Unethical actions are happening today in the CAM industry: accepting gifts in exchange for services, embezzlement, theft—and more. One person may accept a flatscreen TV from their landscaper, another person may take $300 cash from somewhere they shouldn’t in order to have a great weekend, while others may write checks to themselves off the association’s bank account to cover 'expenses'.
In this post, we’ll look at 5 reasons we allow ourselves to act unethically, and also get acquainted with an Athenian named Socrates, a "troublemaker" who has been called the father of ethics.
The life and sayings of Socrates
Socrates (469-399 BC) was a seeker of truth and wisdom. His pastime was to walk the streets of Athens, seeking to gain knowledge from men who claimed they possessed it. But after probing these men with a series of questions, it became evident from their answers that these men actually knew nothing about the things they claimed to know.
Teachers at that time in Classical Athens were called "Sophists.” They went around attracting students to share the knowledge they purported to have, in exchange for compensation.
Socrates was perceived by some people to be a Sophist, but he was different from the Sophists in that he did not take money in exchange for knowledge, and even claimed that he knew nothing.
Despite claiming to know nothing, Socrates was proclaimed the wisest of all men by the Delphic Oracle. In fact, Socrates was deemed wise because he knew that he knew nothing.
A pest to the men of Athens, there came a day when his disruptive ways became too much for them to bear. In order to get rid of him, he was taken to court on the charges of not honoring the gods recognized by the Athenian state, and for corrupting the youth.
By way of the Athenian democratic system, Socrates was sentenced to death by the high-ranking men of Athens. Socrates' friends presented him with ways to escape death, but not wanting to act unjustly, he accepted the unjust death sentence. His fine-tuned conscience did not allow him to disobey the Athenian state which had mothered him and nurtured him. The execution method prescribed to Socrates by the Athenians was to drink hemlock, which he did willingly.
I just presented a brief story about Socrates because he is someone I know of who succeeded in living ethically. Ethical challenges existed in ancient days as they exist today, and there are people now, as there were people then, who seek to overcome the ethical challenges they face.
Recognizing that "we have a lot of ethical challenges in our industry at times," Julie Adamen delivered a keynote to CAM industry professionals at CAMfire 2014 on Work Ethics. In order to help explain "why we do the things we do," Julie brought to light 5 P’s that often cloud our decision making, leading to ethical compromises: Pressure, Power, Pride, Pleasure and Priorities.
Are you undermining your ethics by succumbing to these P’s? As Socrates might say, examine yourself!
The 5 P's that undermine ethics, presented by Julie Adamen at CAMfire 2014 [1:51].
5 P’s that Undermine Ethics
- Am I pressured to perform by my boss or my association?
- When stress gets to be too much for me, do I cut corners or bend the rules?
- Do I shroud the truth or falsify accounting records as a result of being pressured?
- Do I see myself above others?
- Do I get satisfaction from controlling other people?
- Do I view myself as an important person?
- Does my ego get in the way?
- Do I ignore problems or lie to protect myself?
- Do I talk myself into saying, writing, doing, or planning things because I think it will bring me pleasure?
- What are my priorities?
- Have I looked at them lately to see if they help me to be ethical?
Socrates did not compromise his ethics. He did not seek power; he avoided becoming a proud important man; pleasures that money promises to bring did not sway him; the order of his priorities helped him to live an ethical life.
In her keynote, Julie said that she doesn’t think ethics can be taught—and Socrates would agree—unless we understand learning as something that happens through a dialogue of question and answer.
By examining ourselves in this way, can we learn to practice ethical behavior?
For further examination
If you are interested in reading Socrates' dialogues and about his last days, I highly recommend the Grube translation of 5 Dialogues.
Julie's entire CAMfire keynote on Work Ethics [43:40]