April 23, 2012
FEMA Leads the Way in Podcasts
Anyone who visited the FEMA booth at the last OGE conference could only be impressed by FEMA's aggressive, sophisticated approach to employee education. Since the publication of our most recent post on podcasts, we learn they are ahead of the pack in this area as well. Paul Conrad advises us that FEMA OCC has been doing podcasts on various legal topics at OCC this past year, including several on ethics topics. They are distributed via FEMA's OCC internal website.
With Mr. Conrad's permission, a couple of transcripts are available:
April 01, 2012
Training Tip 23: Slide Show Formatting Basics
Compliance with the following basic slide show formatting principles can make make your presentation appear much more professional:
Colors. Old fashioned transparencies, often referred to as overheads, worked much better as dark text on a light, preferably white background. Modern computer slide show projectors use a different technology. With slides, light colored text works best against a dark background.
What background color is best? Some authorities suggest trying to match colors to the emotional mood you are trying to create. For example:
Purple: Royalty, wisdom, spirituality, mystery
Green: Nature, environment, health, reptiles, insects
Gray: Conservative, practical, reliability, security, staid
See the Think Outside the Slide website for more.
Certainly there might be some benefit to this approach in some situations. However, as a practical matter I usually give these factors little consideration when preparing my own slide shows. I normally use the color combination that is generally acknowledged to have the highest legibility: Dark blue background, with light text, usually white or yellow. The most important thing for me is that the audience be able to read the slides easily. I'll use methods other than color if I feel I need to maniuplate the audience's emotions.
Whatever color scheme you choose, to improve legibility try to maximize the contrast between foreground and background. Light grey text on a medium gray background is a recipe for disaster. The Think Outside the Slide website has a color contrast calculator.
Font Followup. Last month we had a detailed discussion on selecting fonts for various projects, including slide shows. Selecting the right fonts gets us only part of the way home, though. Size is important. Some authorities suggest rules of thumb, even a 24 point minimum. However, point sizes of different fonts are not directly comparable, so I recommend a more pragmatic rule: Test the size of your font from a distance equal to the distance from the most remote seat in the auditorium you will be using. If you prefer a rule of thumb to actual testing, then you will usually be OK with fonts size 18 points or higher.
The ransom note effect is another font hazard. Keep the number of fonts to a minimum.
Bullet Points. Bullet points have the salutory effect of improving quick comprehension. However, deploy them wisely. Squeezing too many bullet points on a slide creates a cluttered impression. No more than five bullet points per page is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Bullet Point Sub-Levels. Avoid having more than two levels of bullets on slides. In other words, you can have a bullet point, and one sub-level below them. If you need more sub-levels to convey complex ideas, it's better to break them into more slides.
Templates. Good slide show software provides templates (called "slide masters" in MS PowerPoint) to provide a consistent layout. I occasionally see presenters who do not use templates. It's nearly always a mistake. The templates are designed by professional designers. The defaults in a decent template will facilitate a professional appearance. A Google search on the phrase using powerpoint templates will find plenty of tutorials to get you started. You can override the template for a particular slide if you want, you can even modify the template if you need to, and you can even create your own templates. In any event, take advantage of templates to help make a good impression on your audiences.
Logos. Some presenters who have just learned how to edit templates or create their own succumb to the temptation to include their organization's logo on every slide. This is popular in businesses as a form of "branding." It is generally not advisable in the ethics training context. A logo on every page is usually overkill that limits your flexibility to structure subsequent slides. The best approach is probably to include the logo on the first slide, and maybe the last. If demands of unsophisticated supervisors or other reasons make you feel you absolutely must include the logo on every slide, make it small, except on the first slide and the last, where you can usually get away with more. Whatever you do, don't follow the example of one OGE conference presentation I saw that included no less than four different agency seals on every single slide, one for each of the four presenters!
Edited April 2, 2012 with various improvements.
