Our Chapter commemorated Ethics Awareness Month by seeking out one of the foremost local experts in the field, LeRoy Johnston III, CPCU. LeRoy is the Nationwide Insurance Chief Ethics Officer. He leads a team responsible for investigating reports of internal misconduct or fraud and for responding to questions of an ethical nature raised by associates. His office also publishes the company’s Code of Conduct. His team provide ethics training both live and virtually.
He has been with the Nationwide for 30 years. Before joining the Office of Ethics he worked in Nationwide’s Office of General Counsel as its Chief Litigation Officer.
LeRoy’s presentation hit home with the 75 luncheon attendees. His approach was simple and practical, making the audience both feel comfortable discussing the topic as well as identify with the internal questions we can sometimes face in a work setting.
His presentation focused on the setting when confronted with personal and pointed questions on our minds and provided triggers to make sure our own antennae are raised when such issues arise. He opened up by asking us to rate ourselves in percentiles compared with others in the room as to:
Our decision making ability
Our driving ability , and,
Our honesty and integrity
This informal survey made the point by demonstrating a heavy skewness where the vast majority of us rated ourselves better than the other attendees, which, of course, is impossible.
LeRoy made a point to stress the culture of the organization as being the most important element of how people make decisions when faced with an ethical dilemma. His organization spends most of their time creating and reinforcing the type of culture which allows people to make the right decision without feeling threatened.
One of his slides was an eye opener for me and one I hope is handy for others as a trigger to reveal a potential questionable situation. The concept was about how problems are sometimes ‘framed” in a business. For example, if an “ethical decision” is framed as a “business decision,” ones antenna should go up that there might be concern. Another example was a more specific case where a business might frame a “pollution incident” as “runoff.” If we bear witness to organizational communications that spin the message to sound less negative, it’s a good time to stop and think before acting as there may be a difficult ethical decision to be made.
The best advice provided was to seek out an objective confidant, prior to acting, who can help us look at a questionable situation through their eyes. The best type of person would be someone that has no vested interest in the decision. It’s important to realize even our spouse or significant other might not be as objective as we think because they are as financially dependent on your job as you are. Nationwide’s creation of the Office of Ethics fills this role.
LeRoy mentioned when given a hypothetical situation, a very high percentage of people will choose the right answer 100% of the time. However, when it becomes biased due to personal affliction (i.e. job interview questions become non-HR appropriate) but is overlooked because the person needs a job/money to pay bills. That is when things get a bit dicey.
We received positive feedback from our members that the content presented was both educational and practical for their professional development.
As a side note, our Chapter Vice President, Rick Walsh, serves on the Society’s Ethics Committee and is preparing another ethics webinar for summer release.