Multiple Ways to Reach an Ethical Conclusion: Considering Real-life Professional Dilemmas

Written by: Thomas G. Smith, CHAE

It has been many years now since Ethics education was added as a requirement for CHAE/CHTP maintenance. It was an addition that the HFTP Global board approved of during my tenure as a way to not only account for a designee’s knowledge of the industry, but also as a benchmark for the high standards established relative to behavior and decision-making. Subsequently the ethics-focused sessions offered have been more theory than application, mostly with similar themes: right vs. wrong; good vs. evil; black vs. white. A program that offered real-world scenarios, that would provide food for thought and give attendees pause, was a natural next step.

Last spring, I partnered with Daniel Conti, Jr., CHAE, CAM and Wendy Robinson, CHAE to present the session “50 Shades of Gray” at the inaugural Club Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana USA. The idea was to present real-life, difficult scenarios that could be responded to in a number of ways. The interactive session was designed so that participants could hear the examples (which really did happen) and then hash out the multiple ways to handle the situations. We are now presenting the same session at the upcoming HFTP Annual Convention. In anticipation of that session, I thought I would open up the audience to the HFTP community for discussion.

Here is the scenario that pushed me toward designing the session and how I managed the conundrum. How would you respond to this situation?

A club professional friend of mine called me about an issue at her club and was asking for advice. She had been asked to give her general manager’s bonus check in a 1099 rather than payroll. It wasn’t difficult for me to reply, as I also had encountered this issue a few times previously. I told her to email the general manager and let him know that she was unable to find anything on the U.S. Department of Labor website that would allow her to do what he had requested, but that if he could find something, she would be glad to handle it that way.

It felt great when she called me five minutes later to tell me that he had come out of his office and he said, “Oh, I didn’t mean for you to do that,” and the matter was settled.

Getting things in writing is my number one tip for keeping business dealings within an ethical lane and protecting your career. This is a small example, but a very straight forward one that demonstrates how to maneuver someone away from asking you to perform unethically on their behalf, while also protecting your job.

A strict, policy of black and white behavior is easy to follow in the best of circumstances, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Job security, company culture and board dynamics are just a few examples of things that can affect each situation. In our session, we share experiences, allow our colleagues to share, discuss setting the right example and how to keep your colleagues, managers and boards on an ethical path. Let us learn from each other. Comment with your scenarios here and perhaps we can address them in this forum.

“50 Shades of Gray (Club Edition)” will be held at the HFTP 2018 Annual Convention on Thursday, October 25 from 1:45 – 3:00 p.m. EST at the Omni Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky USA. Register now.

Thomas G. Smith, CHAE is chief business officer at Imperial Golf Club and speaker at the upcoming HFTP 2018 Annual Convention, taking place October 24 – 26, 2018 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. He is an HFTP Global Past President and a member of the HFTP Club Advisory Council. 

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