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Grumpy CIO - Standards and ethics in the Workplace 🤔

At Ship Shape we all (not just the Exec) try to work to an ethical standard. We take positions on things, how we treat each other, because "it's the right thing to do".

We roughly agree with each other on what that "right thing" is, which helps, and sometimes 100% agree.

But more interesting is when we don't quite agree. When that happens we don't sweep it under the carpet, we discuss and align.

And we don't force each other into another's position, our conversations are thoughtful.

Looking back, In the 90s strippers were allowed on trading room floors.

Growing-up my mother prevented my mind from being infected with ideas of sectarian violence, from my N. Irish heritage.

We at Ship Shape took the position to engage Ukrainian team members directly after invasion in Feb 2022.

All examples of Standards and Ethics that workplaces need to grapple with.

Schools play a big role in this, but the workplace does too.

I'm proud of the standard we hold at Ship Shape, and here's a vid on why it matters.


Hi, I'm Alistair, the grumpy CIO. And what am I grumpy about this week are generally talking about this week: 'moral standards in the workplace' - heavy stuff right? This week is the beginning of June 2023, there's whole load of news about Philip Schofield, but also continuing things about how to approach the war on Ukraine, and generally ethics and standards in the workplace. Now we at ShipShape, I'm proud to say, operate a business to a standard that I think we can be proud of. But as a small company, and if you're a startup, I think you can do, and you will do and I think it does matter. Before I go into that, though, a bit of a timeline in history. What's happened in my lifetime, as an old bugger who started working in the 90s. Going through into the early noughties I largely worked on things like trading floors. Now trading floors weren't exactly the most PC environments in the world. It is before my time, but I knew just before my time that there were strippers on the trading room floor, there was certainly a whole load of sexist commentary on the trading floor even when I got there. But working in banks and trading environments, things changed quite rapidly in the early noughties. At a particular bank, which I worked at in Australia (and I worked at a few, name remains unmentioned) a person, a gentleman, did a boisterous act and got fired. Quite an interesting case because actually, he didn't want to do it. There was some drinks after work, alcohol was involved. And he was encouraged into a rugby style, you know, sort of rugby bonding style act, he very much didn't want to do it was basically bullied into it, but he got fired. So this kind of really took him everyone back. The sexist commentary stopped on the floor. It was a real suppression moment when it came. Now the thing was, it was only weakly put to bed, there was only a weak lid on it. It was still there. I, as an ingenue coming in, didn't know much about this, I just kind of thought this is everyone's acting quite normally, quite reasonably. But when a particular exec was required to sign up for regular documents, a colleague of mine, up to that point a respected colleague of mine 'c'arn, give him a blowie' we were in Australia. And I was stunned and shocked, that he would actually say that. Now he whispered it rather than talking to you out loud, because he knew he wasn't supposed to say it, but it was suppressed. And the point was, I hadn't actually changed. So when you actually don't allow things to come into the workplace or come into a school (come back to later), as well, are you actually making change or suppressing things? In some sense, you might say you're just suppressing things, because whilst you might have some Twittersphere outrage, or whilst the #metoo movement might have some victories, for example, Harvey Weinstein, you know, being put where he belongs, also, you have bursting back out of the seams in the last few years Voldemort as I call him, the person that is in Romania under investigation and who I refuse to name or even showing a pixelated version of his face, because it will just add to his own social media feed. But if you've been following British news, you know who I'm talking about. So this has come out of the wood, this stuff was suppressed over time, but it's just bursting back out. So does it matter? If you actually just suppress the stuff any change actually happen? I argue yes. Because my mother, God bless her Northern Irish heritage, and her mother before refused to allow me and my brother and other people to be infected with the bigotry that was flowing through at the time, I remember going to see my family on as I was seven, and they were in the proddy part of the world. And they were talking about 'the damn Catholics'. And I was absolutely shocked because my mother had never spoken this way. And these ideas were completely new to me. And they didn't stay in my head, my mother