Ethical Acculturation and Ethical Dilemma

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Carl Jung was the first psychotherapist to identify the concept of the "shadow" as being something that is negative, manifests itself as greed and hatred, and resides in the subconscious along with the positive attributes of creativity, and achievement (Johnson, 2009, p.4). Understanding that there is a "dark" side of leadership motivated me to take drastic steps to change my career goal, and aspirations when I was in my late 20's. I recognized that after more than 10 years in the corporate world of business, and accounting information systems that I needed to align my life so that I could maintain a "healthy personal life", and also have "productive relationships" at work. In essence, I wanted to be able to "fulfill my organizational obligations" in my work, and have career aspirations that aligned with my personal values. This is what Craig E. Johnson refers to as "The Challenge of Obligation" (Johnson, 2009, p.25).

This first part of this paper tells the story of this ethical acculturation process, and adjustment to the corporate culture of the 1970's in the first 10 years of my career. It will begin with the origins of my beliefs, and values, which came from my immigrant parents and grandparents, and outside organizations that I belonged to as a child. It will continue with my first job in the world of accounting information systems fresh out of high school, and very naïve and ambitious. It will explain using some ethical theories and philosophies, and the application of them to my blurred days of long hours, and total dedication to my work at a large publishing giant in New York City. After experiencing an "acculturation mismatch", I had many psychosomatic illnesses, and abuses of alcohol that resulted from the mismatch between my values, and morals and those of this corporate organizational culture. The journey will end with my eventual epiphany, and successful strategy to overcome this mismatch. The journey was by no means a smooth one, and to implement this successful strategy it meant financial sacrifice, and insurmountable work, and lack of sleep or a social life, but change is never easy especially a change in career and one's aspirations.

The second part of the paper, which builds on the foundation of the first part of my journey, will tell the story of a ethical dilemma that I now face after 23 years of being in the career that I aspired to, and a level that I never could never have imagine when I began. Unfortunately, this ethical dilemma has manifested itself because of that long and hard journey in the first part of my story. As I approach my 60's, it has forced me to face many of the same issues, and unresolved conflicts I had in my 20's. The second part will begin by stating the ethical dilemma, explaining the new opportunity, persons involved, and by defining the organizational culture, and context. In order for me at this late stage of my life to resolve or work through an issue the second part will clarify the ethical acculturation strategy I use in this new organization, and articulate the decision making process with some ethical theories, and philosophies, and the application of them too. I hope that as I near the completion of this course, which coincides, with the conclusion of this second part of this paper, I can use some of the strategies and models learned over the past five months.

My intuition seems to be beckoning me to begin with some of my earliest lessons in ethical behavior, and motivations. It was in the early 1960's and I was only nine, but wanted so badly to be a cub scout. Maybe it was because some of my friends had become cub scouts, or I had heard some advertisement, but somehow it clicked, and felt right for me. It was difficult as both my parents worked full-time, and had to bring to me meetings. This was not exactly on their calendar of events to attend. They were also Greek and Polish immigrants who stayed away from "American" events, as the food was scarce, and the conversations were difficult for them. After all, they had hardly made it past high school. As I was the first born, very persuasive and somewhat audacious, I got my way.

I think the Boy Scout's handbook impressed me the most with its examples, and vivid illustrations of many of the same leader character traits we learned in class. These traits were courage, which meant "doing the right thing" and overcoming your fears, and reverence, having "awe and respect "and acknowledging that there is a higher power. Lastly generosity and kindness combined with charity, and to "put others above you" whether or not you expected to get anything in return (Johnson, 2009, p.71-77). In fact we had to memorize a oath which I have not forgotten, "Oh my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at other times, keep myself mentally awake, and morally straight".

Becoming a boy scout after being a cub scout was not in the cards for me. I hated camping, and "roughing it". It had turned from being morally straight, and run by den mothers to being just straight, and run by fathers who had not left the military at least in their minds. The moral and ethical lessons became hard lectures under grueling conditions. I left when I was a young teenager.

As Craig Johnson states, "Character never takes place in a vacuum and virtues are more likely to take root when nurtured by families, schools, governments and religious bodies" (Johnson, 2009, p. 83). Before I had joined the boy scouts, my parents had instilled in me many values and morals, and believed strongly in the differences of right and wrong or Light and Shadow. My father and mother also believed strongly in the values of hard honest work, clean living, and the value of generosity, and charity. In fact, my mother's family valued charity the most, hospitality was almost instinctive, and sharing with others who had less than us was almost mandatory. My father's family valued hard work with total loyalty to the organization. In fact, my father worked in one place for over 35 years until he retired. Our religion played a big role in our lives, and Sunday school and lessons were a weekly occurrence. Although, I never bought into the idea of religion, I valued the teachings of the church on charity, hope, and selflessness. Many of the same values and moral underpinnings that the boy scouts embraced the church had embraced too.

