Tag Archives: ethics

Book Review: Ethical Issues in Accounting – Edited by Catherine Gowthorpe and John Blake

Ethical Issues in Accounting – Edited by Catherine Gowthorpe and John Blake

This book is concisely written. It has a number of contributors and a large list of references. Although first written in 1998, the issues are highly relevant today and provide valuable insights into ethical issues in the profession.

It covers all the critical aspects of the subject – creative accounting, whistleblowing, the ethics of tax practitioners, the role (and shortcomings) of the professional bodies in ethical issues, auditors and moral issues, self-regulation vs. independent regulation, public service (and the tensions and conflicts of interest with management there), the environment and corporate social reporting.

There are interesting (and shocking) insights from the authors’ own experiences at work, and the lack of power to be able to speak up against unethical practices. There is critism of the partisanship of professional bodies. There is also critism of their role as guardians of accounting and auditing ethics, suggesting that these bodies themselves routinely compromise their own ethical position. Balancing arguments are also presented, suggesting that the radical critics’ views are sometimes overstated and misrepresented.

Overall, it has been a fascinating read for me. I am very impressed with how the crux of issues and debates are packed into this very informative little book (under 200 pages). I learnt and became aware of a lot through reading it. Some if it, I have to admit, was a little above my head because of the academic approach to the discussions in places, but I would be tempted to read it again to get round this, given its usefulness.

Book Review: Say it Like Obama – by Shel Leanne

Say it Like Obama – by Shel Leanne

I’m not one for “spin”; in fact I find it quite troubling how many people seem enamoured more by powerful oratory than by substance, hard facts and tested results – I have alluded to this in a number of my previous posts, e.g. “Narrative Fallacies Galore“, “Book Review – The Believing Brain“, “Book Review – Redirect“, etc.

Having said that, one does occasionally have to speak in public and it helps to maximise the impact of what one has to say. The author does a very thorough job of analysing Obama’s speeches in detail, giving very structured and well written explanations of each of the techniques used, with clear examples of how these techniques have been applied. Having been a member of Toastmasters International for almost 5 years, most of the techniques described in the book are quite familiar to me – voice and intonation, powerful imagery, anecdotes, repeating or using similar sounding words (anaphora, epiphora, alliterations, triads etc.), gestures and pauses at the right times.

My purpose of reading this book was to see if there was anything additional I could glean on this subject of public speaking, as practised by President Obama. There certainly were a few new ideas.

The first is on breaking down barriers – acknowledging the “elephant in the room”, such as his race or different name and achieving trancsendence by finding common ground and talking about shared dreams and visions. Tackling the “elephant in the room” head on at the beginning then makes for a more comfortable atmosphere with the audience during the rest of the time the speech is being delivered.

The second is on conveying admirable ethics (e.g. being gracious, even after being insulted or made to feel awkward by a previous speaker), in order to earn trust and confidence. This point may be more about leadership. By building a good ethical reputation, if and when controversy arises or accusations come forth, these attacks tend to bounce off rather than stick.

The third is on overcoming obstacles and weathering controversies or accepting responsibility for errors. (Again, this may have more to do with leadership.) These should be tackled at the beginning, with humility rather than defiance. After addressing this (and with the audience then in a more forgiving and receptive state), Obama would then go on to reiterate his beliefs and deliver tough messages.

For anyone interested in the subjects of public speaking and leadership, this book does offer a few good tips.

Is Society Promoting Psycopaths?

I watched a fascinating clip on Tonic TV yesterday on the studies of brains of people with psychopathic tendencies. Apparently, the tendency is found in people with a deficiency in the amygdala (the part of the brain playing a key part in processing emotions) – a deficiency that causes these people to have no qualms about being immoral or unethical and hurting others in the process.  I couldn’t locate the clip on the website but found some other fascinating articles on the subject, one in Expats Post. I recommend reading this.

To sum it up, the psycopaths who end up in prison are at the extreme end of the spectrum but many other psycopaths walk among us. Their characteristcs? They con, swindle, manipulate, control and cause emotional and psychological damage to others and wait – here’s the surprising element – their personalities are often charming, witty, confident, outgoing and disarming. This, only to use others to their advantage, then discard them later. The “Expats Post” article goes on to say that society often rewards such people with a “win at all costs, get the job done” attitude e.g. in corporations, politics, Big Banks etc.

I am impressed with the progress in brain science. Perhaps some day brain scans will be added to the repertoire of tools to more accurately profile and fit people for roles, reducing the dependence on psychometric profiling, assessment by other people (possibly psychopaths themselves) and popular votes.

Book Review: The Age of Unreason – by Charles Handy

The Age of Unreason – by Charles Handy

Everyone gets something different out of a book. The opinions here are mine only.

“…there always comes a moment in time when a door opens and lets the future in…”     –  Graham Greene

This book was published in 1991. I read it at the end of 2010, almost 20 years later. The fact that I found the book so relevant almost 20 years after it was written is testimony to the author’s powerful insight into the changes taking place in the workplace and in our way of life.

Charles Handy speaks of demographic, technological, social structure and value changes affecting society in a discontinuous way. Formal organizations, he says, will be less important and more people will be outside these organizations. There will be more freedom and choice regarding how people work and live; and more people will have a “portfolio of jobs” instead of a job title. On the flipside, more choices and greater emphasis on individual achievement could mean the stronger are better off and the weak worse off, unless there is, ingrained in society, a strong ethic of support and encouragement.

Let us take stock, for a moment, of what we are seeing in the world today. With baby boomers closer to retirement age, the pyramid structure of organizations is under increasing strain. Technological changes, while applauded for increasing productivity and improving our lives, mean that different jobs have to be created in order to keep people at work (otherwise unemployment goes up and we are seeing this too). Ethics go out of the window when the rich don’t care (look at high profile Ponzi schemes, banking scandals and the like), adversely affecting millions of ordinary people. Yet, the work of philanthropists (like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and others) helps lift some out of poverty. This all fits in very well with what Handy puts forth in “The Age of Unreason”.

For those wanting to fathom the changes that we are seeing and are to come in the world and figure out how to be prepared rather than be shocked, “The Age of Unreason” provides an excellent pair of lenses from which to put it all into perspective.