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How do some executives sleep at night?

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Not surprisingly one of the fastest growing areas of consulting is the issue of business ethics. More and more, companies are confronted by the sometimes fine line between what is legally and what is right.

Unfortunately, it seems that when these issues are raised it generally occurs as a result of public outcry more often than executive conscience. Here are a few examples from real life. All are technically legal; I leave it to you to decide if they are right.

A CEO proudly announces to the global workforce what a great year the company has just had; record revenues and profits. Shortly after the announcement, employee benefits are cut and the bonus plan is reduced for all non-executive jobs.

A CEO announces that in an effort to "go green" the company is encouraging employees to conserve energy, car pool, even consider buying electric cars. To show how serious he is the CEO and 3 other executives buy electric cars; not just any electric cars they buy Teslas at $71,000-$96,000 each AND install 4 recharging stations in the executive parking lot...while freezing merit increases.

The CEO of a subsidiary of a large company is informed that a number of complaints about him have been filed with the company's confidential ethics and compliance hot line. He reluctantly allows an investigation to be conducted during which he decides the position that includes compliance monitoring is no longer needed and convinces the parent company it will save money. The investigation results in his being offered the chance to resign and the parent company also agrees to eliminate the compliance position. Employees are outraged and claim it was driven by retribution and retaliation to no avail.

A global company based in Europe instructs all of its businesses to reduce costs by at least 10% for the remaining six months of the fiscal year and puts a freeze on the bonus plan. In the interim, it flies over 25 executives and their families (all expenses paid) to a five day "strategy conference" in the Bahamas.

Is it insensitivity? Arrogance? A sense of entitlement? Whatever it is it makes me wonder how they sleep at night?

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