Legal vs Ethical

Mazel Tov cocktail.jpg

Mazel Tov Cocktail

Basically a French 75, the recipe illustrated here first appeared in the New York Times in response to a malaprop uttered during the Presidential campaign. The Creme de Violette softens the Genever quite nicely.

In the past several weeks, we have seen an administration hell-bent on bypassing protocol and unilaterally asserting its own agenda.Wherever one stands on any of the issues that have shown up in the cross-hairs, it is undeniable that the changes will be to the detriment of at least one group. Some of the threats, such as eliminating the Affordable Care Act, are legitimate, while others, such as abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency may be nothing more than the abolition of Executive term limits that tends to pop up somewhere along each President’s second term. How do the new laws affect the way we conduct business?

To many, the elimination of the ACA or EPA bring us one step closer to a dystopian future, but as business leaders, does it have to be? Let’s assume for a moment that providing group health care coverage and protecting our land, air, and waters have an ethical value and that the ethical value is a net positive. Does that value change if the law no longer requires that people have a baseline coverage? Dare we regress to the smog-laden skylines of the mid-70s and create a Love Canal in every community without the federal oversight to keep us in check? I’m sure if I asked every reader individually, the answer would be “of course not,” but we assume “the others will.” Why do we make that assumption?

Perhaps we assume we have a moral and ethical high ground over our competitors, our neighbors, our partners. Is this really the case? Perhaps it’s naive of me to believe that others share my altruistic bent, that the concept of “all for one and one for all” exists outside French literature. Or perhaps the blind spot is internal.

How many times have we slipped that 12th item into the 10 items or less express lane or put a little extra pressure on the accelerator even though we’re already a standard deviation over the speed limit? Similarly, how do we respond when a business decision runs up against a law? In truth, even with laws in place, many companies expend time and resources seeking loopholes–identifying employees as “independent contractors” to avoid paying taxes or letting a driver continue his/her run off the log books to keep within the hours of service or, perhaps, dumping materials down the storm drain.

Okay, dear reader, you’ve never done any of that. Only an unethical swine would consider such chicanery. Be honest, though, was it because of an ethical decision or just the fear of the consequences of breaking the law? (I’ll not touch on unjust laws. Thoreau and Rev. King had plenty more to say about that) Knowing that the law is usually just a baseline–think minimum wage vs living wage–if we are to change direction simply because sets of laws disappear, we are none of us more ethical than those who remove the law.


Incremental Change

In this new semester, I’ve had little time to take my head out of the textbooks, so my blog has been malnourished of late. One of the classes I’m taking is about managing organizational change. Every manager has made adjustments due to external or internal pressures, I’ll avoid the textbook dissertation here. In football, those changes happen on the sideline between drives, they happen in the play-calling, and, with a game-controller such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, they happen at the line. The best opportunity to foment change, however, should be in the locker room at the half. As I said, “should be.”

There was something about the last Nevada football game that didn’t feel right. As the fans around me celebrated a narrow victory against rival Fresno State, this game felt like a defeat. In fact, it seemed like a pattern of defeats. The team sprung ahead in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead, but relied on providence and a clock more than their own efforts to survive the Bulldogs. After the Purdue game, it felt like the team lost focus after going into the locker room and after Fresno it reinforced it.

Because the statistics aren’t necessarily readily available, I took a look at the drive summaries for all six games so far and the numbers reinforce my supposition: this team hasn’t benefited from the intermission at all this year. A look at the numbers:

Nevada has outscored their opponents 42-16 in the first quarter, despite being outgained 621-690. The first quarter is the most productive for the team, even though they’ve had the first possession exactly half the time. It has been said that offensive coordinators call a script for the first drive or so. If that’s the case, they prepare well.

In the second quarter, they score a few more points with fewer yards, 44 points with 599 yards, but have given up a whopping 52 points in 675 yards. The points are somewhat skewed as Notre Dame accumulated 25 points with only 122 yards, but giving up 194 to Hawai’i yielded only 14.

Coming out of the tunnel, the rails fall right off. Nevada has scored only 10 points in the third quarter, netting 323 yards. Against Fresno, Purdue, and Cal Poly, they picked up 30, 24, and -3 yards, respectively. Yes, -3 yards against a FCS team. Meanwhile, the defense has given up 800 yards and 70 points. That’s almost two full 80-yard drives per game. The anomaly works in Nevada’s favor, yard-wise, even though they drew even with Buffalo in the third quarter.

Nevada fares better in the fourth quarter, outscoring their foes 34-23, and edging them in yards, 594-573. Note that Notre Dame and Hawai’i had parked the bus by then, so it can be argued that the team’s offense stopped the offense, not Nevada’s resistance.

