22 Comments

  1. Business casual is the “new” way of dressing in the office that is supposed to be more relaxed and less uptight. Presumably business casual ethics will be more relaxed than regular business ethics. To which I say, “Oh my, we’re really f^%*ed now, then”.

  2. It’s an attempt at humour by combining two different terms.

    1) Seminar on business ethics.
    2) business casual dress.

    put them together and you have business-casual ethics. I get it.

  3. Corresponding to the sloppy (and weak) conflation pun, there is also the sloppy (and impossible) perspective of the telephone on his desk.

  4. @CIDU Bill: “Business ethics” is all the stuff businesses claim not to do. Like not spend company money for personal gain of the executives, like not favouring family and friends when it comes to hiring and awarding supplier contracts, not siphoning off funds intended to help the needy to enrich executives, not enrolling customers in services they didn’t ask for or consent to being enrolled in, not giving preferential ratings to companies that pay them a bunch of money to rate their stock and bonds. Not having racist and/or sexist hiring and advancement practices. Not covering up sexual harassment. “Business ethics” conferences, seminars, and training are events and activities designed to create a record that the business really, really is good at hard and show that the executives are as shocked as anyone by all the fraud, deception, and venality which has come to light. They certainly had no idea it was happening and it was strictly limited to the action of “a few bad apples” aka patsies.

  5. We’ve seen the influx of “business casual” entries here recently (Casual Canines, Fried Friday, F-Partner, and now this). Any bets for:

    “OK, folks, let’s get down to business casual” or “mind you own business casual” or “go out of business casual”?

    With Men’s Warehouse closing 500 stores and Hickey Freeman shifting its production to manufacture masks and other protective equipment for doctors and medical workers, perhaps formalwear companies are going out of business casual?

  6. I was thinking the same as SingaporeBill. It’s a conference on how to loosen all the restrictions they are under. Why it’s drawn the way it is I don’t know.

  7. The joke is that corporate adherence to ethics couldn’t get any more casual than it already is. I have personal experience in several organizations and have heard stories from parties I trust as being truthful. Not at the upper levels, of course, where things are truly criminal, but at lower levels, where it’s everyday shady. Hitting targets, making money, and getting a good evaluation is what counts. There are a couple of great documentaries about this on Netflix (and I do not have personal or even second-hand information about these cases).

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-documentary-re-examines-hsbcs-881-million-money-laundering-scandal-2018-02-21

    https://screenrant.com/dirty-money-season-2-netflix-wells-fargo-missing-information/

  8. And big companies spend^wwaste a TON of time and money on training and seminars on business ethics, typically some slides/videos/presentation followed by a quiz. The questions tend toward things like:

    Your brother-in-law is in purchasing for ABC Corp and says that if you route a contract to them, he’ll kick back $10,000 to you for hookers and blow. Should you do this? Yes/No

    The recurring joke is along the lines of “Is it OK to pay someone else to take the ethics class for you?”

    Since 99.44% of it is stuff you should know already (with the possible exception of the name of the internal organization to which violations should be reported, which of course varies), what they SHOULD do is give you the quiz first, THEN the training. Otherwise the goal is to get through the training as fast as possible since it’s so boring, rather than at least giving you a wee incentive to look for answers to the few things you might not know. And guess what–if you can pass the quiz without the training, haven’t you proven that you don’t need it, and thus can save the company the time (and therefore money) you’d waste watching it?

    But of course it’s not like they think anyone actually learns anything from this stuff. The goal is to be able to say “We do ethics training”, not “We know our people are ethical”.

    For those of you in small enough companies not to have to deal with such things: Consider yourselves lucky!

  9. When I was a productive member at society, the ethics training at Megacorp would intensify after some high-ranking executive got caught doing something bad. They did have a periodic “ethics case” in the email newsletters that usually focused on low-level folks. Most of those cases were stealing from the company in some fashion. One strange one was a person who left work without logging out of his PC. Another guy jumped on it, found a still-active online banking session, then proceeded to transfer money to his girlfriend.

  10. The holding company (Octopus) which owned the one I worked for (Tentacle) would occasionally send out directives to all of the companies it owned. Tentacle would duly publish them to us workers. Tentacle management would absolutely not understand any attempt to point out that what Tentacle was doing was contrary to Octopus’s orders. Complaining to Octopus didn’t do any good, either. So by the time that Tentacle was in direct conflict with Octopus’s Ethic Statement, I didn’t even bother to risk squawking about it.

  11. Philip Smith III, that is ethics training. During the time I spent in cubes answering phone calls, the training sessions were great. They would schedule 45 minutes or an hour of you being off the phone and not having to take calls. If you were dumb enough to read everything presented to you and take the test, you’d barely get through it in an hour, but if you went straight to the test and took it, you could probably pass it on your first go, taking up no more than 10 minutes. If you didn’t pass first time, just do it again because there was no penalty for getting it wrong. Once finished, the remainder of the time was a paid break and you could do what you want. Eventually, they modified the training materials so you needed to go from page to page and click on stuff to ensure you reviewed the material and didn’t go straight to the test. Which meant you just clicked as fast as you could and then did the test. You’d probably lose 20 minutes on those. 😦 But then you were certified for another year.

    Arthur, snitches do not get stitches. They get shown the door. I remember one woman I worked with who raised a stink about some falsifying of results that nobody up the management chain wanted to deal with because the falsified results made everyone look good. When she made a big enough stink that it had to be addressed it was not appreciated. They could not fire her as it would like like retaliation. However, a few months later, when she did something that warranted some disciplinary action, they went straight to ejecting her. They will get you, sooner or later.

