In May and June, more than 100 employees at the University of North Georgia (UNG) are participating in a course that offers an introspective look at ethical behavior and shares best practices for ethical workplaces.
The course, Exploring the Ethical Self, is taught by Perry Tomlinson, executive in residence at UNG's BB&T Center for Ethical Business Leadership (CEBL), which is a unit of UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business. Tomlinson retired from BB&T as regional president.
"This course is different in that it's helping you understand yourself and going through the process of making a decision," Tomlinson told participants. "This does not trump your policy or code of conduct, that is what you should initially go to … but the book doesn't always cover everything."
Tomlinson also talked about how the ethics of the leaders of an organization affect the culture of that workplace – positively or negatively. According to the Ethics Resource Center, 41 percent of workers observed unethical misconduct at their workplace during 2013; more than 60 percent of these observations were conducted by managers and supervisors.
"It starts with how your activities as a manager or as a supervisor are perceived as being ethical. It matters," he said.
Participants in the workshop completed an assessment prior to the class to understand their own preferred ethical perspective when making decisions. The full-day workshop focuses on understanding the four ethical perspectives, the differences among them, and how they can be used effectively in decision-making. The course was held May 12 on UNG's Gainesville Campus and May 13 on the Dahlonega Campus; due to the interest in the program among UNG staff members, two additional sessions were added for June 3 in Dahlonega and June 4 in Gainesville.
The course is one way in which UNG is supporting the University System of Georgia's (USG) "SPIRIT of USG" initiative to promote good stewardship and ethics. As part of a continuing commitment to the system's stewardship responsibilities, the SPIRIT of USG campaign is focused on Stewardship, Prevention, Integrity, Responsibility, Inspiration, and Trust.
"UNG's institutional values – excellence, student-focus, integrity, engagement, and service – are closely aligned with the purpose of this USG initiative, and our university culture reinforces our role as responsible stewards of the resources and responsibilities with which we are entrusted," UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs said.
Wesley Horne, from the USG Ethics and Compliance Office and one of the leaders for the system's initiative, attended the course May 12 on UNG's Gainesville Campus.
"It is great to see how UNG has continued the efforts of the SPIRIT of USG campaign to promote an ethical culture at the University of North Georgia," Horne said, calling the course excellent. "As noted by Chancellor Hank Huckaby, our stewardship responsibility is the key to how to support students – preparing them for life in all of its challenges and uncertainties."
The creation of ethical cultures is a key purpose of CEBL and Rose Procter, director for the center, is leading UNG's involvement in the SPIRIT of USG initiative. While the course supports the USG initiative, Proctor said she believes the unique approach of the course also will help UNG build institutional unity, as outlined in the university's strategic plan, by promoting greater understanding among employees.
“We in the center developed this not just as ethical training, but as leadership and development training, which ethical decision-making is a strong part of,” Procter said. "We wanted to make the course a professional development opportunity to affect the culture of the university and to focus on ethical decision-making by each one of us as individuals at the university. Being able to promote an ethical culture is really about understanding other perspectives and having a consistent system of decision-making."
Exploring the Ethical Self is the first course in a three-part business ethics program the center offers to the public through businesses and organizations through UNG's Division of Professional and Continuing Education. The Business Ethics Leader (BEL) program, which facilitates critical thinking around ethical decision-making, was created by CEBL in partnership with EthicsGame LLC and its founder, Dr. Catharyn Baird. Participants who complete all three full-day courses receive a Business Ethics Leader certificate. Proctor said the center hopes eventually to expand public offerings of the program to all UNG campuses – Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County.
For more information about the BEL certificate program or other CEBL initiatives, visit the website http://ung.edu/bbt-center-ethical-business-leadership/index.phpor email the center via firstname.lastname@example.org.