over on something that was so, on a CPA level, was such an easy thing that he should have held his ground. But as an attorney, I was like, “Yeah, well we’ll just… okay” then I moved right on. ‘Cause it was in the best interest of my clients and I was representing them as an attorney so I had a duty to do that.

Paul Jarley:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Paul Jarley:                         Scott, what do you see as the main ethical dilemmas in your world and how do you try to address those?

Scott Keith:                        They vary based on the constituents that we’re talking about. Generally, when we lend money out, fundamentally we want to know two questions: Can you pay us back and will you pay us back? We identified ethical challenges in our client selection during the last major recession where we had individuals that could pay us back for a period of time but chose not to. When we have our client selection and engage with our clients we want to understand, I’ll say their ethical motivations. We want them to be like-minded to us and with us. But, they also have to trust us. They share personal information with us, business information with us. We have to be confidential in our professional endeavors with them. And that trust, generally, is built over a long period of time. We’ve been around since 1872. We’re proud of the fact that we have become a trustworthy organization, but we have to earn that every day. And the other constituent are our associates, so when I think about our support for the teaching and the encouraging of ethics in business through the university, and the students that are able to go through that. They’re learning a piece of what we hope when they look to apply to our financial institution, that they see it matches up with our culture.

Scott Keith:                        So it’s important that we hire individuals that are going to support the cultural way we go about business. It’s really important that when do that, that we then let them be who they are, and watching them do good and right things every day transparently, even when we have to admit when we’re wrong, is encouraging and good.

Scott Keith:                        When we miss that, when we make a mistake, we wanna be honest and open about it.

Rob Folger:                         Paul, I wanna jump in here just for a second.

Scott Keith:                        Sure.

Rob Folger:                         It’s interesting that you would mention being honest and admitting your mistakes because just the other day I was asked by a reporter to talk about the fraud case involved Sea World where precisely what they didn’t do was to get out in front of it and admit what they done and so the CEO lost his job. SCC filed a case. And he had to pay a financial fee as well.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan, tell me if I got this right. I remember you telling me that [Ken Lay 00:12:16] had come back from being Chairman of the board to being CEO. And he picked up a rock and he thought oh my god I need to fix this. What he didn’t know at the time, if I remember your story right, was that we legally required to report it right then.

Stan Horton:                      Yeah. That was my belief, and knowing Ken Lay, he was the son of a Baptist preacher. I first met him back in the early 70s when I went to work for Florida Gas, and he was a man that if you looked at and knew you would stray, he had a very strong ethic, and I believe that, in my own belief, I don’t think Ken understood what was happening at Enron. A lot of the day to day stuff he had given over to others.

Stan Horton:                      And then when Mr. Skilling left Enron and Ken came back as CEO, it’s my belief that he didn’t really know what had gone on in some of the financial structuring that later proved to be illegal, but as he found out about them, you have an obligation under security laws to report those.

Stan Horton:                      But if you’re someone that has your entire persona tied up in a company, your financial net worth tied up in a company, who you are as a person defined by all of that, there is a tremendous incentive to not disclose that and try to fix it, especially if you’re someone that had a history of an entire lifetime of being able to fix things.

Merrell Bailey:                  To me, I look at the Arthur Anderson portion of that and it, to me, breaks down to two different employees, not knowing where the line was or being so tired they forgot. So the lawyer said to Arthur Anderson delete the documents, spread the documents. And the auditor did it. It was not illegal in the long run. They found out it was not illegal but it was unethical on both sides to have deleted those documents.

Merrell Bailey:                  I would not have done it and what I tell CPA’s and young attorneys coming up is you need to know that line, and you need to go into an engagement knowing where the line is and you need to never forget where it is, because you’re gonna get tired and you’re gonna have people pushing you and you’re trying to please people, but you have to know where to hold the line.

Scott Keith:                        Oh I think that’s where a culture of an organization comes in.

Merrell Bailey:                  Yeah.

Scott Keith:                        If you feel like you can’t raise your hand or identify an error or mistake or an egregious act that’s going on then it likely can continue and I think a large organization, small organizations, they have to, from a leadership perspective, foster a culture of being willing and comfortable transparently identifying and understanding that.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan?

Stan Horton:                      I always challenge my Human Resource department to come up with ways and I must admit, I’m not sure that we’ve totally done it. How do we incentivize ethical behavior? Most compensation in a corporation is built around achieving financial goals. Net income goals, cash flow goals, balance sheet goals. How do I take that and marry it with the culture that you wanna build in an organization and I believe that culture, the foundation of it, has to built on a strong ethical as I tell our new hires, I just want you to do the right thing, every time. Just do the right thing every time.