March 14, 2012
VA looking for computer-based AET
VA is looking for some computer-based annual ethics training. If you have some computer-based training that you are willing and able to share, that is SCORM 1.2 conformant and section 508 compliant, please contact Jane Gutcher at email@example.com or (202) 461-7624.
February 27, 2012
Outside Employment Poem
Rosa Koppel was kind enough to share an issue of the Federal Labor Relations Authority internal newsletter containing a poem about the restrictions on outside employment. Available in your choice of formats:
Download Ethics Corner 1-6-12 (MS Word)
We love this type of material. Not quite Byron, but there's nothing wrong with making people smile--and maybe learn something. Please share other examples.
February 24, 2012
Hatch Act Training Materials
Looking for fodder for your election year Hatch Act training? The Hatch Act section of the Office of Special Counsel website is a good place to start. The archives of our Hatch Act category provide examples and related material.
We welcome your suggestions as to other sources.
December 02, 2011
Ode to an Ethical New Year
Rosa Koppel was kind enough to share with us the "Ode to an Ethical New Year," a poem that appeared in last year's in-house FLRA publication:
November 29, 2011
Why Doing the Ethical Thing Isn’t Automatic
A recent New York Times article contains a fascinating survey of academic studies on whistleblower psychology. One section describes a phenomenon that is highly relevant to federal sector training:
Research also shows that it is much easier to step over the boundary from ethical to unethical when there is a gradual erosion of moral values and principles rather than one big leap.
A 2009 article in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, also co-written by Professor Gino, used as an example an accounting firm that has an excellent relationship with a client company. The accounting firm, which receives tens of millions of dollars in fees from the client, approves the company’s high-quality and ethical financial statements.
For three years, everything is fine. But suddenly, in the fourth year, the company stretches and even breaks the limits of the law.
Another case? Same accounting firm, same client. This time, after the first good year, the client bit by bit pushes the ethical envelope over the next three years.
The accounting firm would be more likely to approve the financial statements in the second case than in the first, the article says.
One of the reasons, Professor Gino and her colleague write, is that “unethical acts can become an integral part of the day-to-day activities to such an extent that individuals may be unable to see the inappropriateness of their behaviors.”
We have prepared a couple of Microsoft PowerPoint slides based on the Journal of Experimental Psychology article referenced that may be useful to trainers who would like to include a short component on the dangers of gradual erosion of ethical standards:
These slides have a stark appearance because they don't include any graphics templates. This is to make it less likely they will conflict with any graphics templates that you have already chosen for your presentation
September 21, 2011
Training With an iPad?
Love your iPad? Ever thought about using it for training?
A Law Technology News article explains how one law firm used an iPad in a high profile personal injury case. Of course, the same persuasive educational techniques will work just as well with an ethics training audience:
In view of our focus, and the challenges the case presented, we decided to take an entirely different approach — and turn to an Apple iPad for our trial evidence presentation. We would still use a couple of documents blown-up on foam boards, for effect — but we didn't use TrialDirector or bring in an independent IT professional. Everything was managed directly from counsel table with minimal hardware and technology.
A related podcast is available.
September 14, 2011
Tips on Handling Questions
A collection of four of Jerry Lawson's Training Tips columns on the subject of handling audience questions is available for downloading:
These columns have been upgraded and reformatted for use as handouts at today's OGE Conference session Do's and Don'ts for New Trainers (and Not-So-New). The electronic version contains hypertext links to various resources.
September 13, 2011
Reminder: Support for OGC Conference
- Would you like to keep the conversation going after the conference? We can help. We can post a conversation starter entry here and enable comments. It's an easy way to keep the conversation going, at no cost to you.
- Does your slide show have animations or speaker notes that won't be visible through the static PDF reproductions available through the OGE site?
- Would you prefer to give your audiences better options for reprinting your handouts (like easy multiple slides per page) rather than one slide per page?