If I were to just state only the virtues of my family influence on me I would be dishonest. In spite of their high principles and aspirations they overlooked the fact that my younger brother was autistic. My parents never gave him the care and therapy or drugs he needed, and forced him to endure his life as if he were just like any other child. My parents also would not accept his condition or its repercussions. Therefore, as a school psychologist had ascertained when I was a young teenager my family was often in denial of the truth, and preferred to accept their truth as being reality. It was because of this uncertainty about the truth or "ambivalent" message that I had gotten so often I fought with my parents, and it became more apparent as I became a young adult that this ambiguity was intolerable for me. Finally, although I was only 18 years old I left my family, and got an apartment in New York City.

New York City was exciting and seem to be vibrating, but a somewhat more dangerous and drug infested place then it is now. I had moved to the Upper-West Side, and later I found that is was nicknamed "needle park". As I have a terrible fear of any kind of needle being remotely close to me, either I had overlooked this nickname or never focused on it. It was affordable and not far from work that I decided to take at a large publishing company. Three brothers operated the publishing company, and it was a privately held company closely monitored by their family. My view of the company was that it gave everyone a fair chance, and their ethical perspective was one of Justice as Fairness (Johnson, 2009, p.143). The reason I perceived this to be true and felt comfortable being there was the way the company, and its leaders were treating me when I started. They were fair and just. As I was not well educated, inexperienced, and very young they still encouraged me, and made me feel that it was my individual choice to learn and progress. I felt valued, and that my actions were good for the organization.

In retrospect, and assessing it now, my perception seemed to be right, but it was not. After 3 years, of learning the ropes and financial systems, they promoted me to a midlevel managerial position, and put me in charge of eight employees. I was one of the youngest managers with only an associate's degree on my resume, and little experience. It was not until I had attained this position, and got my own office that I really learned about the culture of the organization. Before that time, my acculturation strategy was "assimilation". As a trainee I was "strongly motivated to develop a professional identity", and divorce myself "from the values that had previously guided "my personal life (Handelsman, Gottlieb & Knapp, 2005, p.61). I wanted to fit in and learn a lot and fast. Therefore, I needed "high contact and participation" in order to fulfill my ambition of being in position of authority especially at such a young age, and the "assimilation" strategy worked well for me (Anderson, Lujan & Hegeman, 2009, p.22). I still had my own personal values, and ethics that had not changed much from the time I left my home and parents. I just decided to leave them at the company's front door in exchange for money, knowledge, fast promotions, and raises. As long as that was happening I could justify using the "assimilation" strategy.

After I became a manager of eight employees I had to attend meetings often times with leaders who were far above me in rank and stature. From this perspective I learned much more about the culture of the organization, and the "acculturation mismatch" of its vales and ethics with mine. It became more obvious to me as each day passed in my new position (Anderson, Lujan & Hegeman, 2009, p.23). Therefore, I adopted another acculturation strategy of "separation". I think it was because I no longer felt I had to assimilate with the corporate culture as I was now in a position of authority and control, and could make independent decisions that affected my department, which did not necessarily agree with the company's culture and values. Most significantly, I was now the leader of eight employees, and their lives and work environment became my responsibility too. This strategy made me feel I had control, and that my ethical choices could be guided by my inner desire or personal value of "doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people" (Johnson, 2009, p.138).

Although, as a leader this utilitarianism approach made me feel more harmonious with myself, and less anxious as a leader, it was in direct opposition to the "old boys' network", and a more Kantian ethical perspective of the organization. Most leaders in this organization stayed the course of doing what they felt was right despite opposition or pressure from their followers, and there were no exceptions. The leaders' made decisions according to their sense of duty. The employees were rarely involved in the decision making process, and often felt manipulated, and powerless to make their own decisions or choices. Often times my being a midlevel manager meant handing down decisions to my employees from my boss who ethics were even more questionable. For example, he would reject my new hires on vague principles such as they were a different color or race, and would not fit in easily with the present employee pool. I fought him every step of the way, and had the most ethnically diverse and well-trained employees in the division. My department made the "business case" for promoting diversity (Johnson, p.307). Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness, I slipped and let him "convince" me to hire his sister who was inexperienced, and not very smart for a position. She became the weakest link in the department, and would report my behavior and activities to her brother periodically. One day she just disappeared, and never reappeared. It was a blessing in disguise.

