Category Archives: Workshop design

Intense workplace culture

The workshops on the future of professional ethics that I am organizing this academic year include these three (still in process):

1. Professions and professionals in society: Service first, money second
Professions and other occupations exist because they serve human needs. The degree to which professions strive to meet vital needs vary across professions, within professions and organizations, and across time. There can be no doubt that in the United States today, many vital needs are not met, often because providing those needs is not profitable. Providing pro bono services and taking up specialties that serve underprivileged people or underpopulated areas are not practical for many young professionals who are burdened by tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. What mechanisms could be created or rehabilitated to fill the niches of need that are currently underserved by professions? How can we identify and overcome stumbling blocks, including those laid down by government, culture, universities, and other powerful forces?

2. Committed professions: Recognizing and overcoming obstacles to service
How can professional corporations, businesses, and organizations uphold the ethical principles that guide their work when regulations and laws, de facto professional norms, or behaviors and beliefs of society at large undermine key ethical responsibilities? What options and obligations do they have to reform ethically dysfunctional forces? What role can individual professionals play in reformation?

3. Navigating professional careers: Challenges in a shifting economy
Young professionals can expect to acquire continually new knowledge and skills, move often between organizations, and acculturate quickly to various professional environments (e.g., the public, private, and non-profit sectors). They will be under pressure to develop a “personal brand” and to map their own career trajectory. How can educators prepare them for logistical challenges as well as the ethical challenges they will meet?

A good deal of professional ethics concentrates on workplace behavior: Do you accept bribes? Do you ignore or break laws or regulations? Does your boss order you to cheat in one way or another? And so on.

The workshops described above are different; they are not so much behavioral as environmental or structure. One might ask, “What is it like to work at Amazon, why does it matter, and can the culture be considered unethical?” If the New York Times piece, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld (August 15, 2015) is more-or-less accurate, I would have to say that there is an ethical problem here. But what is it, exactly?

It might have something to do with inhumane work conditions, but the ready response is that the employees are not slaves; they don’t have to work in those conditions. They are free to leave.

Quitting, of course, means looking for another job, hoping that better, or at least less damaging, jobs are available, and hoping the tattered social safety net isn’t too weak. I’d call this an issue of social justice, which is an ethical issue.

There might also be an ingredient of ignorance, as Dustin Moskovitz argues in his post, “Work Hard, Live Well

The research is clear: beyond ~40–50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative.

Sometimes hard work conditions cannot be avoided, but harming employees is bad, and doing it based on a false premise that the hard conditions are productive seems cruel, stupid, and unethical. Professionals sometimes have to harm people – as when a surgeon cuts into a patient – but ethically they do it only when doing so is expected to have a net positive effect.

Ken Pimple
August 23, 2015
6:30 pm EDT

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An Invitation to Participate

This post is adapted from an invitation by Stuart D. Yoak, Ph.D., APPE Executive Director. The source document can be found in PDF format in Compendium > APPE – Ken

A Year of Conversation on the Future of Practical and Professional Ethics

The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics 25th Anniversary in 2016

On this page: What will the next 25 years bring?Suggested guidelines for workshop organizers

In February of 2015, at the Association’s International Conference in Costa Mesa, California, the Executive Board announced plans for “A Year of Conversation on the Future of Practical and Professional Ethics.” In 1991, when the APPE was founded, the work of scholars, educators, and professionals in many disciplines of practical ethics and professional ethics were beginning to emerge. Ethics Centers at colleges and universities were actively engaged in study and research on issues of practical ethics and professional ethics. Businesses and government agencies responded to fraud and misconduct cases by requiring ethics training for employees and grant recipients.

The work in practical ethics and professional ethics over the past 24 years has grown and matured significantly. Academic institutions have chairs and center directors in practical and professional ethics. Businesses, large and small, have ongoing ethics training programs led by skilled corporate ethics officers. Professional associations have developed and expanded ethical codes and enforcement measures to increase public confidence in licensed specialists. And, state and federal governments have created ethics agencies and commissions to set standards of conduct for civil servants at all levels.

What will the next 25 years bring?

During 2015-2016, the Association is launching a series of conversations, seminars and workshops to discuss the development of practical and professional ethics and explore future challenges and opportunities. The Association invites members and friends to host these conversations at academic institutions, businesses, professional societies, conferences, government agencies and in community forums, with the aim of contributing to a collection of information that can help shape future educational and professional development.

Please see the following suggested guidelines for organizing a single event or a series of conversations. Sample topics and questions for consideration are also available from the Association. The results will be compiled and shared at the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Association in Washington, D.C. Thursday, February 18 through Sunday, February 21, 2016.