- Did you complete your handouts for the 2011 OGE conference too late for distribution through the OGE website?
We are glad to help in any of these ways. Contact us by e-mail or catch up with one of our reporters at the conference (e-mail address & list of reporters in sidebar at left).
September 12, 2011
Do's and Don'ts for New Trainers (And Not-So-New)
An updated version of the slide show for the Ford/Lawson presentation at the OGE Conference Wednesday afternoon is available:
This version contains some upgrades over the static PDF version at the conference website. It also contains speaker notes for many pages, and the animations are visible.
This version does not contain the two case studies, Risky Business and The Cupcake Caper. They will be distributed later.
September 01, 2011
Training Tip 15: Mobile Learning Options
Fueled by the widespread adoption of smartphones, iPods and similar devices, Mobile Learning, aka MLearning, has become a major educational trend. Such training is frequently delivered in the form of "MP3" files, delivered through a mechanism knownn as "podcasts." While Apple iPods are wonderful devices and seem ubiquitous, it's important to note that nearly any smartphone (iPhone, Droid, etc.) or personal computer can also play podcasts with the help of earphones or speakers. The USA.gov web site has a section explaining podcasts.
Many organizations are taking advantage of this new training vehicle. For example, the Legal Talk Network distributes podcasts of interest to lawyers, and legal technology guru Dennis Kennedy has an article about the value of listening to podcasts. Previous IEC Journal posts have provided examples of the successful use of MP3 files or podcasts by other respected organizations:
- American Bar Association
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
- Government Accountability Office
- Project for Government Oversight (POGO)
The latest POGO example is a lecture by the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) Adam Miles, who reviews OSC's interaction with federal whistleblowers. This training was originally part of a series POGO provides to educate congressional staffers. Other podcasts from the same series are available.
The Office of Government Ethics has also at least put its toe into the water, having prepared a podcast of "the Senate-confirmed nominations process and video clips that provide scenarios for discussion during training sessions on ethics restrictions on seeking employment."
We see the biggest value of podcasts as a low-cost, low-hassle supplement to the rest of your ethics program, including a way of reaching certain "high value targets" like senior managers, many of whom are into multi-tasking. With so many prestigious organizations using them successfully for other training, this appears to be an area with enormous untapped potential for ethics trainers.
In a future column, we will share nuts and bolts information on creating podcasts to make it easier for those inclined to explore this exciting new training option. In the meantime, we encourage any federal ethics trainers already using it to share with the IEC Journal any products we can distribute to other agencies.
July 15, 2011
Soliciting Gifts from Outside Sources
The following pithy notice from an agency ethics office to the workforce struck us as being possibly useful to other agencies as well. We have edited it to remove agency-specific information:
Subject: Reminder On Rules Regarding Solicitation of Gifts from Outside Sources
One of the regular topics of instruction in your annual ethics training is the prohibition on receiving gifts as a result of your status as a federal employee. Gifts include any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. The reason for this rule is to avoid any actions violating the law and ethical standards of public trust or creating the appearance of private gain.
There are limited exceptions when a gift may be accepted, guidance for which is found at the agency's ethics website or by contacting GC.
This notice is a reminder of the specific prohibitions on the solicitation of gifts. Employees shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit a gift or other item of monetary value from a prohibited source; or solicit a gift because of an employee's official position. There are no exceptions to this rule.
A prohibited source includes any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by this agency. This includes, for example, our implementing partners, or other think tanks or entities we interact with in our official positions.
It would also be a violation to solicit a gift based upon your status as an employee of this agency. For instance, soliciting complimentary or "comped" tickets for a dinner or reception hosted by an outside organization would be improper. This also applies even if the goal is to ensure or increase agency participation. The substance or merit of the activity is not a consideration.
Where improper gift solicitation occurs, any solicited gifts must be returned to the donor or the recipient must pay the fair market value. Disciplinary action against the employee making the solicitation may be warranted.
