10 Ethics Trends for 2010
1. Leader misconduct will become more public. Celebrities such as Tiger Woods and David Letterman have learned that their private misdeeds are public as a result of new information technologies and the Internet. Employees will increasingly use these tools to publicize the actions of their leaders, especially those who are abusive, unprofessional and in conflict with their organization’s stated values.
2. Fair Labor Standards Act claims will grow and expand into “nontraditional” applications. Lawyers are going to be looking for pockets of workers who have not traditionally been classified as nonexempt under the FLSA. A recent example is lawsuits against major accounting firms that don’t pay overtime to salaried associates.
3. The Employee Free Choice Act will be on again and off again and nothing will happen legislatively until midyear at the earliest. Nevertheless, there will be developments that will make it easier for unions to organize. The National Labor Relations Board will continue to expand case interpretations favoring union organization as the number and influence of the president’s appointees on the NLRB expand.
4. Employers will use the Internet and social media to track references and find out about applicants more extensively than before. Social networks will become a cost-effective screening tool.
5. Learning will be increasingly differentiated from training. Learning is what “sticks” and is applied, rather than what is merely taught. Organizations will direct their “learning” resources to those lessons that are remembered and reinforced beyond the classroom and the desktop.
6. There will be two key trends for those in their 20s and just out of college. One group will try to start their own enterprises and avoid the fates of their parents, many of whom were released after years of loyal service during this downturn. Others will seek stability more than the excitement of frequent new assignments, which had been a hallmark of Generation Y and the pre-recession mentality.
7. The world is changing so rapidly that there will be an emphasis on seeking out candidates who have analytical and creative skills, as well as an ability to learn, absorb new concepts and think abstractly. These talents will prove more valuable than specialized skills like accounting, engineering and law, which may be viewed as global commodities.
8. Juries will continue to side with employees—perhaps even more frequently than in the past. The harshness of this economy has terrified and enraged the population. Jurors will be sympathetic to virtually all claims of discrimination when there are overt acts linked to adverse employment actions.
9. Organizations will increasingly come to recognize that uncivil, abusive treatment—whether legal or not—causes business risks that exceed the economic costs of employment claims. These must be reined in during a period of diminished resources. This realization can be found in the health care field and will continue to spread to other industries.
10. “Lean and clean” will replace “lean and mean.” Too many people and organizations have suffered too much because of greed and corporate corruption. There will be a renewed focus on values such as integrity, and these will replace the “greed is good” mentality prevalent in many organizations over the past 25 years.