Suggested Guidelines for Workshop Organizers

Participating institutions are encouraged to host one or more workshops addressing the general topic of the “Future of Practical and Professional Ethics.” Workshops may target individual or multidisciplinary subject areas (business, engineering, law, medicine, etc.) or examine topics common to many professions (conflicts of interest, privacy, deception, confidentiality, etc.). The goal is to identify emerging challenges in practical ethics and address these challenges through advanced education, research and leadership in professional associations.

Basic Questions

  • What ethical challenges do professionals currently face?
  • What ethical challenges do you anticipate professionals will face in the 21st Century?
  • How can a professional association, such as APPE, help address these challenges through research and teaching?

Sample Format

  1. Invite a speaker to lead-off the workshop discussion on a challenging ethical issue currently facing professionals.
  2. Invite two or three panelists representing different professions, subject areas or perspectives to comment and expand on the speaker’s points.
  3. Follow with open discussion among workshop participants of what the professions and professionals need when encountering new ethical challenges? And, how might the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics address these needs?

Initial Outcome

Workshop organizers are asked to send a description of the workshop and a summary of key findings, unanswered questions, and recommendations that emerged from the conversation to Kenneth D. Pimple, Ph.D., Coordinator for the APPE Year of Conversation, pimple@indiana.edu. Results from this national and international conversation will be compiled and shared with those attending the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Association in Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 18 through Sunday, February 21, 2016. An executive summary and the complete findings from all workshops will be available on the Association’s website.

Building on the Results

  • The Association will facilitate the collaboration of one or many written manuscripts (e.g., a white paper, journal article, a special edition of a journal, or book) and encourage participants, individually or in groups, to generate their own documents. We hope that most or all of these manuscripts will be made widely available at no cost for users.
  • The results generated through this Year of Conversations may inform the ongoing advancement of ethics education at academic institutions, businesses, government agencies and professional organizations.
  • Participating institutions may develop new connections at their own and participating institutions that enhance the quality of their programs.

Stuart D. Yoak
August 5, 2015
4:00 pm EDT

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Topics (themes, substance…) for your workshop

In an earlier post, I shared some structural ideas for workshops on the future of practical and professional ethics. In this post, I’m tackling the substance.

In the process of planning the events to be held at Indiana University Bloomington (IUB), we considered many themes or topics that could inform a productive workshop.[1] We expect that all of our workshops will draw from multiple perspectives and academic departments. We have found that interdisciplinary conversations are the most productive conversations. Of course events focused on a single profession (or professional specialty, like brain surgeon) are also fair game and may be extremely successful.

We considered focusing on the ethical issues that professionals confront. For example:

  1. Ethical challenges professionals face: financial conflicts of interest and intellectual property; confidentiality and privacy; conflicts of commitment; consent; abandonment; collegiality (professional courtesy, promoting and supporting the profession); the common good (pro bono, discrimination, social justice); expertise and continuing education; fiduciary duties (due diligence, zeal); metrics/evaluation (of professions and professionals) …
  1. How professionals differentially relate to clients (customers, the public); the common good (the community, the republic, the world); competitors; international and global issues; laws and treaties; licensing bodies (ABA, AMA); mass media; the powerful and the weak; technology …

We also thought about organizing our workshops by professions that are complementary or conflict in some way. For example:

  1. Business and government: conflicts between corporate and public interests; cases of, or new opportunities for, cooperation and mutual interests; synergies and complementary roles; gaps, lacunae…
  1. Law and medicine: classic professions with many points of overlap given the legal interests in patient rights and healthcare.
  1. Social work and public health: both professions work with groups with many overlapping interests.

It also seemed that it could be interesting to group professions based on similar patterns of relationships, such as:

  1. Client-based professions: business, law, media (public relations, advertising), social work
  1. Population-based professions: business, education, media (news), medicine, public health
  1. Employer-employee relationships:[2] employee security vs. precarity (e.g., traditional vs. freelance new reporting; competition, negotiation (e.g., tenured vs. adjunct faculty); fundraising as a professional obligation (e.g., academic scientists); differences in role morality between professionals in private practice vs. group practice vs. independent consulting
  1. Intrinsic conflicts of interest such as situations in which the interests of the group served are dissimilar to the source of funding (e.g., news media with government funding); differential interests based on the kind of payment (e.g., salary, wages, commission, shares, grants, reimbursement)…

As of this writing, IUB will hold five workshops in academic 2015-2016. All are in the planning stage.

