Grey matters ethical dilemma: Fighting for the right?

An Extinction Rebellion protest took place outside your work. Your line report, Lorena, a senior investment manager, was featured in the news and interviewed with other protestors outside the building. What would you do?

Grey Matters Fighting for the right-cardboard1920x1056
This dilemma is one of the scenarios discussed at the CISI’s 2020 Annual Integrity Debate. View it on CISI TV

The global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion, has been staging mass global peaceful protests to raise awareness and understanding of the climate crisis. The protests have included public marches, demonstrations, school walkouts, and, since March 2020 – when the movement went indoors because of the Covid-19 pandemic – online rallies over videoconferencing platforms.  

On your morning commute in February, while scrolling through the news on your phone, you were stunned to notice that one of your senior investment directors, Lorena, a direct report, was pictured in the thumbnail of an article about the protest. After clicking on the article, you saw the image, taken over the weekend, of Lorena outside the company building. The article features an interview with her.

You skimmed the article and clicked on the three-minute-long video interview. The journalist starts the interview, recorded by the main entrance with the company logo in full view, by asking Lorena to identify herself and why she decided to protest. She replies: “Hello all and welcome to the Extinction Rebellion protest today in our city. I’m a senior investment director and this is a cause that is extremely close to my heart …” As the interview continues, Lorena is joined by other protestors who together explain the impact individual actions have on the climate crisis and encourage more people to join and exercise their right to protest.
Lorena is interviewed by the main entrance with the company logo in full viewAfter watching the video a few times and reading the article in full, you realised that it was number one on the news website and had been shared and retweeted on its Twitter page, and even included as a pinned tweet. You arrived at work early and continued to search where else the article had been featured. You saw that Extinction Rebellion had used all its social platforms to share the video, and it was quickly gaining viral traction, with over 100,000 views of the interview on its YouTube channel. It was also being shared by other news outlets.

Colleagues began arriving at the office, and you could overhear them talking about what they had seen on the news. They all gathered around a desk to watch the video interview and began questioning Lorena’s actions. You could see that it had already caused a distraction in the office. As Lorena was your direct report and very well known within the sector, regularly speaking and participating at external events, representing the company on topics such as impact investing and environmental, social and governance, you began to consider the reputational impact, if any, her choice of action would have on the company.

Lorena was due to be in the office soon. As her line manager, you had to decide on the best course of action. You identified four options.What would you do?

  1. No formal action is required but you decide to speak with Lorena privately to remind her of what is expected of a senior member of staff.
  2. As the company has been indirectly associated with the Extinction Rebellion protests, and Lorena’s involvement has the potential to bring the company into disrepute, a formal investigation will be opened which would most likely result in disciplinary action.
  3. You give Lorena a verbal disciplinary warning as the company social media policy states “be careful discussing things where emotions run high (eg, politics and religion)”.
  4. Lorena’s actions brought the company into disrepute and interfered with her ability to do her job. The Board should be informed, and in order to mitigate any further potential risks, speak with HR advising them that Lorena should be suspended on full pay pending the outcome of further investigation.
This dilemma appears in the May 2020 edition of The Review magazine. The CISI's opinion and voting results will be published in the August 2020 edition
Published: 28 Apr 2020
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Wealth Management
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • Integrity Debate
  • grey matters ethical dilemma
  • Fighting for the right?
  • Extinction Rebellion
  • ESG
  • climate change

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