How ethical are you?

July 25, 2013

In some of the research courses I teach, ethics is one of the topics we cover. In a university, ethics applies to many areas of our work including how we interact with our students and our research assistants, how we grade students’ work and how we conduct research.

Research involving human subjects must receive official approval from the university’s Independent Review Board (IRB) before we are allowed to begin our research. This applies equally to faculty and students.

Sometimes students are quite puzzled by this idea. They ask me, “Why does an independent board have to give you ethics clearance before you start a research project? Shouldn’t people just do the right thing?”

The problem is that sometimes people don’t do the right thing. Or they don’t think through what they are doing to understand what impact of their research or actions might have on others.

In 1971 Dr. Zimbardo conducted a psychological study that became known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. Stanford University students were used as research subjects in the study, which was designed to simulate prison life. The experiment was planned for two weeks, but the shut down the experiment after only six days. The students who were role-playing as guards had become sadistic and malicious. Those who were role-playing as prisoners became depressed and showed signs of severe stress.

The experiment revealed a great deal about human behaviour and how power in a relationship can be easily abused.

The Stanford Prison Experiment has become a classic case to talk about when we learn about professional ethics.

In today’s world, it is unlikely that the experiment conducted by Dr. Zimbardo over 40 years ago would receive ethics clearance from an independent review board. It’s not that Dr. Zimbardo broke any laws. It’s that the risks to the research subjects would be too high.

It is worth noting that professional ethics goes beyond research. Inevitably, our class discussions get around to ethical conduct as part of every day professional practice. Students begin to develop an awareness of how their actions, words and attitudes may be harmful or unethical. I often recommend that they read Better Ethics Now: How to Avoid the Ethics Disaster You Never Saw Coming by Dr. Chris Bauer. He demystifies the topic of ethics in plain and simple language that is easy to understand.

Sometimes they ask me, “How do I know if what I am doing is ethical?”

I usually answer them in two ways:

Firstly, if you have to ask yourself that question, then chances are good that there may be an ethical issue.

Secondly, if you are really not sure, ask yourself this: If your greatest mentor was standing by your side, would they be proud of you for what you did?

That question assumes, of course, that our mentors are ethical, too. More often than not, we put our mentors up on a bit of a pedestal. We want them to be proud of us and we would feel happy if we had their approval.

If our mentors or colleagues disapprove of our actions or question our judgement, we probably are not acting in an ethical manner. Ethics isn’t about doing what’s legal. It’s about doing what’s right.

Every day we are faced with ethical choices as part of our daily professional practice. Ethics can be learned and they can be improved. That’s one of the aspects of Dr. Bauer‘s book that I really like. He let’s us know that everyone is capable of improving and learning to be more aware and more ethical every day.

Professionalism goes beyond using polite language or wearing business attire. At the core of our day-to-day interactions and professional actions, we must take care that we are never causing harm to others or putting them at any sort of risk, particularly when we are in a position of power.

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How I finally cleaned up my Inbox — and how you can, too

July 16, 2013

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional developmentI just deleted 5000 messages from my e-mail box without reading any of them. I admit it: I am an e-mail hoarder. I save all kinds of messages that I don’t need to.

This year, my business has grown and I find myself busier than ever before. My messy inbox was killing my productivity and adding to my stress levels. I have missed important messages from clients and colleagues.

So, I went to war with my Inbox. Over the past 24 hours I have been relentlessly and ruthlessly deleting unnecessary e-mails. Here are some of the messages I have deleted:

  • Newsletters
  • Event invitations
  • Thank you notes
  • Updates from friends, colleagues and organizations that I support
  • News alerts
  • Social media messages (e.g. “You have a new Twitter follower!)
  • Meeting confirmations for events that have passed
  • Photos

In addition to deleting unnecessary messages, I filed another 3000 or so. Now every message that I need to keep has been neatly filed and organized into a folder.

How long did all this take? Less time than you might think. Once I put my mind to it, I was focused and diligent. The entire process took less than two days.

The trick is not to open every single e-mail and read though it. I looked at the subject line and made an instantaneous decision: Delete or File.

I have been an e-mail user since the late 1980s — the dawn of e-mail. I have never been able to figure out how to keep my Inbox clean. It has taken me about 25 years to figure out that most messages can be deleted or filed.

It feels great to see, for the first time ever, an Inbox that is manageable.

As I get busier and my business grows, I can not afford to miss messages or have the stress of cyber clutter. For me, cleaning out my inbox has been an important step in developing personal leadership and self-management skills.

Is it your turn to clean out your inbox?

_____________________

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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How to delete LinkedIn contacts who spam you (and why you should)

July 14, 2013

Have you noticed an increasing amount of spam messages coming to your LinkedIn inbox? I have.

A few years ago, I adopted a LinkedIn Open Networking (LION) policy. I would accept connections from anyone who requested one. I have recently changed my mind on that for one single reason: Inbox spam.

The topic of LinkedIn spam has been growing online. This commentary by Andy Lopata in the Huffington Posts questions whether LinkedIn will sink in a sea of spam.

Lopata reminds us that LinkedIn can be a valuable professional networking tool, but that potential is often not realized. Sinking into spam tactics is bringing down the value of the social networking platform for all users.

Characteristics of LinkedIn spam

I have heard that technically, “Inmail” isn’t spam, but rather a message from a Linked in contact. I disagree with that. Spam is unsolicited virtual junk mail, no matter how it arrives. Spam messages are rarely personally addressed and even if they are, the content is generic. The content is not personalized or individualized. The hallmark of spam is that it is really never about you. It’s about them, their product, their website, their business, their search engine rankings, their whatever.

