He left the company shortly thereafter; I continued working with the company throughout its period of supervision. My role was to help design a wide variety of communications tools and techniques that would help the Senior Vice President for Scientific Affairs achieve the plea objective to seriously alter the culture of the company to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Over the years I’ve been engaged with a number of similar scenarios – some involving loss of human life. These cases have very similar patterns of failed leadership behavior and inadequate or ineffective organizational response. Here are some of the elements of these patterns:
- Ethical problems in organizations generally start at or near the top. If they don’t start near the top, questionable and bad decisions become endorsed by the top through silence or because these behaviors or decisions go unchallenged.
- Ethics violations and problems are rarely the fault of junior people. It is often the junior people who first raise the alarm but get squelched by their “more seasoned” colleagues who caution against rocking the boat.
- It’s pretty much smart people who create or permit ethical problems.
- Silence is the greatest promoter and protector of unethical behavior.
Most of my professional life has been engaged in the understanding, teaching, interpretation and enforcement of ethical practices.