Ethical Gray Areas - Fams or More?

For years - as long as I've been in the industry - "fams" (familiarization trips) have been the major ethical quandary with which the industry struggles.  Who should attend fams? How were the participants qualified? Are guests allowed?

There are other issues with which we, as individuals and an industry, wrestle:

Hotel companies or individual hotels offer points - in the tens of thousands -  to book meetings. We know people must accept them or the hotels wouldn't continue to offer them! Do the points (or other gifts offered as incentives to book meetings) belong to the person booking the meeting? The organization paying for the meeting? The internal planner and the third party helping book the meeting? Another party?

At trade shows, exhibitors scan badges or ask that business cards be dropped into a bowl.  Names are selected and prizes are awarded.  It all looks Kosher. Is it? by and for the prize-giver and the person accepting the prize?

A company or association executive needs to book a few hotel rooms during a sold-out weekend in a popular destination. (Perhaps there's a concert or sporting event going to attend.) Sometimes the exec calls the contacts she or he has; at other times the planner is asked to "call in a favor." When is this ethical?

There's the non-industry-direct stuff too: How many personal copies is it ok to make on the office copier? If the copies are for an industry-related activity or a civic organization, does that make it okay to make the copies?  That pad of paper we took? No big deal, right, because "everyone does it" or "I just forgot to take it back."  And so what if you just ate a bagel for breakfast. Your breakfast allowance is far more than that; you can adjust your expense report accordingly.

For some the responses to these are absolute - you do or you don't; it's ethical or it's not.

I think the gray areas abound and as my friend and colleague Barbara Dunn, Esq., says about contracts and negotiations, "it depends".

In the next months (starting this coming week at Exhibitor2012) I'm facilitating ethics classes, some of which are with Kelly Franklin Bagnall, Esq. (In fact, if it appears you qualify, apply for the MeetingsTodayLive programs - Kelly and I are facilitating an "Ethical Negotiations" session at each one.)   I'm curious about the gray areas you've observed and about those with which you and your employer or clients wrestle.

If you need a few references as you consider the issues, try these:

CMP Ethics Statement and Policy (where you can also find the disciplinary procedures)

Institute for Global Ethics  

Ethics Resource Center

PCMA Code of Ethics

MPI Principles of Professionalism - appears only to be accessible for members.

ASAE's Standards of Conduct

This discussion is needed - repeatedly.

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