Through the 4 years, as a manager I hung on to the job on the outside, and adopted a "separation strategy" in the acculturation process as I felt that way I could be more true to my personal values and ethics, but this strategy took a big toll on my health. It was almost a weekly occurrence to visit the doctor, and take tests just to find that it was a "nervous stomach", "fatigue" or drinking which I was doing on my own time to escape the daily grind and the "acculturation mismatch".

My utilitarianism approach to being a leader also had it downside. Sometimes it was difficult to anticipate or evaluate the consequences of my decisions, and my boss would use these moments to remind me of other bad decisions, or choices (Johnson, 2009, p.138). He would also make decisions based on what he thought was right for the department or its employees, and not ask for my advice or input. After a while, in order to feel better, and avoid the conflict, I considered adopting a "marginalization" strategy. Deep down inside, I knew that this was a temporary strategy, and eventually I would experience "alienation", and was in danger of committing an "ethical infraction" (Handelsman, Gottlieb & Knapp, 2005, p.61). It was time for a big change and I knew it, but it also meant leaving a very financially lucrative and comfortable position. Sometimes learning from hardship can be build character and make one a better leader. In the span of a few years, I had my share of them.

According to Craig E. Johnson, "Hardship and suffering also play a role in developing character" (Johnson, 2009, p. 85). If that is true, shortly after becoming a manager, I suffered a series of them, and must have done some accelerated character building. Shortly, after becoming a manager my mother tested positive for breast cancer, and in 2 years died at the young age of 49. It affected me very badly, and I suffered terribly as we were very close. My father was very distant, and he remarried after 6 months luckily to a wonderful woman. In addition, 4 years had passed, and it seemed that I had hit a ceiling in the organization. I had a series of missed promotions, and felt that I had lost my sense of competence, and self-efficacy. To make matters worse one of my employees attacked another employee, and my boss who did not want to hire her in the first place wanted me to fire her. I also suspected that his decision was racially motivated. She eventually left on her own accord. I think these were very "crucible moments" which had a "profound effect on me". They definitely motivated me to" move on and take on more challenges" (Johnson, 2009, p.85). They could have had the opposite effect, but my immigrant parents were excellent role models, and instilled in me the importance of the courage to transform my life, and the optimism to be hopeful of the future, and its opportunities.

Luckily, I took the route of getting a better education and finishing my BS degree in Accounting, and then going on to get an MBA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. This led to a job as a lecturer by the time I was 35. As a leader in a classroom, I felt that finally my personal values, motivations, and ethics matched with the mission, values, and culture of the academic institution. It did not take me long to adopt an "integration strategy" in this environment as it seemed to be better match of my personal code of ethics. As a teacher, with a high level of moral professionalism, I could have a true obligation to helping students to learn, and at the same time be aware of the ethical dilemmas, and moral pitfalls they may encounter at a business organization. Maybe they could learn from my mistakes. In addition, I was able to maintain and be dedicated to planning and conducting classes with care, and regularly reviewing and updating my instructional practices and syllabi. Teaching offered me many opportunities to address those areas of my moral and ethical development I wanted to change too.

Unfortunately, I thought this would be the case for many years, and it has not been for the last two years. Life decided to throw me a curve ball just when I had it all figured out, and had everything neatly wrapped. My school where I am teaching has struggled to maintain its enrollment due to the cuts in corporate tuition reimbursements to our adult students. This with the high tuition of the university, and so many other schools offering the same product for more than half the cost, has resulted in them downsizing their part-time faculty. Although I have worked for them for over 23 years, I have also been affected, but to a lesser degree then some of the faculty.

For two years, I have been searching for something to replace the loss of revenue as my expenses just keep increasing. Avery close friend offered to circulate my resume at a for profit college in Manhattan, and I was interviewed, and offered two courses. This college operates very similarly to a corporation with a CEO, and a President who reports to a board. This is where the first part of the paper ends, and the second part begins. Although it appeared to be a great opportunity to fill my income gap, I once again had found my personal values, and ethical beliefs challenged. It was also a new organizational culture, and my acculturation strategy had to change if I wanted to work at this college. Evidently, acculturation is a "dynamic process" and not a place "you arrive at" as cultures and individuals change over time (Handelsman, Gottlieb & Knapp, 2005, p.60).

