Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 552 – Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical Dilemmas

For this week’s essay, we were asked to write about ethical dilemmas with reference to four questions asked in a Harvard Business Review article called, How Ethical Are You?

The questions were as follows –

1. An executive earning $30,000 a year has been padding his expense account by about $1,500 (or 5%) a year. Is that

  1. Acceptable if other executives in the same company do it
  2. Unacceptable regardless of circumstances
  3. Acceptable if the executive’s superior knows about it and says nothing

I selected #2, under a deontology ethical theory (e. g. ethical behaviors come from duty). #1 is a kind of “everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I get away with it?” type of argument. That’s a tempting argument, but it ends up being a kind of hedonistic one. Personally, I enjoy hanging around and doing nothing on snow days, but it’s far better if I shovel. Part of the reason I shovel is to be kind to my neighbors. Another reason is to keep them from slipping on my property and suing me. But it’s also the case that others might do less than I do. Certainly, as the wind rattles my windows, I would prefer to sip cocoa and stay inside. That’s answer #1.

As for answer #3, that could potentially go to company culture. After all, unless I’m the boss, who am I to question and dictate company culture? But padding an expense account is no way of going about protesting a low salary or attempting to address a financial injustice. It’s a better move for the superior to meet the salary issue head on and, assuming the executive deserves a higher pay rate, then give the executive a raise. If the executive doesn’t, then this backdoor raise isn’t doing anyone any favors – and it might even speak to ethical issues with the superior. It’s been my experience that salaries come from one company financial bucket, whereas expenses come from another. By looking the other way, the superior is providing a raise via allowing the executive to dip into someone else’s till.

2. Imagine you’re president of a company in a highly competitive industry. You learn that a competitor has made an important scientific breakthrough that will substantially reduce, if not eliminate, your company’s profit for about a year. If one of the competitor’s employees who knew the details were available to hire, would you?

  1. Yes
  2. No

I felt this one was a tossup. I think that there has to be the assumption that virtually anyone is “available to hire”. Furthermore, there is nothing in the fact pattern about this possible future employee being bound by a nondisclosure agreement. If this person is bound by an NDA, and they honor it, then my hiring them – or not – makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, unless they are the main architect of the scientific breakthrough. And even if they are, the breakthrough has already been made. I just feel like it wouldn’t matter much either way. As for the ethics of hiring one person away from a competitor, that is how people are hired all the time. Top talent always has experience, and that experience is inevitably with a competitor. I just fail to see the damage here, I suppose. Under a consequentialism ethical theory, there just doesn’t seem, to me, to be much that matters in terms of consequences and results of going either way.

3. The minister of a foreign nation where bribes are common asks for a $200,000 consulting fee in return for special assistance in obtaining a $100 million contract that would generate at least $5 million in profits. Would you

  1. Pay the fee, feeling it was ethical, given the moral climate of the nation
  2. Pay the fee, feeling it was unethical but necessary to ensure the sale
  3. Refuse to pay, even if you lose the sale

This time, I chose #3. Yes, it’s nice to make a profit, etc., but the circumstances are distasteful. I question the requirement of paying this bribe. Perhaps something else could be arranged? This might be less ethical squeamishness on my part, and more like a question of social justice. In some ways (I’m a cynical person), I’m wondering if that same $200,000 could be spent on a ‘consulting fee’ for someone who could use the money a lot more than a presumably wealthy minister. I recognize that this is often a ‘cost of doing business’. I’d just rather not further line the pockets of someone who’s already in beer and skittles. My approach is somewhat utilitarian (per A Framework for Thinking Ethically), as my intention is to attempt to make the sale – after all, my fellow employees may be counting on me – while at least trying to quite literally redistribute the wealth a bit more fairly.

