COB alum gives ethics lessons

Retired Accenture executive Joe Lobbato.
Retired Accenture executive Joe Lobbato.

University professor and retired executive Joe Lobbato delivered a series of powerful yet simple messages on business ethics April 27 to a crowd of about 150 in Austin Hall’s Stirek Auditorium.

Among them: If you’re unethical, it will eventually come to light.

Lobbato earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Business in 1981 and added an MBA the following year before embarking on a 22-year career with Arthur Andersen, later known as Andersen Consulting and now Accenture. He was a managing partner the last 10 years and has worked and lived abroad extensively, currently residing in Thailand, where he teaches business ethics at Chulalongkorn University.

Lobbato graduated from Corvallis High School and noted one of his earliest business ventures was a paper route not far from Austin Hall.

That newspaper theme came up again later when he outlined strategies business people can use to remain ethical. They included the “newspaper headline test”: If you wouldn’t be comfortable with the news of what you’re doing being blared across the top of page one, don’t do it.

Also on the list: Take responsibility, develop personal discipline, know your weaknesses, align your priorities with values, admit wrongdoing quickly and ask forgiveness, take extra care with finances, use checks and balances, put your family ahead of work, place high value on people, and don’t associate with corrupt people.

Lobbato noted that a society’s culture, norms and values dictate which practices are acceptable. In some cultures, including Thailand’s, corruption is just considered part of the overall landscape.

But accepted or not, corruption brings many negative consequences, said Lobbato. It reduces the overall wealth of a country and the amount spent on “good stuff,” distorts the way money is spent, undermines trust, and harms the environment and innocent people

Lobbato noted that a person crosses three lines on the way to the most unethical types of conduct. The first line is violating the Golden Rule, the second is the “tort line” – venturing into territory that makes you vulnerable to civil action – and the third is the criminal line, i.e. doing something that makes you subject to prosecution.

He left the students in the audience some words of advice if they ever feel pressured by an employer to do something they know is wrong.

“Do not ever do anything that you believe is unethical,” he said. “You guys will always lose. The company will say, ‘we never told him to do that.’”

Lobbato passed along a number of tips designed to foster ethical behavior.
Lobbato passed along a number of tips designed to foster ethical behavior.


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