Paul Jarley:                         Marshall, I’ve heard three different kinds of variables here that might influence whether people act in an ethical manner or less than ethical manner. The first one, fatigue. Maybe personal situational issues. Secondly, would be culture of an organization. And the third would be incentives. And maybe misaligned incentive.

Paul Jarley:                         Do you have any sense from a behavioral ethics standpoint, which of those three category of things is likely to dominate?

Marshall Schminke:        Well, you sort of hit something close to me because I’m an ethics culture researcher. That’s kind of on me.

Scott Keith:                        Give us a softball buddy.

Marshall Schminke:        So of course I think [crosstalk 00:16:24]. And one of the reasons, and it’s not that incentives don’t matter because clearly they do, and people not thinking enough moves ahead is that first step toward doing the perp walk. Most of these guys that you end up seeing doing the perp walk, they’re not people who woke up six months ago and decided to engage in broad based unethical practices towards their clients or employees or whatever.

Marshall Schminke:        Some do, clearly. But the lion share of those folks basically made a bad decision that they didn’t really think through far enough and then woke up the next morning and they saw they dug a little hole and they think they’re doing their best at filling that little hole, and next thing you know there’s another line gets crossed, and next thing you know we’re doing 10 years in Duluth Federal Prison Camp.

Marshall Schminke:        I’m a guy who’s committed a lot of years now to studying ethical cultures and ethical climates and what makes those tick, and that’s the one that I end up circling back to.

Marshall Schminke:        Some of the big projects that we did while I was with the ERC, one of the most surprising things that we found out of that, that when it comes to what really drives the average workers decisions on a day in and day out basis, was that it’s those first line supervisors, where all of the action is.

Marshall Schminke:        As far as the average employee is concerned, that immediate supervisor is the organization, and the kind of standards that that first line supervisor sets has a bigger impact than top management, colleagues, all of those combined, and that’s a culture thing, right. I mean, culture happens rights down at the work unit level.

Paul Jarley:                         Rob?

Rob Folger:                         I also wanna add a favorable word to economists, behavioral economists in particular, and the notion of nudges may not always have the best ethical flavor, but there definitely are cues, triggers, in situations that can make a difference. Positively and negatively. As well the structure of the situation.

Rob Folger:                         I mean, sometimes we put employees in situations that don’t incentivize them so much to cheat as encourage the need to use a work around, to stretch the rules, and that’s another one of the many issues.

Rob Folger:                         I don’t always try to pin it down to one particular thing.

Paul Jarley:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Could you give me an example of that, of a situation where there’s that nudge?

Rob Folger:                         Well, I’ll give you one that’s a positive nudge.

Paul Jarley:                         Okay.

Rob Folger:                         And that is if we encourage people to make a commitment up front. I mean, something … I know this sounds simple, but having people have people sign something. Turns out, we find from research, that if they sign first, an honor pledge for our students, for example.

Scott Keith:                        Take the oath. Right. Sure.

Rob Folger:                         Yeah. Rather than at the end. That’s a very simple little thing that makes a difference.

Rob Folger:                         But another one is if people have a chance to cheat, but before they do that, if you ask them to recall as many of they can of the 10 commandments, they don’t cheat as much. It doesn’t matter if they can actually remember them or not.

Scott Keith:                        It’s just the priming effect, is what you’re telling me.

Rob Folger:                         Exactly.

Scott Keith:                        You know, Paul, in our organization, every year we re-certify our acknowledgement and understanding and commitment to the Code of Ethics that we have, and that we think it’s very important, that it is foundational to the culture that we strive to live out every day.

Scott Keith:                        And so, some of the most important individuals in our organization are tellers. So we put structure in place to make sure that we don’t inadvertently create a scenario where in the wrong moment at the wrong time, a good person may consider doing the wrong thing.

Scott Keith:                        There’s a reason why tellers need to balance their drawer every single day, and it’s because it’s our depositors money that we’re taking care of and it’s a trust thing and it’s also, these are great professionals with hopefully long careers. We want them to do it with a confidence that there’s not something that might trip up.

Scott Keith:                        So I think structure in many roles within many organizations should help alleviate some of the potential of possible cues that might lead you into doing something that you otherwise wouldn’t want to do.

Paul Jarley:                         [Meryl 00:20:43], do accountants and lawyers regularly get training on ethics and ethical decisions here in the state of Florida and what’s that like? If you could improve it in a way, how would you do it?

Merrell Bailey:                  Both attorneys and CPA’s get trained in ethics and in fact, for the CPA exam and for the bar exam, there’s a separate portion for each just on ethics. There’s some room for improvement with the Florida Institute of CPAs for their ethics training, because right now it pretty much consists of someone who has a certain amount of experience, who is currently licensed, reading from the book.