Once again, if you have any questions, please seek guidance at the above web sites or by contacting GC for advice.
June 13, 2011
New Hatch Act Posters Available
The Office of Special Counsel recently added two revised posters to its website. Both are available here:
- The Hatch Act and Federal Employee
- The Hatch Act and Further Restricted Federal Employee
June 08, 2011
Waxing Poetic About The Hatch Act
The most recent issue of the Federal Labor Relations Authority's in-house newsletter contains a wonderful poetic treatment of the "Federal Employee's Cheat Sheet on the Hatch Act," inspired by OSC's recent update of its Hatch Act Q & As:
In the right hands, creative material like this can be a fantastic spark for ethics training, via newsletters or as a part of live training.
Distributing material like this is one of the main purposes of this website, and we very much appreciate Rosa Koppel's sharing it with us. Please follow her example, and let us know when you create or come across something that could be of use to your fellow toilers in the vineyard.
May 29, 2011
OGE Resources for Dealing With Contractors in the Workplace
A subscription to the OGE mailing list (address in right column) is a must for all federal ethics officials. Last week's post on resources for dealing with contractors in the workplace is a good example. The resources include:
For employees -
- Working with Contractors: What You Need to Know (Web-based training module)
- Working with Government Contractors: What You Need to Know as a Federal Employee Who Works with Government Contractors (Booklet)
For ethics officials/trainers -
- Ethics and Working With Contractors, DAEOgram (06-023a) (2006). DAEOgram in Q&A format.
May 09, 2011
OGE on YouTube
OGE has training videos at YouTube:
- Criminal conflict of interest statute (18 U.S.C. 208)
- Impartiality (5 C.F.R. 2635,Subpart E)
- Gifts from Outside Sources (5 C.F.R.2635, Subpart B)
April 20, 2011
Resolving Conflicts If Google Exec Appointed to Cabinet
An IEC member tipped us off to a wonderful CNN article about conflicts of interest implicated by a possible appointment of Google Chairman Eric Google to be Secretary of Commerce. Here's an excerpt:
"Putting it in a blind trust would be hopelessly ineffective," said Alan Morrison, professor at George Washington Law School. "It's the worst kind of fig leaf, because it's not 'blind' in any sense of the word. What's Schmidt going to say? 'Do I own Google? Really?'"
The Office of Government Ethics mandates that employees of the executive branch can't own more than $15,000 of a stock or asset that would conflict with their work. Going from $5 billion to $15,000 isn't going to happen in a day.
To get around that requirement, the OGE allows people in conflict to recuse themselves from certain activities. That means even after his Google shares are put in trust, Schmidt would still have to recuse himself if a conflict arises with Google.
The good news for Schmidt is that the Department of Commerce doesn't deal all that heavily in Google's businesses.
Articles about high-profile, real-life occurrences make some of the best training material. It's hard to imagine a better example than this to illustrate the OGE 278, financial disclosure and divestiture of assets.
IEC Journal lives or dies by reader contributions, so keep us in mind when you come across something of interest to the community, especially something this useful.
February 21, 2011
Training Tip 8: The Humor Paradox
Which of these statements is correct?
- Presenters should never tell a joke just to be telling a joke.
- Nearly every presentation can be improved by using humor.
Though the statements may appear inconsistent at first glance, they are both correct. Humor is a great way of connecting with an audience—but it is usually a mistake to include a joke just so you will have a joke.
Distinguishing between "canned" humor and "organic" humor is a key to resolving the apparent inconsistency. Canned humor is something artificial grafted onto your substantive ideas. Organic humor flows from your substantive ideas and helps advance them.
The difference is critical: If you tell a “joke,” and no one laughs, you look like a dummy, and worse, a dummy who just wasted everyone’s time. By contrast, if your would-be “humorous” material advances the substantive point you want to make, it doesn't matter if the joke falls flat. You haven’t wasted anyone’s time. You’ve still advanced the ball.
