Since I work in the Wells Fargo Place building, I’ve been interested in their recent ethical problems. A business professor from Wharton recently published an article about the issue. He looked at similar violations in the finance industry, as well as the Volkswagen scandal, and concluded that actions by leadership can normalize what would otherwise be seen as dishonest.
For example, it appears that over 5,300 employees at Wells Fargo were involved in creating unauthorized accounts and charging unauthorized fees against them. Equally troubling, the HR unit had a plan for firing employees who reported the unethical behavior. And because of the widespread misbehavior, authorities are now having a hard time holding people accountable.
We in higher education are not responsible for people’s finances, but as leaders we make decisions that impact hiring, work roles, and many aspects of the campus climate. We can normalize decisions that are ethical, civil, and respectful to everyone. Over the past year I’ve been learning a lot about unconscious bias in hiring and employment, and how some things we consider “normal” are putting some people at a disadvantage without our realizing it. I need to examine my leadership decisions to be sure they support the climate we want to create.
What kind of decisions do you make in your leadership role? How can you be sure they are promoting ethical behavior in others?
Dee Anne Bonebright