The statistics show that the other team makes adjustments as the game progresses to provide a favorable outcome. Nevada trailed exactly once after the first quarter, that by three against Hawai’i. Nevada seems oblivious to the environmental changes. Is it a lack of ability to recognize, to adjust, or to communicate the necessary adjustments? Only those on the inside may know.

Let’s Go…Batter Up

This will be a departure from your regularly scheduled blog post. Tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate a career that has spanned 67 years. When we seek employment, few of us are considering our “end date,” but Scully departs a week from now as still the gold standard. Just a few lists to put things in perspective:

Teams that formed since 1950:

  • Washington Senators (Texas Rangers)
  • Los Angeles/California/Anaheim/Los Angeles…of Anaheim Angels
  • New York Mets
  • Houston Colt .45s (Astros)
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers)
  • San Diego Padres
  • Montreal Expos (Washington Nationals)
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Florida/Miami Marlins
  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays

Teams that moved since 1950:

  • Boston Braves to Milwaukee to Atlanta
  • Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles
  • New York Giants to San Francisco
  • Philadelphia Athletics to Kansas City to Oakland
  • St Louis Browns to Baltimore (Orioles)
  • Washington Senators to Minnesota (Twins)

U.S. Presidents

  • Harry S. Truman (1945-53)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
  • John F Kennedy (1961-1963)
  • Lyndon B Johnson (1963-1969)
  • Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974)
  • Gerald Ford (1974-1977)
  • Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
  • Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
  • George Bush (1989-1993)
  • Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
  • George W. Bush (2001-2009)
  • Barack Obama (2009-2017)

Nations formed or gained independence since 1950

  • Africa
    • Libya
    • Morocco
    • Sudan
    • Tunisia
    • Ghana
    • Togo
    • Guinea
    • Madagascar
    • Mali
    • Cote d’Ivoire
    • Niger
    • Burkina Faso
    • Cameroon
    • Togo
    • R. Congo
    • Somalia
    • Benin
    • Central African Republic
    • Chad
    • Senegal
    • Nigeria
    • Mauritania
    • Sierra Leone
    • Tanzania
    • Uganda
    • Burundi
    • Rwanda
    • Algeria
    • Kenya
    • Malawi
    • Zambia
    • Gambia
    • Zimbabwe
    • Botswana
    • Lesotho
    • Mauritius
    • Swaziland
    • Equatorial Guinea
    • Guinea-Bissau
    • Mozambique
    • Sao Tome and Principe
    • Angola
    • Seychelles
    • Djibouti
    • Namibia
    • Eritrea
    • South Sudan
  • Americas
    • Lucia
    • Kitts and Nevis
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Suriname
    • Trinidad & Tobago
    • Jamaica
    • Belize
    • Bahamas
    • Guyana
    • Barbados
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Bahamas
    • Antigua & Barbudas
  • Asia
    • Cambodia
    • Laos
    • Malaysia
    • Singapore
    • Syria
    • Malaysia
    • Maldives
    • Bangladesh
    • Bahrain
    • Qatar
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Timor-Leste
    • Brunei
    • Yemen
    • Dissolution of the Soviet Union
  • Europe
    • Dissolution of Soviet Union
    • Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
    • Dissolution of Yugoslavia
    • Germany Unified
    • Austria
    • Malta
  • Oceana
    • Samoa
    • New Zealand
    • Nauru
    • Tonga
    • Fiji
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Soloman Islands
    • Tuvalu
    • Kiribati
    • Marshall Islands
    • Federated States of Micronesia
    • Palau



One in Every Crowd

Pinot Noir.jpgPinot Noir

“I saw a wino eating grapes and I said ‘dude, you have to wait.'” Mitch Hedburg

When I was introduced to Pinot Noir, I received a cursory education on grape clones. I learned that “swan” had a mushroomy flavor whereas 667 provided a hint of Dr. Pepper. After tasting each individual clone, I was able to identify four in Pinot noir. 

The funny thing about clones is the implication of uniformity. Certain clones were selected for their unique characteristics and those characteristics have been replicated batch after batch, generation after generation. Today’s thought, however, is not on the many lush, purple grapes I was fortunate to harvest before the birds, but that one green grape in the middle. It is, of course, the one sour note in a symphony of sweetness, the one grape I’ll avoid eating, the one I will pluck and discard with reckless abandon.

