Archive for June, 2014

Dear Ethicator: Should I bite the hand that feeds me?

June 3rd, 2014 Ethicator,

I just scored a sweet little contract to investigate a client accused of wrongdoing. I’ve been assured it’s nothing much, just a quick check to make sure all their current practices are on the up-and-up.  It’s going to be forward-looking; no need to dig too deep into the past, apparently. The thing is, this is all making me a little nervous.  What if I find that something really, really wrong is going on? What do I do then? I mean, I make my living off this stuff. I know I’m supposed to do a good job, but what if I say something that makes people never want to hire me again? How do I do my job in a way that keeps me employed?


Dear Conscientious,

Why does everybody just assume that taking on an ethics gig requires them to become a sanctimonious, industry-bashing nutball? (Ok, don’t tell me, I already know.)  Anyway, I’ll say it again: You’ve got the profession all wrong.   Being one of the good guys often means knowing how to keep the bad guys  coming back for more. It’s a delicate balance, but you can do it. Many of us have.

I’m reminded of an email that an elderly friend passed on to me and a few hundred other people, about this tribe in Africa, where apparently they have an unusual way of dealing with crime:

When someone does something hurtful and wrong, they take the person to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. For two days they’ll tell the man every good thing he has ever done.

The tribe believes that every human being comes into the world as GOOD, each of us desiring safety, love, peace, happiness.

But sometimes in the pursuit of those things people make mistakes. The community sees misdeeds as a cry for help. They band together for the sake of their fellow man to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true Nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected: “I AM GOOD.”

Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself: Doesn’t your client deserve the same? When that terrible moment comes, and you find out your benefactors have truly screwed the pooch, maybe you just need to put this in the context of your client’s inherent, abiding goodness.

As they say, you’ve got to love yourself first.  And let’s face it: Sometimes, exploiting sick people for money is just a cry for help. So consider being like those tribespeople:  Take some time to remind your clients of every good thing they have ever done in their lives; bring witnesses to tell them the same.   Sing your clients praises at every event you can put together:  Press conferences. State fair booths.  Infomercials.   And finally, do your absolute best to crush and humiliate all the sanctimonious weasels and vermin who would tell the public otherwise. But above all, bathe your clients in the warmth of that simple, homely reminder: I AM GOOD.

Face it, nobody listens to a scold. Positivity is the key. That exoneration you are about to write?  Think of it as aspirational.

And above all, remember: You are one of the good guys. Otherwise, nobody would have given you the title. Sleep well.

You’re welcome,

The Ethicator.

Advice Column, Ethicator, Uncategorized