Culture of Secrecy? Better Ask the Ethicist

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Ruth McCambridge


Lately, I have been thinking a lot about openness. There is perhaps nothing that can be more destructive to an organization than a culture of secrecy. There is a lot of literature (never mind common sense) that supports this but still we create situations in which there are secrets chronically kept – big and small. 

People being people of course – no one accepts that they do not have a right to the information in question, so if you won’t go ahead and give them the down low – they might just go ahead and make something up. And so it goes. 

Energy is a strange thing. People bring it with them into the organizations they work in and then if you do not give that energy avenues – good ways for it to be used, they will use it for other stuff – like making up conspiracy theories or undermining their colleagues.

In the end we are all responsible for our behavior but the context set in the organizations we work in and with provides directional signs. Thus establishing organizational culture becomes a powerful act of omission or commission. To paraphrase Mario  Morino, “It’s the culture, stupid.”

So maybe you have a question about the ethical appropriateness of some practice in your organization? Go ahead and ask it or anything else you please. This morning we received a question about an affair between a board president and an executive. The ethicist stands ready to answer it all!

Submit your question here and we will forward it on. You will receive a response within the week. Of course, we will keep your identity secret and work with you to ensure your confidentiality.