Merrell Bailey:                  It is the least entertaining or memorable experience of your life and you have to sit there for a couple hours a year.

Merrell Bailey:                  If they would bring in some talented or younger, not necessarily younger in age, but younger in experience teachers, they would have a better outcome.

Scott Keith:                        But that isn’t that different, and I don’t mean to make light of this, but that approach isn’t that different from reading from a religious text. If I understand behavioral ethics, one of the lessons of behavioral ethics would be yeah, that’s probably not gonna work out all that well.

Scott Keith:                        Is that fair to say Marshall?

Marshall Schminke:        Yeah. I mean, I think the training issues a really tricky one because most corporate training has really been focused a lot on the failures we have in ethical decision making, but you don’t learn ethics the same way … I mean you don’t learn how to swing a golf club or play a piano by reading a book. Ethics is something that you do and I think that’s one of the ways that those involved in behavioral ethics really take a different perspective on this. That really has a strong implication for the way that we set up ethics training programs.

Marshall Schminke:        The other component is that it’s not just all about making ethical decision. You can know the right thing to do and still be shut down in, sort of face a road block in whether or not you carry through on that based on whether you care at all about the person on the other end of that action. If they’re not morally relevant to you, then you can know all day long what the right decision is, but you’re not going to carry through.

Marshall Schminke:        And the final piece I think that turns out to be really important in corporate settings is people have to believe that even if they know the right thing to do, and they are about the customers or the community or whoever it is that’s on the receiving end, that they have the ability to actually execute on that. There are lots of folks who would really like to be the ones to stand up and say this stops now, but if they don’t think they’re in a position to actually make [inaudible 00:23:16] impact on things, they’re not going to carry through on what they think the right thing to do is.

Rob Folger:                         A couple of footnotes on what Marshall said. One, a marketing plug and the other an anecdote. The marketing plug is for Marshall and his wife who wrote a terrific paper on the idea of road blocks that get in the way of people acting ethically. This anecdote is about not learning from a book. I went through an ethics training program, sponsored by a large organization. We went to their campus. Their training campus and we had all sort of authorities speak to us. The company that sponsored that was Arthur-Andersen.

Paul Jarley:                         One of the things we really value in the college is engagement and bringing practitioners and researchers together. When I ask my practitioners, “What’s the biggest problem you would like to see faculty do research on in ethics that would help you out?”

Merrell Bailey:                  I think it comes with having the backbone to say no. Most people don’t know that it’s okay to say no, or their hesitant to say no and they’ve been put in a situation where they’re expected to say yes to doing something that they may know is wrong.

Paul Jarley:                         Scott.

Scott Keith:                        Yeah, I think a little hitting on actually the paper that Marshall co-wrote with his wife, if we had the ability at BBWT with our leadership institute, we dive into a lot of the biases that our teammates have and we study that. And our leaders spend a week at managing leadership dynamics to understand themselves and how they interact with each other. And we try to understand where we get in our own way. And so in getting in our own way, can we connect those dots to understand just to the point when unethical behavior is in front of us, when there is a cue, are we identifying the biases of those that might be shut down from saying it and being able to, as an organization, clarify that we want them to step up in that situation. To raise their hand. And obviously from an organizational perspective, more insight as to how do we continue to strive to have a culture of accepting and encouraging that? And making sure that there’s no harm or concern for someone that identifies that.

Merrell Bailey:                  But how would a teller know that he or she is allowed to say no. How would you be able to train a teller to say, it’s okay to tell a client no and we will back you up and you won’t lose your job and you won’t lose your health insurance and-

Scott Keith:                        Even if you’re wrong.

Merrell Bailey:                  Even if you’re wrong.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan, do you have any policies or procedures in place for people who want to report unethical behavior?

Stan Horton:                      Yes we do. First of all, we have a hotline that people can call and report anonymously. Those calls do not go to me, they go straight to our General Counsel. You can remain unnamed, but we need enough information that we can research and verify whether the accusation is correct or not. Or you can go directly to the CEO if you want to, or you can go through Human Resources.

Paul Jarley:                         Have you tried to measure the number of ethical lapses that you have in your organization each year?

Stan Horton:                      Only by looking at … If you say ethical lapses, I guess the answer to that would be no. Because I’m not quite sure how to do that. We can measure incidents that we’ve had, we can measure our safety record against the industry, but some of those things aren’t really ethical lapses, some of those things are just things that happened that … Equipment failure, things like that. So I haven’t been able to figure out total ethical lapses.

