Performance Ethics


Last week, I was in Amsterdam. I went by car. A bit of an awkward journey, but it was the only option at the time. So I parked neatly and walked to the parking meter to pay. The hourly rate was shocking, but you just have to accept it if you drive into the city centre. It turns out that Amsterdam earned over 170 million euro in 2014 from collecting parking payments. So do you really imagine that the policy of turning the city centre into a low-traffic zone is going to work? That would give the city council a serious budgetary problem.

Setting rules often results in creating a paradox. There’s a problem, so someone thinks up a rule. In the beginning, the relationship between the problem and the rule is still very clear. But as time goes on, this relationship fades. The rule then becomes a goal in itself.

Rules and the pressure they cause

A survey by Michael Page in 2015 reveals that 65% of 100 compliance officer respondents feel that the existing regulatory pressure is correct, but that the rules miss their intended goal. Geert Vermeulen (who used to be a Director at the Dutch Compliance Institute) states that when a lot has gone wrong recently, politicians grasp for the only instrument within their powers: laws and regulations. Vermeulen also admits that this regulatory pressure is usually prompted by public opinion. The public wants action to be taken. Just think how often you have heard that demand with regard to healthcare. Managers have even stated that rules and sanctions are inadequate to the task of encouraging integrity.

The goal is to restore trust

According to Geert Vermeulen, what the public wants above all else is for action to be taken. I feel that this is partially true, but that the public above all wants to be able to trust the organisations that serve it. As far as I am concerned, trust and its restoration do not arise from rules. Rules just ensure that the moral conscience is outsourced. Behaviour that falls within the rules then is by definition correct. The disadvantage is that there are always more situations than rules. In short, professionals will always at a certain moment find themselves in a situation in which the rules don’t indicate the correct direction to take.

13 behaviours for building trust

In his book ‘The Speed of Trust’, Stephen M.R. Covey* lists a number of behaviours that can help to restore what he calls relationship trust. Take a look through them and have a think about your own organisation. Do you think that your employer is building (or restoring) trust?
* Yes, the son of Stephen R. Covey, who wrote ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’



Check your environment!

Carry this list with you for while. Does anything strike you? Can you see the 13 behaviours appearing, or are you ashamed of the behaviour of your own organisation?

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