It’s not so different from how we treat the individual, the independent thinker in a crowd. I’ve tried hard to not comment on Colin Kaepernick because I understand both sides of the argument. I have to comment now, though, because it’s the wrong argument. For those who missed it, former University of Nevada alum and San Francisco 49er quarterback vows to remain seated during the Star Spangled Banner until significant social change happens in this country. He, like many others, is outraged by the treatment of minorities in our country. He is that green grape in the red and champagne gold bunch of uniformity.

The response has been, understandably, mixed. There are those who support his Constitutional right to remain seated until the band has come to a full and complete stop, others who consider it a slap in the face of our military. Others still use it as an opportunity to cherry-pick his stats to show he was “never all that good a quarterback.” On any of those points, he may not disagree with you, but that’s not why he sits. Nor, if one takes a cursory look at his tweets, is this a spur-of-the-moment stunt to get the EEOC involved should he get cut before the start of the season. This, according to Mr. Kaepernick, is a stand, if you’ll forgive the term, against perceived social injustice.

On this topic, we remain curiously silent. Based on the reports of police brutality, the studies that show a disproportionate number of minorities in poverty or prison, the seething rhetoric of certain political candidates, even the imbalanced Olympic coverage, it’s easy to wonder if we’ve made any progress at all in the 52 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. That’s what the discussion should be and what Mr. Kaepernick wanted the conversation to be.

Sports pundits universally decree that Kaepernick failed in this because all they can talk about is his standing or sitting. On the occasion a caller tries to steer the conversation to the social disparity, the host is quick to bring it back to his question–does a player have the obligation to stand. Perhaps they recognize that, as a society, we still struggle with our own racism and holding a mirror to one’s own faults does not good Arbitron numbers make.

Consider your own workplace and whether you have that one person who is the constant voice of dissent. I implore, as I have before, that you listen to the dissenter’s message, no matter your feelings about the messenger or, really, the method the messenger is using to communicate. It may be annoying, disruptive, or unprofessional, but when conventional methods for relaying a message are ineffective, perhaps it’s the importance of the issue to the dissenter that makes the method necessary. Listen, consider, reflect, and respond.

Here, But Not All There

Zombie.jpgDonn Beach, aka Don the Beachcomber, nee Ernest Gantt, had quite the impact on the West Coast of the United States. I recall as a child an odd structure in Corona del Mar that looked like Disneyland’s Adventureland. Later, when I lived in Pacific Beach, I drove past one of his former restaurants on a daily basis. Though his Polynesian Villages are a distant memory, his rum-filled cocktails are a lasting legacy to a man who caught lightning in a (rum) bottle.

The Zombie is the most well-known of his tiki cocktails, but as he was cagey about the ingredients, neither this nor, likely, the one you remember having at that one place are the original. Start with 1.5 oz each light and dark rum in a shaker with ice. Add 1 oz of Apricot Brandy, 1 oz orange juice, and 3 oz pineapple juice. Squeeze in the juice of one lime (two if you’re using Key limes). Shake and pour into a glass. Add whatever fruit garnish you like—usually a pineapple slice, orange wedge, and cherry—then float ¾ oz of 151 proof rum. Ignite…carefully and drink through a straw. Make sure you have a soft place to land.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been slow to post any new entries. I contribute my lack of productivity to a summer cold and/or allergies. Either way, I really had two options: try to power through it or take a time out and recuperate. It’s a dilemma faced by workers every day and while it seems to be the noble act to power through, it’s not necessarily the best option. Several studies were conducted in the late oughts (2007-2009) to determine the annual costs of presenteeism (showing up to work despite illness) and the results were staggering.

Australia lost $34.1 Billion in 2009[1] to presenteeism.  In the United Kingdom, presenteeism costs businesses about £15.1 Billion[2] , just under twice the cost of absenteeism. Canada’s costs are approximately $15-25 Billion[3]. And the United States chimes in with an estimated $159.8 Billion[4]. In each nation, presenteeism costs more than absenteeism.

Some of the reasons for presenteeism include:

  • Employee can’t afford to take the day off
  • No back-up plan for tasks
  • More to do upon return to work
  • Concerns about job security

While the spirit behind presenteeism is “noble,” showing up sick does more harm than good. Most illnesses are protracted by “working through them.” This means more inefficient work time than simply an absence, increased likelihood of medical treatment, meaning increased insurance costs, and, an annual tradition in many workplaces, the spread of the illness to other personnel.

Providing employees the opportunity to work from home, flexible or bankable sick leave, and a culture of trust can help reduce presenteeism. How does your organization address the presenteeism issue?






Unhappy Hour

Ketel One Martini.jpgKetel One Martini

Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with dry vermouth. Pour out residual. Place two Tomolives (pickled tomatoes) in the glass and cover with chilled Ketel One vodka. 