wouldn't let it happen. So by the time I grow up, it's simply not there. Whereas other negative ideas that have come up: sexist ideas, racist ideas that you expunge from yourself over time, kind of like 80s song lyrics, they're still stuck there in the back there. So I think by not allowing these things through, maybe I'm already ruined, but my daughter won't be and she will grow up in a better world. So I think it's worthwhile. And you know, just by way of further example, you can't burn a witch nowadays. Good idea at the time apparently, sounds utterly ridiculous now, cruel, inhuman and stupid. So why is the workplace got anything to do with this, and also bring schools into this because they're the places we spend a lot of time on, as you know, through our years, our schools and the workplaces, schools are definitely on the frontline of this stuff. Schools are expected to teach morals and ethics. And as my wife and I have been going around to look for schools for our daughter there's been a strong part of that. They have safeguarding officers, they have ethics that are taught by one of the teachers. And this is now a part of actually teaching children a code of living. Really, really controversial, really hard to do. Because you're trying to agree a coded standard of ethics, whose code and standard of ethics? You're always going to offend someone, it's hard to do. It's really difficult for teachers to do, and a thing that teachers are finding hard to deal with is Voldemort the person in Romania. Because how do they deal with that? There are also other topics that are incredibly hard to deal with the British Empire. How do you teach the British Empire - just ignore it? Certainly I know from some other history teachers I was talking to for a large period, we just stopped teaching it. Whereas when I was at school, the only thing that got caught in GCSE history was British history from 1815 to 1924, ie the bits where we won. Now completely changed. Now, for workplaces, you will often hear talk about ethics and standards, and we talk about our values. But look at the stuff like as shown on the screen here: principled, reliability, trust responsibility. These are things that considered "business ethics", but we don't talk about other things. Why not? And does it make a difference? Well, I think it does. It's important, it's important and it helps you as a small company to have kind of a standard. At Ship Shape, we do talk about the right thing to do, when we talk about how to treat ourselves, how to treat all of our team, you know, ourselves and all of our team, but also how to treat the people we engage with as business partners to how to be our customers. Are you doing the right thing? It doesn't have to be loud. You don't have to be talking be brash about it, but you do have to be continuous. An example is where are quiet, but continuous position on Ukrainian conflict. Now, this is very personal for a number of us, not least me my wife is Russian Ukrainian. She has Ukrainian native speaking family, Russian native speaking family, all from Ukraine, this is a very, very direct conflict, very personal, and very painful. Other members of our staff are also impacted as well. When the conflict started, we actually made a deliberate decision as a business that we are going to engage some people from Ukraine to work with us. And we did so. And we have three members of staff of the Ship Shape team living in Ukraine now. So we made this and we will produce quiet things like this for our voice. We don't do it loudly. It's not a big brash thing. Particularly, you know, I don't want my wife's family to get in too much trouble. But it is part of the position that we have. No sexist behaviour, no racist behaviour, no items like this. Yes, we have a standard of how we act. Business Ethics are "considered easier". It's like make sure you pay your staff staff on time and treating their financial matters with diligence, respect, that kind of thing . But also we have a broader standard as well. And I think that's very important to us. And I think as a small business, you can perhaps do it easier than a large business where it just gets lost in "Are we at risk of litigation from this" is kind of question that comes up. So the Scofield thing that came up there the last few weeks, any big company I've ever been in the question wouldn't be possibly "was he right or was he wrong", but "what's the litigation risk and what's the reputational risk". As a smaller company you can actually start off with "what are we", as a group agree what is the right thing to do. You can largely agree with each other as we often do, but more interesting is when you don't agree with each other. And we have quite passionate conversations about what we do or don't agree over when we come to a position together as a company. Thanks for watching. I am Alistair the CIO of Come to us to optimise your investor outreach. We are the free venture capital investor search engine


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