At Bold Marketing Solutions, Inc., we love to spread news news about our friends, colleagues and interests. Here's an interesting article based on an interview I conducted some time ago with ...
Dr. David S. Gruder, PhD, DCEP, who has been hailed by Radio & Television Interview Report as America's Integrity Expert.
A clinical and organizational psychologist, Dr. Gruder is a preeminent thought leader on practical ways to bring integrity back into daily life, relationships, business, politics, the media, education, and religion. I asked him whether an honest mistake by a public official equates with conscious misconduct. Following are excerpts from our discussion.
Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse. Or is it?
An Interview with America’s Integrity Expert, Dr. David Gruder
The old legal dictum — ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it — needs a new spin, said Dr. David Gruder. When outrage over an ethics breach results in an off-with-the-head ruling, the situation gets poisoned because the focus on punishment gets in the way of promoting responsibility for repairing damage done.
There are people who make mistakes with what Dr. Gruder calls, “loving intention and mistaken impression. Especially in the context of education, if we are punishing students or people for making mistakes, we are actually sabotaging their learning curve. And if we sabotage them for not learning, we also run into a difficulty.
“If I have engaged in an ethics breach out of ignorance, there shouldn’t be an off with the head response. But, if I have committed an ethics breach, I have a responsibility to repair the damage the unintended breach created,” he said.
The fundamental issue centers on accountability, Dr. Gruder added, which is a huge issue in education. “The prevailing thinking in our society is: If I make a mistake that I didn’t know was a mistake, or if I break an agreement because of important or justifiable reasons, I should therefore not be accountable for the impact of my mistake. That is a massive integrity problem.”
Three-Step Plan for Resolving Ethical Infractions
Today, we either crucify people for making loving mistakes, or we let them off the hook when they make [a bad choice], Dr. Gruder said. “The ethical solution is neither of those extremes. It is where I take responsibility for a mistake I made [or] a broken agreement I committed, despite good reasons. I take responsibility for not knowing a particular ethical parameter.”
The first step to repairing an integrity breach is to accept responsibility. The second step . is to articulate a repair plan to fix the damage that “my loving mistake” may cause. The third step is to develop an upgraded plan for making future situations better; build a plan or strategy for moving forward in a way that reduces the chance that similar mistakes could be made in the future.
Developing a Corrective Action Plan
Establish more and better-articulated policies, with more transparency in transmitting them. For example, when a school board candidate declares his or her candidacy, the policy should require the candidate to sign an ethics document saying they will abide by the district’s ethics guidelines governing the election process. The district should provide candidates with the policy and clear guidelines governing the use of media, financial disclosures, and business relationships.
If there are ethics parameters about candidate advertising, the question is how easily available and transparent are they to the public and the candidates? If there is sufficient transparency, people can make informed decisions about how they will use resources and conduct relationships
Accountability Ties Ethics Themes Together Whether discussing how integrity got hijacked in the 20th Century, or politics, journalism, family issues, and relationships, Dr. Gruder said, “The one theme that ties these areas together is integrity in action, or accountability.”
When queried, most people will say that they believe in the importance of integrity and accountability. But most businesses don’t know how to design truly effective accountability mechanisms. “It’s one thing to speak of it. It’s a whole other thing to know how to implement the mechanics of accountability,” said Dr. Gruder.
“The policy’s trap that we’ve seen in this country, the movement toward greater and greater legislation as though we can legislate ethics and morality, turns into a form of micromanagement that is unsustainable. What’s needed is a way to help people embody [ethics policies], rather than memorize them,” he added.
Legislating a change or enacting a fine won’t solve the problem, said Dr. Gruder. What’s needed is a lifestyle change, I said, as well as a mind shift. You can’t legislate ethics. You’ve got to help people connect people with the purpose of ethics, integrity, and codes of conduct.
That’s it. Our job is to tell the story as it is, not as how we would like it to be.” he added.
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