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Mean What You Say

Mean What You Say

by Frank Roche on September 14, 2009

in Ethics

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), shouts “You lie!” to President Obama during the president’s speech to Congress. Wilson gives a half-hearted apology and the House plans to censure him. That’s kind of like saying he’s on double secret probation.

Serena Williams is called for a foot fault on the penultimate point in the women’s semifinals at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Williams let’s loose foul-mouthed tirade at the lineswoman, and even threatened to shove her racket down her throat. Williams had already been warned because she crushed her racket at the end of the first set. So, the match ended on a fault and was awarded to Kim Clijsters. The USTA decided to let Williams go ahead and play in the doubles tournament and fined her — get this — $10,000. That’s for someone who has made over $25 million playing tennis.

What do those breaches of conduct have in common? Perhaps it’s that we’re not shocked about it anymore. In fact, Joe Wilson has gotten extra campaign money because of what he did. And Serena Williams gets to keep playing.

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Here’s what I do know: Mean what you say.

How many times have you seen people get away with big things at work depending on who they are? I used to work at a place where there were some real bad actors who we used to say got [Company]-fired. Sexually harass a subordinate? Get a corner office. Verbally abuse a colleague? Get promoted into another area.

It’s wrong. Here’s my take: You can never be too ethical. If you don’t put up with crap even once then it doesn’t happen again. But if you milquetoast what you do, well, watch out.

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