Posted tagged ‘THanksgiving’

The Week in Ethics: Fraternities, Charlie Rose and the Hope of Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving invites our being more aware of others’ impact on us. How it feels to be seen, heard and valued for who we are. When we think about gratitude, it is people who generally first come to mind: those who have made a positive difference in our lives.

Events this year have shown what happens when our emotional intelligence is undeveloped or just shut down. When we are blind to our impact on others and they become merely a means to an end that works for us. We lose touch with our own humanity and ignore the essential elements of dignity in our treatment of others.

Two examples:

It was excruciating to read the November (2017) Atlantic Magazine’s “A Death at Penn State” about the hazing and death of sophomore Tim Piazza. To protect themselves and their Beta Theta Pi fraternity, his 16 fraternity brothers didn’t call 911 for 12 hours while he lay in pain and semi consciousness after falling head-first down a flight of stairs. The irony was that for security reasons the fraternity house had security cameras throughout, which is how the picture emerged of Tim’s fall and the next 12 hours. And yet there was still blindness.

For fraternity brothers who rationalize they are following a manly tradition, Penn State and any university whose “zero tolerance” is empty, alumni who shirk responsibility and national fraternity organizations who could control the harm and don’t, the unseeing eye leads to sexual assaults, traumatic injuries and student deaths.

The irony of the blind eye and myopic self-interest is that it makes us blind to ourselves and anything we think we stand for.

The current wave of powerful and prominent men — movie producers, actors, comedians, journalists, talk show hosts, executives and others — who’ve been blind to whether their serial sexual behavior toward those with little power was welcome — are learning it wasn’t.

Forced silence out of fear of reprisals has given way to women and men coming forward in the wake of sexual harassment moving out of the shadows of rumor. From ongoing revelations of sexual harassment at Fox News Division, to movie producer Harvey Weinstein last month and more than 30 other leaders in their fields since, distinctions between mutual consent and abuse of the power have made headlines.

Yesterday, (11/21/17) journalist and former talk show host Charlie Rose was fired from his roles at CBS, PBS and Bloomberg TV. The reason? Inquiries into the sexual misconduct allegations made by former employees and others associated with his work. In talking to a friend, we expressed a mutual sense of betrayal over the two sides of Charlie Rose. The person on TV who was so gifted at bringing out the essence of whomever he interviewed with a seeming stellar emotional intelligence. And how he acted when the camera wasn’t rolling, apparently so disconnected from himself; blind to the effect his unwanted attentions had on others.

Ironically, last week Rose interviewed columnist David Brooks about Brooks’ take on sexual harassment. Brooks talks about the harasser’s “inability to put yourself in the mind of the person you are pushing yourself all over. It is sort of humanistic blindness to another human being’s experience.”

So where does Thanksgiving this week come in?

In our digital world where we are looking to discoveries in artificial intelligence to advance productivity and innovation, we are still grappling with what emotional intelligence means in leadership — both leadership of ourselves and the impact we have on others. It is important to talk about this with people we trust to better understand ourselves and them.

The hope of Thanksgiving is that it can be a pause point.

Either enjoying our own company or surrounded by family or friends, it offers a time to  focus on our heart, not our head. To consciously take off any blinders that stop us from seeing our humanity and its connection to everyone else’s. It is a time to think about our impact on others and the impact we’d most want to have.

And in the midst of filling our plate with delicious food, to give more thought to how to feed our souls.

Gael O’Brien, November 22, 2017, The Week in Ethics

Gael O’Brien is an executive coach and presenter focused on building leadership, trust, and reputation. She publishes The Week in Ethics and is a Business Ethics Magazine columnist. Gael is an Kallman Executive Fellow, Hoffman Center for Business Ethics at Bentley University and a Senior Fellow Social Innovation, the Lewis Institute, Babson College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ethics of Gratitude:Thanksgiving 2010

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is part of the fabric of American culture that celebrates how men and women survived the difficulty of change and new experiences, faced the limitations in their environment and created opportunities and relationships to survive and succeed.

It is a tale of gratitude.

Facing limitations and creating opportunities and relationships to survive and succeed is also what business leaders and their teams do on a daily basis.

As a New Englander, I grew up with the story of Thanksgiving centering on how the 17th century Pilgrims from Europe learned to live with the Native American Indians. The Pilgrims first landed in Corn Hill in Truro, Cape Cod (Massachusetts) and then got back on the Mayflower to sail across Massachusetts Bay settling in Plymouth, MA. Their survival depended on help from Native Americans like Squanto who taught them to plant corn, eat off the land, fish, as well as brokered peace for them with neighboring Indian tribes.

The Pilgrims’ feast of thanksgiving, celebrating the successful harvest, and their invitation to the Native American leaders to join them was my first example of the importance of strategic alliances. Played out in my family and many others, Thanksgiving was also about an intentional experience of hearing adults talk about gratitude, enumerating the things they valued and appreciated.

Aside from the fear each year that I would not be able to finesse avoiding sampling the homemade cranberry sauce, (as one was expected to receive graciously whatever was passed) Thanksgiving represented for me a happy time of appreciation, for delicious cake and pie that seldom otherwise appeared, for stuffing rarely served, for extended family members rarely seen, for a sense of community that tied my family to unknown individuals and families in every state sharing the same country.

Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town evokes for me the same feelings as Thanksgiving.

The story illustrates the importance of noticing what is going on around us. The main character, Emily  dies in childbirth and goes back to earth for her 12th birthday as an invisible observer.

After seeing how much she and everyone else missed while living that day, she says in frustration, “It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize.”

I have worked in many organizations as an employee and consultant, and leaders create  a wonderful dynamic when they express gratitude often. First, doing so says to an employee, or team, or division that they are seen, what they do is noticed, and therefore, that they matter. A leader’s observations about what is working well inspires teams to create more of it.

Every day leaders see most clearly what isn’t working — and those areas need to be functionally addressed. Meetings  to analyze mistakes and how to avoid them are an essential part of business DNA. In addition, an essential part of an engaged culture DNA is the awareness of and appreciation for what individuals and teams are contributing that help create success.

In other words, creating a culture of gratitude: leaders seeing and then talking about the ways in which the company’s purpose, values, code of conduct, and business principles are given life by how and what employees are doing. This builds trust and reinforces ethical behavior.

A culture that sees and celebrates its employees would also have the ability to see and show appreciation for its customers.

Last summer my daughter and I went to a special after-hours sale The Container Store held for students going to college. Hundreds of parents, college students and incoming freshman lined the sidewalk waiting for the store to reopen. Employees walked down the line with a big map of the U.S. asking students to mark the location of their college.

And when we entered the store, all the employees were lined up clapping as the students walked into the aisles, and many made comments like “congratulations,” “good job.” “have a great year,” “thanks for coming tonight.”

I could tell by the grins, blushes, and happy voices of the students and parents all around me that The Container Store knew well the power of gratitude.

Gael O’Brien, November 25, 2010

The Week in Ethics

Gael O’Brien is also a columnist for Business Ethics Magazine.

The Week in Ethics