The Fragility of Transparency

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    Today in Boston the Board of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center today fined chief executive Paul Levy $50,000 for engaging in a personal relationship with an employee that over time “created an improper appearance and became a distraction within the hospital,” according to a statement by Board Chairman Stephen Kay.

    Mr. Levy has had a stellar reputation in Boston as a business leader with a strong track record of transparency. He is a known blogger and has posted frank and open discussions of painful staff cutbacks during the 2009 recession. His openness was well received.

    Challenges to the Ethical Culture

    In an interview on WGBH’s Greater Boston tonight, I discussed the challenges Mr. Levy and the BIDMC Board face in addressing the ethical culture issues of having such a high standard of transparency, and the risks when that standard is not met.

    Even if Mr. Levy’s actions did not violate the hospital’s code of conduct, he would be well advised to be sensitive the divisiveness that can be caused by a perception of a double standard. Inconsistency is one of the most caustic negative values an organization can face in its current culture.

    Mr. Levy’s posting of an apology on his blog soon after today’s Board announcement was a good first step. The challenge in the days and weeks ahead is to ensure that transparency with regard to his previous actions is consistent with the behavior he expects for all Beth Israel staff.

    David Gebler, President
    Skout Group, LLC

    (617) 314-6280