June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.753.1 - 11.753.16
Industrial Ethics Training: A Look at Ethics Games Abstract
Federal legislation mandates that US businesses develop ethics training programs for their employees. Starting in 1991 with the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which were revised in 1995, 1999, and 2004, and continuing through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, passed in the wake of Enron, WorldCom, and other corporate scandals, businesses have had to implement ethics training or risk substantial penalties. Industry has responded to the challenge by initiating an impressive, and, in some cases, imaginative, array of compliance programs, and many have developed company-specific ethics games. This paper provides a snapshot of ethics games currently used for training in engineering-related US businesses, including a summary of federal guidelines provided by the US Sentencing Commission and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, types of games currently available, efficacy of the games, and appropriateness for educational institutions.
The business scandals of 2002 have changed the compliance world, thrusting into the media spotlight systemic problems with corporate ethics: namely, that codes of conduct do not necessarily result in ethical behavior and that some corporate bigwigs play by different rules. Enron, for example, touted a 64-page code of ethics, which the company required all employees– including management–to read and then sign an oath attesting to their commitment to high ethical standards. Enron took its ethics code very seriously, at least on paper, as noted in a 2000 memo penned by CEO Ken Lay: “I ask that you read them [“commonsense rules of conduct”] carefully and completely and that, as you do, you reflect on your past actions to make certain that you have complied with the policies. It is absolutely essential that you fully comply with these policies in the future.”1 Similarly, Tyco’s board of directors established as a goal “high standards of honesty, integrity, and ethics throughout the organization.”2
Yet corporate lip-service to ethics did not prevent high-level personnel from ransacking employee pension funds and absconding with billions of ill-gotten dollars or, in the case of Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski, squandering substantial company revenues on questionable personal expenditures, such as the highly publicized $2 million birthday bash for his wife on the island of Sardinia.3 The basic problem at Enron, notes former Motorola compliance officer Jim Brennan, was that “ethics didn’t permeate the [corporate] culture sufficiently to alter the trajectory of the company.”4 Ethics was for the worker bees and apparently did not apply to elite upper management, who were already commanding unconscionably high salaries and perks.
In response to the ethical indiscretions of Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Imclone, World Crossing, Adelphia, Arthur Andersen, and a host of other high-profile companies, two major legislative acts were enacted: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the subsequent 2004 amendments to the US Sentencing Commission’s federal organizational sentencing guidelines.
Dyrud, M. (2006, June), Industrial Ethics Training: A Look At Ethics Games Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--285
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