Ethics Matter in
BY RUPERT M. EVANS, MPA, DHA, FACHE
Rupert M. Evans, MPA, DHA,
FACHE, is immediate past president and CEO of AHA’s Institute
for Diversity in Health Management;
associate director, Master of Health
Administration Program, Governors
State University; and owner of
Trepur LLC consulting.
seeking new avenues to make their organizations relevant to their members and
exploring new ways to increase non-dues
revenue in order to keep their associations financially solvent during these economic conditions.
adequately. But the study also reported
that a few believe government regulation
contributed to an atmosphere conducive
to violation. Nearly all believed that
reductions in government rules and regulations were needed.
On March 13, 2009, Bernard Madoff
pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest fraud in Wall Street history. He said
he was “deeply sorry and ashamed” for
his crimes, before being escorted out of a
packed Manhattan courtroom in handcuffs
and leaving many to ask how this could
Madoff swindled billions of dollars from
his unsuspecting clients. At the same
time, investors large and small are facing
great economic uncertainty and a global
financial crisis. During times like these,
strong ethical behavior becomes even
more of a necessity.
So where should people turn for ethical
guidance? If your answer is, “their professional association,” you may be right —
and let’s hope you are. The best place for
association professionals to find practical discussion of their ethical dilemmas
ought to be in a forum of their peers. In
response to that demand, associations
are increasingly offering resources and
programs on ethics as one of their most
important member benefits.
Associations also are looking inward at
their own organizations and examining
their ethical codes due to changes in the
way association services are financed and
services delivered. Associations are always
WHERE TO BEGIN
Ethical behavior begins with identifying
the points of resistance to ethics. It’s a big
mistake to assume an organization can
operate ethically or maintain successful
performance, but not both. Rushworth
Kidder, in his 2002 Association Management article, “Guiding Responsible Discussion About Ethics,” includes these points:
1. Acting ethically builds trust.
2. The public cares about ethics.
3. Ethical leadership forestalls oppressive
4. Effective partnerships depend on
shared ethical values.
A 2008 Justice Department study interviewed 64 retired middle management
executives employed by 51 Fortune 500
corporations. This group provides data
to analyze factors producing unethical
behavior within a corporation, such as
top management’s role, employee cooperation with government in dealing with
violations, and the role of competitive
practices. The study found that middle
managers felt corporate pressures to
show profits and keep costs in line. In
turn, they perceived this pressure as
extensive and severe and said it resulted
in compromise of personal standards.
They did not feel that external factors,
such as a poor financial situation and
unfair competitive practices, were important contributors to illegal behavior.
Approximately 57 percent believed government regulation is needed and industries are not able to police themselves
It’s a big mistake to assume an organization
can operate ethically or maintain successful
performance, but not both.
Associations will continue to see a transformation in how they are financed and
how services are delivered. The new business environment will become even more
regulated and the business of association
management will require transformational
leadership and increased stewardship.
Managing large national associations
and even very small local organizations
requires uncompromising ethical leadership. The leaders of the future must be
goal-oriented, have clearly defined values
and possess these crucial traits:
• Good Faith
Responsible ethical behavior inevitably puts self-esteem and professional
relationships at risk. In ethical decision-making, the subtle manipulation and
quiet deception so common in many business practices degrade the very people
they are meant to serve. Many employees
are very loyal to their organizations, but
loyalty cannot be singular when reality is
plural. In our pluralistic society, we must
have an ethical framework that guides our
action; boundaries are both necessary and
Ethics do matter in association management and in all business practices. In
the last decade, we have witnessed devastating consequences of breaches in the
moral and ethical codes of our great society. We must ensure that codes of ethical
conduct are reviewed by all employees
and ethics stressed at all gatherings of our
various associations and societies.
Rupert M. Evans, MPA, DHA, FACHE, may be
reached at (708) 235-2131 or email@example.com.