This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 27, 2003

An Issue for Today and Tomorrow

Recent scandals have shaken confidence in corporate leadership values. While fingers have been pointed at various causes in the corporate world, such as dishonest leaders, greed, and satisfying the Almighty Gods of the Stock Markets, ethics experts dig deeper. Ethical behavior is a value taught by parents, educators, and clergy. Patterns are set early in life, long before young people become adults, employees, and executives.

As parents invest more of their time, energy, and intellectual focus on work, children tend to get less attention. Educators who see the need to build in a stronger ethical framework are often challenged by parents who argue that that teaching is a parental role^Ċeven if they're not doing such a good job. Clergy are limited, in many cases, because of the lack of deep, ongoing engagement with today's young people. Few managers concentrate on teaching work ethics to their young employees.

Unfortunately, some would assert, we have built a huge problem for our future^Ċas well as our present. Young people are not receiving strong messages about ethics, about right and wrong. When discovered making bad choices, children often receive light reprimands that don't convey the serious nature of their errors. This laxity carries forward into their adult lives. We see evidence all around us as people gleefully find ways to beat the system, to get away with misbehavior---the wrong role model for their children.

Is the answer in our education system? Can teachers enable students to understand the difference between right and wrong? With heavy workloads and a shortage of teachers, do these professionals have time and motivation to work with students on an individual basis? Do educators have authority to discipline young people who make mistakes? Are they permitted to punish those who go astray? Work ethics are not even in most curricula.

If we do not place greater emphasis on teaching and reinforcing positive values, we risk more corporate and government scandals in the years ahead. To send strong messages to today's employees, corporate leaders will read books like "Absolute Honesty" (Johnson and Phillips: AMACOM, 2003) and set new ethical standards.


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