  12. SBill: we’re salaried, so it’s just wasted time. And the technology they use “plays” each slide, won’t let you take the quiz first, and forces you to do all the slides. Oh, and don’t go back if you’ve completed a section: it’ll un-mark that as done.

    Rumor has it that some people might have figured out, however, that the “playing” of the slides has a progress bar which, like YouTube et al., can be dragged. So it’s: click next; drag to end; click next…

    45 minutes of slides takes under a minute this way. And surprise, you learn just as much. At least, that’s the rumor. I wouldn’t know, of course.

  13. Nowadays when you take a college course in Accounting, or Introduction to Business, or Sales, or Marketing, or Auditing, or just about any other business subject, Chapter 2 in the textbook is an entire chapter on ethics. I guess the idea is that if you train the college students, eventually when they all become businessmen, the businessmen will be trained in ethics.

    Now I know some of you must be accountants who took accounting courses way back in the day. Let me point something out. The methods taught in modern textbooks are the same as back then. You have your General Journal on paper and some specialized journals like the Sales Journal and the Cash Journal. At the end of each day you copy the numbers into the General Ledger. At the end of the month you follow a multi-step process with a big sheet of paper to come up with a Trial Balance, and at the end of the quarter with a great deal of effort with an adding machine you produce the financial reports.

    What does all that have to do with what modern accountants do every day and every month? Not a lot. You (or more likely the cash register) put transactions in and they automatically go into the general journal. Any time you want a Balance Sheet you just ask for it and out it comes. How closely does this match the textbook? Not very closely at all.

    So let’s make an analogy:

    Accounting in theory, as taught in college : Accounting in practice :: Business Ethics in theory, as taught in college : Business Ethics in practice.

  14. Since Mark in Boston raised the Accounting side of things: as Wikipedia notes, “Starting in 1999, several U.S. states began requiring ethics classes prior to taking the CPA exam.” And so workshops on teaching Ethics for accounting professors were major draws at the American Accounting Association’s national meeting for a couple of years. Ironically, professors whose institutions paid for the special workshops frequently offered their badges to professors who did not pay to get them in for free … to an accounting ethics workshop. And so many accounting students learned ethics from professors who misrepresented themselves to their professional organization to learn without paying for it.

    Also, ironically, it was just a year or two later that a special workshop by Arthur Andersen at the AAA conference on “Troubled Company Simulation” had to be cancelled, as Arthur Andersen had itself become a trouble company non-simulation, which has since spawned many wonderful ethics session about Enron.

  15. Most of the time, the ethics training at Megacorp wasn’t study/exam based the way most of the other training was. Ethics was usually a group meeting with a supervisor leading. Several scenarios would be presented in video form, with talking points after.

  16. Brian: I would go for that! Probably get in trouble, but it would be worth it. “Hey, I attended…and passed.”

  17. There was also separate training for things like “offering and receiving gratuities” and “insider trading”.

  18. At a certain business school a 90-year-old Professor Emeritus came back for Old Home Days. His successor introduced him to the younger faculty members.

    “And this is Professor Jones. He teaches Business Ethics.”
    “Business what?” said Prof. E.
    “Business ethics.”
    “I’m sorry, at my age I don’t hear so well. Could you tell me again?”
    “BUSINESS ETHICS!”
    “Oh, yes, of course, I’ve got it now. [laughing] For a minute I thought you were saying Business Ethics.”

  19. Mark in Boston –
    When I studied accounting in the mid 1970s in college I found much of what in the books and classes not related to real life accounting , as I had previously learned same from my dad (started adding payroll record books for him when I was 12 on an adding machine) who had what I guess would be called extremely small business clients. In all of the courses I took in college there was always an assumption of a full set of books with the exception of the example of the business that had a fire, but the owner of the business remembers all of the numbers exactly from before the books burned – huh? He somehow managed to have all of that memorized and the confusion and excitement of the fire did not push it out of his head?

    The first time I saw the original movie of “The Producers” (and it was on TV) I started rolling on the floor laughing during the scene where Gene Wilders has come to “do” the books. Robert asked what was so funny – it was exactly when I went to clients. In at least 99% of clients I went to I worked I worked from deposit slips and checkbooks. Sales Journal ? – no, maybe sales books for me to run adding machine tapes of or were equal to the cash receipts journal (aka deposits on the slips or listed in the check book) less the sales taxes which had been collected on them. Disbursements journal – no, the check book. Payroll journal – could be adding machine tapes from client, or if same salary for owners – what I had calculated for them, or the payroll books I mentioned adding up for my dad or for larger companies – a system called “One Write” with carbon on back of check to list on a page when deductions were written on checks, or in even larger companies – computer printouts from their payroll company. I think I have had two clients who actually had a set of books. One client handed out adding machine tapes to employees with their checks with their deductions listed on them.

    The one business client I have left (other than Robert) who sells antique jewelry on a jewelry exchange. She writes the sales by hand in her sales books with a copy for customer and one that stays in the book. She writes checks by hand from her checkbook and it serves as the deposit and disbursements “registers”. Her payroll is the same net check that I have previously figured out how to much to deduct for various withholding taxes. I used to use large columnar pages to do the year end books for taxes for all the clients, but in the late 1990s I moved it all into a laptop – when I go to the client I enter each item individually into Quickbooks and use same as their books to do their taxes, but their records are still the primary records. She does not use a computer at all and has no employees other than herself. I am her business advisor for when she needs to switch credit card providers, etc.

    I used to laugh in accounting classes as I knew what real small business (very small business?) accounting was like and it was not like we were taught.

  20. Oh – I had her get rid of herself as employee as a law was passed which meant that she (a woman in her 80s) would have to take a course each year on sexual harassment when she was the only employee and the owner and she was only taking around $120 a year – net $100 – as she was running losses and did not have the money to pay herself payroll anyway.

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