Is Ethics relevant in the workplace?
By the time a Strathmore student graduates from any course in the university, he will have been bombarded with a number of units aimed at personal development. These include Critical Thinking, Philosophy and Ethics among others. Despite the schools best efforts, a cloud of doubt still hangs over most students heads regarding the relevance and applicability of these units to life at university and beyond. This doubt can sometimes lead students to work for an A in these units and discard the information as soon as the semester is over. It was this lingering doubt that James Muhia addressed during the talk he gave to third year SFAE students on 23rd April as part of Principles of Ethics.
James Muhia is a Human Capital consultant at Deloitte. He has previously worked at KPMG and PWC. A past student of Strathmore University, Mr. Muhia was chairman of the first Students Council in 2010. He joined Strathmore in 2005 to study ACCA and later did his Bachelor of Commerce degree.
In his first year at the university, he, like most students, found it challenging to adjust to the schools values and rules. He recalled one incident where he was sent back home by a fashion cop for wearing a pair of leather shoes that had a rubber sole. Although he was frustrated then, he is now able to retrospectively appreciate the impact that such an incident had in his life. The dress code enabled him to brand himself and present himself better later in his professional life. While in school, he also found the humanities units offered very theoretical but learned how important they are when he reached the workplace. He shared a number of experiences that clarified the importance of ethics in professional life.
He gave a story of a Finance manager. The manager was relatively young and earning a decent salary. However he noticed a loophole in the companys accounting systems that allowed for creative accounting and enabled him to make even more money by defrauding the company. When this fraud was uncovered and the manager saw no other way out, he chose to resign. In such a situation, a proper ethical education would have helped this manager realize that his greed could only serve him in the short term, but in the long run, unethical behavior caused by greed would only cause pain to him and others.
The speaker shared another experience regarding a former colleague. The colleague had a report due and when queried by his boss on whether he had completed it, he gave an excuse most students might be familiar with, I am almost done. The boss relied on this response and invited a client, for whom the report was being prepared, to come the next day. On that day, the colleague had not finished the report but he knew that he only needed an extra hour to complete it. He decided to pull a fire alarm and complete the report amid all the pandemonium. He finished the report and the client left satisfied but little did he know that all his mischief had been caught on hidden CCTV cameras. Ultimately, the ethical dilemma here was whether the end justified the means.
As human beings, we have a natural temptation to survive at all costs. However we are not always aware that while our efforts to survive may spare us short term pain or produce short term gains they can have important long term ramifications. People, motivated by greed or fear of being punished have resorted to underhand tactics that have led them to lose their jobs. Units like Principles of Ethics give students an opportunity to understand this and allow us to gain true long term happiness. What a shame it would be for a Strathmore student to be given this chance and later on get caught up in such unfortunate self-destruction. Students should therefore not take units like ethics lightly. Asked what we as students at the university should improve on, James also encouraged us to learn to think outside the box. He challenged us to reason out how seven is half of twelve!
Mr. Muhias parting shot was to help students realize that being in Strathmore puts them in a very strategic position to change their lives and the lives of others and he challenged us to grab every opportunity provided by the institution. These include the chance to join clubs and group activities and to learn new things through the humanities units. He emphasized that we should discover and develop the ideals we consider important and stick to them even in the face of challenges as they are part of what makes us unique. Unethical practices become part of a person and you can lose yourself if they become a habit. He closed the session by explaining the values that he himself holds dear. These values spelled out his name: MUHIA.
M-Motivation (Life is for those who go for it)
U-Uniqueness (Finding something that distinguishes you)
We all enjoyed the talk and are sincerely grateful to Mr. James Muhia for sparing his time and sharing his wisdom. We look forward to having more of the same.
Valary Mumbo and Edward Onyonka.
3rd Year SFAE Students.