A friend of mine presented a theory that there is, for each of us, an age range of about 13-26 where everything was better than all that ever was or would be. Sports teams, television, and music especially fall under this category. I’ll admit that, for me, this is especially true because that time period encompasses the Showtime Lakers and Wayne Gretzky in sports, Moonlighting, Animaniacs, and MTV with actual music on the tube. One of my favorite musical quirks was the swing revival that seemingly came from nowhere. Acts like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Brian Setzer Orchestra, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies had us polishing up saddle oxfords and even Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefer Band added a horn section for a time. To me, the apex was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, so I was excited to have the chance to see them perform locally on Saturday.

Unfortunately, this was not meant to be as lead singer Scotty Morris was ill. We were informed that the concert was cancelled by the parking attendant, there was a statement on the band’s website explaining the cancellation by the time we got home, and a little over an hour before the posted show time, we received an e-mail from Ticketmaster:

Unfortunately, your upcoming event has been cancelled. The good news is we already refunded your money including fees [emphasis theirs].

Sure, I was disappointed that the concert was cancelled, but the response by the venue, the band, and Ticketmaster was as good as it could have been, considering the circumstances.  Contrast this with the NFL Hall of Fame game which kept fans in the seats through the announcement of the starting line-ups, even though the cancellation was announced online an hour before, and the reimbursement policy can be seen here. One shows a genuine commitment to customer service; the other not so much. I can even (reluctantly) appreciate Ticketmaster’s “convenience” fees.

There is a bunch of debate over having a “Plan B,” but when elements of your service are beyond your reasonable control, having one can be quite beneficial.

There’s No Such Thing as a “Sanity Clause”


White Bordeaux.jpgWhite Bordeaux

If the heart of winemaking is the Burgundy region, Bordeaux is the mind. Merlot and Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in any blend provide ponderous potables from the rich terroir near the banks of the Gironde River. The costs for a “typical” Bordeaux can be daunting, as you know if you have priced a Chateau Latour or Chateau Lafite/Mouton Rothschild. Other Bordeaux of lesser quality have a relatively lower price, but the quality vacillates too much for the premium. 

Luckily, Bordeaux is home to some extraordinary whites as well. It is said that the marginal land value of red grapes in that region so greatly eclipses those of whites that only the best vintners would dare grow and bottle a white wine. White Bordeaux is usually a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The lower residual sugar gives a clean, true flavor that may be harder to approach than the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough New Zealand (I admit to being a sucker for those wines), but the result is a refreshing glass without the contemplative air of its red counterpart.

Watching the Olympic beach volleyball competition has been a different experience than it was in the past. Historically, I would be watching the ball and the scoreboard, but beginning in London and continuing now in Rio, I’m focusing more on the pairs. There is very little time to set tactics between the time you send the ball over the net and when it returns, so a tacit understanding of roles is essential for success. Included in that understanding is a form of psychological contract—how responsibilities are shared, how success and error are handled, the overriding purpose. Teams that have a strong psychological contract tend to fare better than teams that don’t. We instinctively know this as every season we hear how a new coach needs time to get his system in place or a “super team” will struggle to find their chemistry.

A psychological contract is an unwritten agreement that defines the employer/employee relationship. An employer who promises a safe, rewarding work environment, then sticks a new hire in a cubicle with a broken chair and exposed wires and subsequently ignores the employee has broken this contract. When a contract is broken, the employee’s productivity and quality will decrease, attendance likely will as well. All are signs of disengagement. When left unaddressed, meaning when the broken social contract is not resolved, the employee may begin to intentionally undermine the organization.

As a manager, it is our responsibility to promise only what we can deliver and deliver what we promise. This means focusing on the real, not just the ideal. We may want a “horizontal hierarchy” and free discourse, but “when the CEO speaks, the conversation is over” clearly defies both a flat structure and open communication. A quick litmus test, if the C-suite only responds to “Mister Smith” or “Ms. Brown,” you may not be in a flat organization.

Similarly, whether you promise constant feedback or annual reviews, be sure to deliver on either. Few things will shatter a psychological contract quicker than accumulating violations and presenting them at once or, if the company is structured around annual reviews, giving a shining review three weeks late and failing to have it reflect in compensation.

The key is to understand Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. We instinctively do—we know the first runner to cross the finish line in the Olympics will win the gold medal, that good acts shall be rewarded and bad acts punished—and are upset when such things don’t occur. As a manager, we need to apply these principles to the workplace.

What psychological contracts do you make with your staff and how do you “enforce” them?