4. On becoming a new member of the board of High Fly Insurance Co. (HFI) you learn that it’s the officially approved insurer of the Private Pilots Benevolent Association, whose 20,000 members are automatically enrolled in a HFI accident policy when they pay dues. HFI pays a fee to PPBA for this privilege and gets access to the PPBA mailing list, which it uses to sell aircraft liability policies (its major source of revenue). PPBA’s president sits on the HFI board, and the two companies are located in the same building. Would you:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Raise the issue in a private meeting with HFI’s chairman
  3. Express opposition to this at a director’s meeting but accept whatever position the board takes in response
  4. Express vigorous opposition and resign if corrective action were not taken
1. An executive earning $30,000 a year has been padding his expense account by about $1,500 (or 5%) a year. Is that Acceptable if other executives in the same company do it Unacceptable regardless of circumstances Acceptable if the executive’s superior knows about it and says nothing I selected #2, under a deontology ethical theory (e. g. ethical behaviors come from duty). #1 is a kind of
Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an incestuous business relationship. I feel that the answer is a two-parter. I would start with #2. Some of this is a matter of finesse, as board members are high up in any company. You don’t get to that kind of a position without being somewhat discreet. There is nothing in the fact pattern about what happens during that private meeting, and I intend to tell the chairman that this is akin to the kind of logrolling that goes on in cartels. I just can’t see the Federal Trade Commission not being interested in such an all-too convenient arrangement.

If #2 failed, I would probably go to the nuclear option, which is #4. And if there’s any price-fixing going on (not in the fact pattern, but a very real possibility in such an arrangement), I don’t want to be on the receiving end of an investigation. I like staying out of Federal prison.

My decisions are more likely to be made with respect to consequences. After all, I don’t relish the idea of going to a Federal penitentiary. But it’s also in the sense of virtue and duty. Dereliction of duty and a failure of virtue also create consequences. Can I sleep at night? That’s often my motivation and my litmus test.

What would you do?

Career changing SEO Work

Work at WebTekPro

Work at WebTekPro

I was hired by WebTekPro, a Houston web design company in December of 2014.

But the story of getting a job is a bit amusing.

For the past few months, I have been performing various social media tasks for a Star Trek podcast. Its name is, ‘The G and T Show’. This entails things like live tweeting the Sunday shows, preparing interesting lists and notes for Facebook, optimizing blog posts, adding appropriate annotations to YouTube, crafting pins for Pinterest and posts for Tumblr, and growing all social media presences. It’s been challenging, fun, and rewarding.

Along the way, we interview any number of Star Trek professionals, including legend Larry Nemecek. Nemecek has been interviewed several times, but this time it was in conjunction with an effort called Enterprise in Space. It was a group interview, and that included Johnny Steverson, the Chief Development Officer. Steverson was impressed with the interview and with this small podcast’s social media presence. He asked the hosts, “Who does your social media?

We talked less than two weeks later, and I had a job. I’m an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Specialist. I like the work.

WebTekPro, Later

Sigh. I really had wanted the work at WebTekPro to work out. But such was not to be. I will not go into the details. But suffice it to say, everyone out there should protect themselves. Here it is, over 5 years since this post first went live. And the lesson remains.

For my first job via UpWork, I never received payment. And, they tried a limited form of identity theft.

So that first part? It was all eerily, achingly, familiar.

To be a worker online, sometimes that means you need to be trusting. But at the same time, you need to be cautious.

Getting everything in writing is helpful. But in this case, even that was not quite enough.

Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 01 – ICM 552 Physician Boundaries and the Internet

Physician Boundaries and the Internet

The physician and patient relationship is, by definition, an intimate one. They see us naked, and we ask them questions about everything from sexuality to social issues, from the seriousness of disability to the not so serious halitosis. They tell us when we are dying, and when we are going to become parents, and when we are getting sicker, no matter what we do. We share our concerns about obesity, aging, and smoking, too. The boundaries can become blurred.

The psychiatrist (or psychologist) to patient relationship can have even fuzzier boundaries as we talk about our relationships, our addictions, our fantasies, and our fears.