Three of our workshops have these themes:

  • Professions and professionals in society: Service first, money second – Professions and other occupations exist because they serve human needs. The degree to which professions strive to meet vital needs vary across professions, within professions and organizations, and across time. There can be no doubt that in the United States today, many vital needs are not met, often because providing those needs is not profitable. Providing pro bono services and taking up specialties that serve underprivileged people or underpopulated areas are not practical for many young professionals who are burdened by tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. What mechanisms could be created or rehabilitated to fill the niches of need that are currently underserved by professions? How can we identify and overcome stumbling blocks, including those laid down by government, culture, universities, and other powerful forces?[3]
  • Committed professions: Recognizing and overcoming obstacles to service – How can professional corporations, businesses, and organizations uphold the ethical principles that guide their work when regulations and laws, de facto professional norms, or behaviors and beliefs of society at large undermine key ethical responsibilities? What options and obligations do they have to reform ethically dysfunctional forces? What role can individual professionals play in reformation?[4]
  • Navigating professional careers: Challenges in a shifting economy – Young professionals can expect to acquire continually new knowledge and skills, move often between organizations, and acculturate quickly to various professional environments (e.g., the public, private, and non-profit sectors). They will be under pressure to develop a “personal brand” and to map their own career trajectory. How can educators prepare them for logistical challenges as well as the ethical challenges they will meet? [5]

In addition, one workshop will focus on media ethics[6] and the fifth will be embedded in the Martha McCarthy Education Law and Policy Institute in June of 2016.[7]

Feel free to use and customize these topics. We hope you will share your plans and results with the participants of the Year of Conversation on Practical and Professional Ethics.

Ken Pimple

Footnotes

[1] Your event might be a seminar, colloquium, conference, or what-have-you; I use “workshop” to represent all of the options.

[2] Professions such as medicine and optometry continue to be dominated by the salaried professional and well-defined stages of advancement, while others, such as media and higher education, are shifting toward a mix of employment models that encourage young professionals to see themselves as contractors; and law, public policy, and technology graduates may cycle between public, private, and self-directed forms of employment multiple times in a career.

[3] Hosted and organized by the Department of Business Law & Ethics, Kelley School of Business, represented by Josh Perry.

[4] Hosted and organized by the School of Public Health-Bloomington, represented by Lesa Huber.

[5] Hosted and organized by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), represented by Melissa Spas.

[6] Hosted and organized by a committee of faculty members from The Media School.

[7] Hosted and organized by the School of Education, represented by Suzanne Eckes and Janet Decker.

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A starting point

This Web site is dedicated to facilitating workshops, conferences, and other ways of discussing the future of practical and professional ethics. To that end, I’ll be sharing my thoughts, plans, and whatnot as the organizer of the five projected workshops that we will hold at Indiana University. In this case, “we” includes an impressive group of IU faculty who are helping in the planning of the workshops, as well as several of us at the Poynter Center and APPE (which is housed with the Poynter Center). I’ll introduce them later.

We began the IU effort by developing a simple model to guide our decisions. You are welcome to emulate, adapt, improve, or ignore our model; whatever approach you take, I’d like to hear about and share it here.

The IU model

Invited speakers, panelists, and participants will articulate methods to address emerging challenges in professional ethics through scholarship, research, public policy, education, and the leadership of professional associations.

Workshops will be guided by three key questions:

  1. What ethical challenges does your profession currently face?
  2. What ethical challenges will your profession face in the near future?
  3. How can researchers and educators prepare students and young professionals to meet these challenges?

To answer these questions, most workshops will focus on one or two professions or on one or two ethical issues (e.g., freelance professionalism, personal branding) common to several professions. One meta-workshop will examine the larger contexts in which the professions are situated (e.g., government regulation, public opinion, the economy, etc.) and how those contexts promote, undermine, or ignore integrity in professions and professionals.[1]

Workshop template

Typically, workshops will be 4-5 hours. Each workshop will be organized into four substantive sessions, with a break included:

  1. The problem: An invited guest speaker with recognized expertise will provide the lead-off presentation on a challenging ethical issue facing professionals (e.g., conflicts of interest, privacy, deception, confidentiality). There will be a short period for questions from the floor.
  2. The problem in context: Three IUB panelists with diverse points of view will comment and expand on the speaker’s points. Open discussion with all workshop participants will follow to explore how different disciplines (e.g., medicine, education, journalism) approach the problem.
  3. How did we get here? Participants will discuss how professional practice and professional ethics education have advanced understanding and practice. How has scholarship/research improved our understanding? How has education/teaching improved practice? (In some cases, this part of the workshop will be in breakout sessions. Each breakout would likely be led by a panelist.)
  4. How can professional ethics address future problems? Participants will plan an agenda for future work. What do the professions and professionals need? How do we address those needs? (This would be in plenary.)

Ken Pimple

Footnote

[1]In a later post, when I share more information on our actual plans, you’ll see how far we have fine-tuned our approach.

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