For profit colleges have been operating for a quite a while in the United States. Lately, they have been under fire by both students who have attended them, and the United States government. One key unethical practice is to take students based on the amount of financial aid they could receive even if the chances are slim these student would ever finish their degree or program. The US government is debating stricter rules and regulations on the amount of debt or financial aid a student could receive in the future based on their annual earning potential. In addition, the graduation rates for a 6-year program for full-time equivalent students are sometimes as low as 6 percent, and as high as 23 percent. This is very different from state schools that hover around 60 to 80 percent, and private schools such as New York University that exceed 80 percent. Students at for profits colleges are also charged tuition and fees that exceed most state and private schools. Finally, students can enroll in for profit colleges with little or no requirements except to sign a piece of paper.

Whether I had working too long at my present job, or was just unaware of this debate and controversy, I accepted to teach two courses at such a college in the fall of 2010. As the newspapers began to report the actual figures, and unethical practices, I began to have doubts. Was I contributing to promoting these unethical practices and preying on unsuspecting students who intended to get degrees or finish programs? After all, the college would be paying me to teach these students who believed that I was part of the college's mission and values. I decided that my presence in the classroom would be perpetuating the college's unethical practices. My decision seemed even more accurate when the chair and co-chair of the department interviewed me. The interview lasted for about 5 minutes. Neither of them had read my resume very carefully or it seemed that way to me. The chair even asked if I could teach courses that I had no prior experience or education in teaching. Although, it has been many years since I had an interview, the objectives and practices of an interview could not have changed that much.

After pondering it for a month, I sent an email to the chair giving an excuse that the place I was currently working at needed someone to teach a course for a faculty member who had to leave suddenly on sick leave. In order to resolve an ethical dilemma, and not hurt or discredit the dean at the college who forwarded my resume and made the contact for me, I had committed an ethical infraction. Unfortunately, it did not end there, and it was not that easy. The Dean contacted me and was outraged that I would create such a problem for the chair after he was so good to forward my resume to the chair and co-chair. Now I felt worse that had not considered him or his kindness. Therefore, I sent an email to the chair with the option of doing other days and times. He replied that it "would be all right" as there were many cancellations, and he could easily substitute those faculty cancellations for the courses I could not teach. I felt successful and justified and relayed this information to the Dean, but the story does not end that neatly. Two weeks later the chair sends me an offer a week before the semester begins for a course in the period that I had explicitly stated in my last email that I could teach. I did not want to lie or deceive him any more as I felt so guilty about making that ethical infraction, and leaving the chair high and dry at one time. I sent an email accepting to teach a course on Monday nights.

In spite of being unhappy with the whole incident, and my unethical behavior I never had the time or inclination to analyze my decision. I was too busy getting ready for course to teach in an entirely different organizational culture that I had already decided was an "acculturation mismatch". Therefore, I will do that analysis now by articulating the decision making process I used, and the ways compared to the ones I did use, I could have resolved it using the information gained from the ethic's course. Finally, I will address the acculturation model, and my "acculturation mismatch by analyzing the strategies I used to resolve it in order to continue to work in this new organization.

Evidently, using decision-making formats or guidelines should bring us to making better "ethical courses of actions". Reading each one very carefully, I decided to choose Kidder's ethical checkpoints, although this model with nine checkpoints has its flaws, I believe it reflects most closely the one I used to arrive at my decision (Johnson, 2009, p. 207). In hindsight, if I had used it differently, it might have yielded a better decision. Unfortunately, the inherent weaknesses of it, and the subjectivity of its use by me led me to me making an unethical decision. In addition, I am also still at Kohlberg's level II, stage three of living up to the "expectations of those who I respect" in my moral judgment (p. 202).

