Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg
President, Ethics Line, LLC™
A global company I know well requires everyone in the organization to complete certain basic training. That training includes the company’s Code of Conduct and fundamentals of its Anti-Corruption policy. There is other training as well, annually, but these are considered the essentials. That’s part of the reason it is available in many languages.
When I say “everyone in the organization” I mean everyone, from the entry level sweeper of the factory floor to the Board of Directors. We just found it easier that way. Besides, a certain American politician once spoke about the importance of universal education and how it might not be available to all at the level of quality and substance that would serve the population and the country going forward. He spoke of the subtle and not-so-subtle factors that led some to write off certain minority groups. His phrase that has stuck with me was “The bigotry of low expectations.” So, on the theory that the entry-level worker might, one day, sit on the Board of Directors, why not prepare her/him for the job!
One day, I got an email from the Human Resources manager at a certain European manufacturing site informing me that an employee had refused to take the required training. After a few minutes on the phone, I think I surprised the HR executive when I said: “The employee doesn’t have to take the training. But s/he also doesn’t have to work for the company! The training is not optional.”
Fast forward a little, I contacted the employee and asked for a meeting next time I was in the neighborhood. He’s a HE, so let’s just use that pronoun for now. When we met, he told me “Who is the company to tell me what my ethics should be? I raised two sons to be fine young men!”
I congratulated him on the two lads and explained that raising his kids was not why the training was required. I said that “In a global company like ours, everyone comes to the workplace from their own family background, lives in far-flung places where we do business, speaks one or more languages, has different life experience, different work experience, and different career aspirations. What we all have in common is the company and the mission that unites us across those differences. The training shows us how.”
He looked away and said “Oh, I hadn’t thought about it that way.” We shook hands and said goodbye.
The following week, the HR executive shared with me that the employee had successfully completed the required training, without a peep!
Have you experienced anything similar? How did you handle it? This is where you get to share!