Paul Jarley:                         Okay, time for our faculty to give back. If you had one or two key insights of behavioral ethics that you would want to make sure that a practitioner knew, that you thought was useful, that would add value to their day, what do you got Marshall?

Marshall Schminke:        I talked about a couple of those here tonight. Let’s focus on first line supervisors, those folks just get completely ignored. They don’t get the attention anywhere near the impact they have on the organization. So that’s something that really has to be key. I mentioned another one previously, about it’s gotta be more the training and the programs and such have to be something at work beyond just compliance. It’s gotta go beyond that and it’s gotta go beyond just thinking your way through ethical problems. You have to understand how to sort of put yourself in the shoes of the folks across the table from you and make sure, and we talked about this a little bit earlier, make sure that the folks have this understanding that when they decide to be the one to stand up, somebody’s got their back.

Marshall Schminke:        Make a little bit of a pivot on those two fronts in terms of the kind of training that gets done. These are quantifiable, measurable outcomes. But one of the things that I came away from with the ERC group, a lot of those firms were high-tech, manufacturing, defense contractors and such. These guys measure everything. And they could make a pivot on a piece of training technology for 90,000 employees over a weekend and six months later they were able to demonstrate in terms of quantifiable outcomes related to things like amount of pressure that employees were feeling. The likelihood that they would pick up a phone and actually report wrong doing. All these things that they really wanted to see. Those are quantifiable outcomes.

Marshall Schminke:        And so as part of the training program, we’ve gotta have really solid, quantified baselines on those things. And then as you start to pull levers, you see relatively quick improvements, or at least changes. You’ll know what’s working and what’s not for you. And lots of companies I don’t think give adequate attention to that sort of quantifying and measuring aspect of ethics. They think it’s a little fuzzier than that, but in the aggregate, you can really just watch the needles move on these things if you’re careful about how you measure things up front and then continue to do that regularly as part of your employee survey.

Paul Jarley:                         Rob?

Rob Folger:                         We need to be more cognizant of human frailties. It’s not just people who are evil and malicious who do the bad stuff. That gets all the attention, that gets all the news. But the simple concept of the slippery slope. They’re edging toward the line, the edge of the line. So that’s one thing I’d say. And the other one, to piggy back on that is that common sense can be a lot of it. But common sense is not always common practice. And we need to teach people how to put into practice some of the things that they already know.

Paul Jarley:                         Is there anything that you learned tonight that you thought was useful that was worth pursing? Merrill?

Merrell Bailey:                  I think behavior ethics is a thing, because the more people that understand that there are morals or ethics and where the lines are and they have the right to say no, the better off the society would be.

Paul Jarley:                         Scott?

Scott Keith:                        Yes, I absolutely think behavioral ethics is a thing. So I vote yes on that. I see it everyday in the associates that I get to work with and I think that you can see it around in society. I really do. I do think that there needs to be continued cooperation with academia and businesses so that we can evolve and become better. And I love the idea of how do we continue to partner to get there. I think that’s really important.

Paul Jarley:                         Stan, do you think your money’s been well spent?

Stan Horton:                      Yes I do. And when I looked up the definition of a “thing” it’s that it was an action or an activity or a thought and I think ethical behavior is an action. I think you choose to be ethical or not. I think it’s an activity. I think it’s a thought process that people utilize. So yeah, if I didn’t think that they were onto something, I would probably come talk to you.

Paul Jarley:                         It’s my podcast, so I get to go last. Marshall and Rob don’t get a vote. They’ve devoted a good portion of their lives to studying behavioral ethics. One of the people in the audience called behavioral ethics old wine in new bottles. Ironically, she had worked for Arthur-Andersen and Ron left a bad taste in her mouth. I suspect that she thought bad people who want to do bad things will find a way. That said, the key insight from behavioral ethics is that ethics is not squishy. It’s measurable. Prone to both positive and negative influences. And needs to be practiced everyday if it’s to remain resilient. It isn’t something that you just train people to do on Thursday. First line supervisors carry a lot of the burden here and they need the support of higher-ups to ensure that things are done the right way, rather than the expedient way.

Paul Jarley:                         Is behavioral ethics a panacea? Of course not. But it certainly beats people reading from a book. Companies willing to partner with researchers can uncover actionable insights to improve ethical behavior. It really is a thing. What do you think?

Paul Jarley:         Check us out online and share your thoughts at business.ucf.edu/podcast. You can also find extended interviews with our guests and notes from the show. Special thanks to my producer, Josh Miranda. And the whole team at the office of Outreach and Engagement here at the UCF College of Business. And thank you for listening. Until next time, charge on.