In step one of Kidder's ethical checkpoints I did recognize there was an ethical dilemma, and obeyed the social conventions at each point of the process. In my eyes the reality of the statistics and government auditors' findings were very different to the college's stated mission and purpose statement. Yet, I had accepted employment for such an organization. In step two I was responsible for addressing the problem as a potential employee and teacher who would represent the college's mission and purpose in the classroom. Everyone else in the organization may have been aware of it, but my employment would also be admission of my acceptance of the hypocrisy. In stage three I had gathered information from numerous sources including reputable newspapers, magazines, former and present employees, and even a senior administrator in the organization. None of my findings was inconsistent. I faltered badly on stage four as I did voice my intent of working for such a for profit college both at my present school and at CSU. No one voiced approval or dissent. I took that as being good enough to pass the "stench test", but my "gut level reaction' was to feel uncomfortable, and uneasy about my choice (Johnson 2009, p.208). My analysis of step five is the most interesting to me. My core values and judgment were in conflict with each other, and this was the root, and cause of the ethical dilemma. In the truth telling versus loyalty choice of Kidder's model I chose deceit as a more right than truth to avoid being disloyal and perceived as unappreciative or arrogant. In order to please the small group I was in contact with at the organization I deceived them rather than stating the truth for my choice for not wanting to work for such an organization. Most importantly, I failed myself, as I did not have the courage of my convictions. I completely overlooked the long-term repercussion of my action on the dean, chair and co-chair. To make matters worse, I avoided making an ethical decision on a current dilemma by making empty promises for a long-term commitment. In stage six I believed that the ethical perspective that I was using was Kant's Categorical Imperative: "Do what's right no matter the cost". I asked myself the question of whether I would expect everyone else to make the same decision in the same circumstances, and the answer was unequivocally yes (Johnson, 2009, p. 141). Unfortunately, a weakness of this ethical perspective is that an exception exists to nearly every "universal" law (p. 143). In stage seven I did not look for a third way, but if I had, it would have been to explain to the dean my reservations, and give him a chance to defend the reason he agreed or disagreed with me. In stage eight I decided to make the decision to deceive the dean, chair, and co-chair but was "so exhausted and emotionally and mentally caught up in the problem" that I lacked the courage to make the most ethical decision, and just tell the truth (Johnson, 2009, p. 208). Therefore, I am using this opportunity, and stage nine to reflect and learn from my decision. Before continuing and concluding with stage nine, it is important to state the strategy I have used in the "acculturation" model.

It was a difficult decision to make as where I am working now as a teacher, it was so easy to adopt the "integration" strategy, but in this new organization, I had to adopt another strategy. The strategy is the same one I adopted when I worked as a manager in corporate American in the publishing company. Again, I have no choice but to use the "separation" strategy. Therefore, I only visit the college when I have to teach or meet students. Hence, my participation and contact in the organization is low. This way I can maintain my own personal values and beliefs as my power to change the organizational culture is limited (Anderson, Lujan & Hegeman, 2009, p.21). In many ways, I have tied that strategy to the ethics of teaching in general, and this agrees with my personal values. Therefore, to keep my personal code of ethical teaching, I am going to classes regularly, and being early or on time, remaining knowledgeable about the subject matter, and carefully prepare for each class. In addition, I make an effort to confront students who are underachievers, or have misconceptions about the course's objectives and learning outcomes, and cooperate with my colleagues by observing school policies that assist students to learn, retain, and progress in their programs. I am still fully aware that some other faculty do not practice many of these ethical teaching practices, and this organization is sometimes aware of it, and ignores that fact, but if I am to continue working at this new organization I must feel that I can maintain my own high ethical standards at least in my classes.

In conclusion, as the also semester ends, I need to face this ethical dilemma honestly, and objectively in order to apply it to future ethical decisions (Johnson, 2009, p.210). The course at CSU has raised my ethical sensitivity to the point of intolerance for any dismissal or ignorance of ethical or unethical behavior. I must admit that in this recent ethical dilemma I was solely responsible for casting a shadow. Whether the motivation was to be more financially comfortable, or the justification was to please those who had served me well in the past, no one else in this particular ethical dilemma had cast any shadows, but me.

Especially in my right-versus-right values, of the ethical decision-making process of Kidder, I should have assessed those values that reflected my loyalty to honesty, sincerity, and truth, which I had thought in my list of priorities of ethical behavior, were higher or more important to me than my need for approval from authority figures.

Obviously in the future, this will take time, patience, and perseverance for me to find the reasons or causes for my need to sacrifice my most important moral code of truth, and honestly in order to foster support from others concerning my values, and future ethical decisons. Some way or another the negative confrontation with my family about their need to distort the truth or be dishonest when circumstances were too stressful or painful occupies a place in my subconscious, and feels comfortable or familiar. I seem prone to using this deceit as an easy mechanism to making hasty decisions when confronted with an ethical dilemma. What I should strive for as a leader, and as a person in any organization or relationship is to emanate as much light as possible, and still be aware as Carl Jung was of the "shadow" or dark side buried in all of our subconscious's.