In You, your doctor and the Internet (LA Times, August 26, 2010), Judy Foreman tackles this question. Foreman talks about two aspects of how the Internet is reshaping the physician to patient relationship and is rubbing away at boundaries.

Friending Your Doctor

One way is in the realm of friending. Are you friends with your doctor? Should you be? And what about your psychiatrist? As Foreman points out, this could be more trouble for the patient than it’s worth. Imagine being a patient in addiction recovery. Oops, better not post those party pics. But what if your buddy tags you anyway? Will you move quickly enough to intercept the incriminating evidence? And yes, evidence, for the stakes are undoubtedly higher if therapy is court-ordered.

On the doctor’s end of things, intimate details could be accidentally revealed. We are all, ultimately, responsible for our online privacy, but Facebook in particular seems to be continually tweaking its settings. How fast can the doctor chase after his or her privacy settings, and clamp down on those old embarrassing fraternity pictures?

Googling Your Doctor/Your Doctor Googling You

Foreman also mentions the push-pull of Googling. Should the patient Google the doctor? Foreman is all for that. After all, medical care is a service, comparable in some ways to a garage. You’d check to see if your mechanic was certified, and if they were complaints against him or her. Why not check out your doctor? Or, as Foremen herself writes:

There’s no question that Internet searches can be an important tool for healthcare consumers. “Patients should Google their doctors, to check on credentials, training, scholarly articles and the like,” says Dr. Daniel Sands, the senior medical director of clinical informatics for the Internet Business Solutions Group at networking giant Cisco Systems.


That sort of curiosity seems healthy, to give patients and potential patients some control. For psychiatry and psychology in particular, it’s helpful if there’s chemistry between the doctor and the patient. A traumatized female rape victim might only want a female doctor treating her. A man with impotence might prefer a male therapist. A check on Google can at least get the basics out of the way.

Physician Boundaries and the Internet
Dan Ariely speaking at TED (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the other half of this, to Foreman, is a different story. For Foreman, doctors Googling patients seems more of an invasion. However, Foreman allows for some instances where Googling might be necessary, e. g. a possibly suicidal patient who stops coming to therapy sessions – it makes sense for a therapist to check up on the patient using the latest and fastest technology. This seems analogous to calling a patient on the telephone if they are in crisis. A physician shouldn’t feel that anything other than sending a messenger is too invasive. There is the matter of urgency, and time delays can be critical.

Not so Fast

But what if it’s not so urgent? What’s the protocol for when a prediabetic patient claims to be going for a brisk walk when in reality they’re visiting Burger King (and checking in from Foursquare)? If the doctor ran into the patient in person and noticed this contradictory and ultimately destructive behavior, no one would say that the doctor was invading the patient’s privacy (this is assuming that the connection is a real one and not a result of the doctor following the patient around). It seems that the apter analogy is to active Googling versus stumbling upon (N. B. not the use of StumbleUpon) to find a patient’s activities. A by chance meeting or locating online is one thing; actively stalking, in person or over the ‘net, is something else entirely.

Behavior and Ethics

And what of the patient’s own behaviors, in the context of the doctor going too far? In PBS’s Behavioral Ethics video, Dan Ariely says about ethics, “… it’s all about being able, at the moment, to rationalize something and make yourself think that this is actually okay.” Is the fast food okay? Is the snooping? These are patients, generally, who are of the age of majority and are considered competent and sane. Is the fast food in their best interests? Of course not. But when physician concern turns into self-righteous attempts to control patients’ behaviors, then boundaries are so blurred, and were crossed so long ago, that they aren’t even recognizable anymore.

Book Reviews Quinnipiac

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac

For the Spring Semester of 2015, I decided to double my course load and try to graduate a bit more rapidly. This entailed taking two classes. Little was I to know, when I signed up for these courses, that I would also get a job and my book, Untrustworthy, would be published. Hence my workload began to feel a bit out of control.