These direct messages seem to fit into one of these categories:

“Like” spam

I first heard this term from Daylan Pierce who wrote about it on his blog. This type of spam essentially asks you to “like” this or that. The reason people do this is that the more “likes” post gets, the higher it boosts their ranking in social media. If people really do enjoy a post or a resource, they’ll take it upon themselves to share it anyway.

Invitations

These are either sales pitches or calls for action that are couched as “invitations”. They are not actual invitations, but rather a mass message asking to you buy a product, visit a website, sign up for a program, etc.

Requests for reviews or feedback

As an academic, I have written reviews of professional products that have been published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. This is very different from LinkedIn spammers who send mass messages with requests for feedback on their latest product or project. If I’m going to spend my time reviewing a new product and then share that feedback in a public way, it is likely going to be a resource that really piques my interest. Spam messages do not pique my interest. LinkedIn spam messages asking me to visit a website (i.e. drive traffic to the website, for the purpose of driving its search engine rankings) and leave a comment (i.e. increase activity on the website, for the purpose of driving up its search engine rankings) get deleted, not reviewed.

Sponsorship requests

As if calls on a weekly basis from telemarketers asking me to donate to a cause weren’t enough, now requests come via LinkedIn spam. Here’s a hint: I won’t support spamming… or causes that ask for donations using this method. There are plenty of good causes out there that get my donation dollars. The recent flooding in my home town of Calgary is a good example.

 “Check out my latest __________” requests

Requests to check out the contact’s latest blog post, YouTube video, webinar or whatever is just an attempt to drive traffic to their sites.

I now have a new policy: If you spam me via my Inbox on LinkedIn, I delete you as a contact. No reply. No questions asked.

How to remove LinkedIn contacts

It is not an intuitive process to remove a LinkedIn contact. You have to go through several steps to do it. Here’s how:

Note down the name of the person you want to delete as a contact.

Click on Network. This will produce a drop-down menu.

LinkedIn contacts

Click on Contacts.

This will produce a list of your contacts.

On the left-hand side menu there is a box to Filter Contacts.

Filter contacts

In that box, enter the name of the person you want to delete. Hit enter.

That should produce a search result of the unwanted contact.

Check the box next to his or her name.

Then, in the upper-right hand side of your screen, click on “Remove connections”. That choice is on the far right of your screen:

Remove connections

This is a bit of a laborious process, but it is worth it. I have found that once someone starts spamming you with Inbox message, they do not stop.

Why I am no longer a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION)

I admit it. For me, being a LinkedIn Open Networker has failed. Instead of widening my network in an open and inclusive manner, open networking has filled my Inbox with unwanted messages that are a waste of time and energy.

I rarely send LinkedIn mail any more. When I do send Linked InMail, it is personalized, specific, to the point, and of legitimate value to the person or people I am writing to.

On occasion, I have received a message from someone I know personally who is working hard to build a new business or brand. If they send me a message asking me to visit their website or like something, I will do that for them… but the reason I do is because I know them personally. We already have a relationship and they are asking for a favor. I know, intuitively, that if I were to ask for a similar favor that they would do the same for me. The difference is the depth of our relationship and a sense of loyalty to one another. Spammers often do not even know who you are… They just spam everyone in their address book. There’s no depth to the relationship, no trust and no foundation of history or loyalty that justifies asking for a favour.

LinkedIn can be a powerful professional networking tool. Building trusting professional relationships takes time and effort… and it starts with caring about the other person as both a professional and a human being. Let your sense of personal leadership and a desire to cultivate meaningful professional relationships drive your LinkedIn (and all social media) activity.

Related post: De-grouping on LinkedIn to be a more effective leader http://wp.me/pNAh3-1De

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: How to delete LinkedIn contacts who spam you (and why you should) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1CO

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


50 Adverbs to avoid in academic writing

July 2, 2013

Most academic writing is strengthened by eliminating adverbs. To emphasize a point, provide more evidence to support it. Avoid unnecessary words and in particular, adverbs. Instead, choose more precise verbs.

An adverb modifies or describes:

  • A verb (e.g. He runs quickly.)
  • An adjective (e.g. His writing is extraordinarily descriptive.)
  • Another adverb (e.g. He runs extraordinarily quickly.)

Often, but not always, adverbs in English end in –ly. Here are 50 adverbs that I have seen in academic papers that you can eliminate and your writing will be better for it:

  1. Adroitly
  2. Amazingly
  3. Awesomely
  4. Badly
  5. Basically
  6. Carefully
  7. Clearly
  8. Completely
  9. Convincingly
  10. Deftly
  11. Desperately
  12. Dexterously
  13. Effortlessly
  14. Extremely
  15. Faithfully
  16. Fundamentally
  17. Generally
  18. Goodly
  19. Honestly
  20. Inherently
  21. Instantly
  22. Interestingly
  23. Narrowly
  24. Naturally
  25. Nearly
  26. Necessarily
  27. Obviously
  28. Precisely
  29. Previously
  30. Preposterously
  31. Quite
  32. Really
  33. Relentlessly
  34. Simply
  35. Spectacularly
  36. Successfully
  37. Suddenly
  38. Surely
  39. Truthfully
  40. Ubiquitously
  41. Unequivocally
  42. Ungodly
  43. Unnecessarily
  44. Unquestionably
  45. Utterly
  46. Unwittingly
  47. Usually
  48. Very
  49. Widely
  50. Zealously

Often, when writers make a conscious choice to eliminate adverbs and instead find stronger and more precise verbs, the result is writing that is clearer and more powerful.

_____________________

If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: 50 Adverbs to avoid in academic writing http://wp.me/pNAh3-1CL

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


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