Every year around this time, no matter what holding company I'm working for, I get a shrill notice in my mailbox telling me that I've missed eleventeen previous all-cap edicts and it's time for me--I must I must I must--take my mandatory ethics training.
This is usually an hour of animated powerpoint--with the kind of professional finish you'd expect from the Topeka, Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles--that warns you against taking bribes, doing favors or hiring your dimwit second cousin three-times removed, the one who had the childhood accident and is really a good person but is none-too-bright.
There's no sense fighting against these courses. You get hit with them about once-a-quarter and I'm sure they make the moguls at headquarters feel good and powerful, like the German overlords who would post "Achtung" notices throughout Paris during the occupation.
This year, like last, Ethics Training coincided with "Business Insider's" list of top paid people in advertising. 2016's list, like so many of these lists in past years features well-tanned white men who have nothing to do with the craft and profession of marketing.
Top on the list is "he who must be obeyed," to bastardize a phrase from H. Rider Haggard.
Every year I look at this list, particularly the men at the top of the list and wonder--how much would they suffer if they had to get by with $5 million or $10 million instead of their $24 million or $87 million.
I think about the always-on overwork of the people who actually do the work. People who are so burned out by the time these salary lists and ethics commands come out that you could barbecue ribs on their asses. I think about the rising young teams stuck--or forced to leave--because even for incipient superstars, salaries are stuck like fossilized bees in amber.
I think about the utter paucity of people over 40 in the business. The stripping away of dignity and the ever-ratcheted-up demands on our time.
Then I go back to that salary list.
I check it again to make sure I'm not just being a Red.
Then I open up the mandatory Ethics course. And I look for a place to type in: "Where are the ethics in taking home $80 million in salary--my guess 800 times what an average employee makes."
I think about all that.
I'll do my ethics training tomorrow.