Of course, getting a laugh is even better, and one of the little-understood truths is that organic humor does not have to be very funny to get a laugh. Look for chances to introduce humor that naturally arises from your substantive material. It the humor advances the substantive point you are trying to make, so much the better.
Graphics are an easy way for even the humor-impaired to work in humor. Show the audience a picture that relates to your topic. Sometimes the picture itself will be the "punch line." More often, you will deliver the punch line orally.
One of my favorite examples was a slide show I did for a humor-impaired friend. Though a bright and articulate fellow, he absolutely could not deliver a joke in front of an audience.
I dug up a seventies-era photo of one of the subjects of his presentation. My friend came up with a mildly sarcastic reference to the subject's "leisure suit." It was a remarkably garish garment, even by the standards of the 70s. Though his joke wasn't exactly the peak of wit, my friend never failed to get a laugh. Even better, knowing that his joke was a winner increased his confidence, making him more effective with the rest of the presentation.
A beauty of the organic humor approach is that even if no one had laughed, it would not be a problem. The speaker had not gone "off topic" in a time-wasting unsuccessful attempt to get a laugh.
We will be returning to this important topic in future columns. In the meantime, we encourage you to provide your suggestions and examples on the effective use of humor in the Comments section below. Training Tips is switching from weekly publication to a monthly schedule. The next column will appear on March 1.
February 14, 2011
Training Tip 7: Should You Have Handouts?
Should you give the audience handouts?
A simple question deserves a simple answer:
Yes, nearly always.
There are many reasons for this. The simplest is that at least a few audience members, perhaps many, will consider the failure to provide some written accompaniment to be evidence of apathy and/or laziness. Apathetic slacker is not the image most of us want to project.
However, handouts are not merely an appearance issue. Well-done handouts enhance audience understanding and increase the chance they will retain your message. They are also a basic courtesy for the audience, freeing them from the frantic scramble to write down every important thing you say. (You will be saying important things, right?).
Excuses for Lack of Handouts
Excuse 1: I want the audience to be paying attention to me while I'm speaking, not a handout.
I call this the narcissist excuse. Few presenters are capable of constructing such enthralling handouts, but even if you are one of this talented group, is it really so bad if people learn the material from your handout instead of your eloquent voice?
In any event, if you think your handouts are really that extraordinary, why not distribute them after your talk, instead of at the beginning? If you take this approach, be sure to let the audience know at the beginning of your remarks, so they won't feel a need to take duplicative notes.
Excuse 2: Handouts will dilute the value of my jokes or other surprises.
This excuse has a silver lining of sorts: At least the presenter is trying to keep the audience engaged and believes their material is good enough to deserve protection.
However, in this situation it is possible to have the best of both worlds:
Again, there's no law against distributing your handouts at the end of your talk. Be sure to alert the audience when you begin speaking that you will have handouts, so they don't feel obligated to write down every word you say.
Another approach is to distribute an edited version of the material at the beginning. Good slideshow software facilitates preparing a redacted version of your remarks. You can create a separate version of your slide show that omits the surprise-killing slides. This still requires a little extra work, but it's worth it if you have high quality jokes or other surprises.
Excuse 3: Distributing handouts will make the audience remember the presentation better, so I can't use the same material next year.
Wow! This is my absolute favorite excuse. There's so much wrong with it that I don't know where to start.
Isn't helping the audience remember what you are saying the whole point? This excuse tacitly admits that handouts increase audience retention of the material. Isn't that's a good thing, instead of a bad thing?
Our audiences should not have to suffer the same canned presentation every year. This approach is no more attractive by delivering the material in a quasi-stealth manner, withholding handouts that might help the audiences remember the material.
A key objective of this series of Training Tips is to empower ethics trainers so that coming up with fresh, engaging material each year does not seem like an overwhelming challenge. We will be distributing our ideas in future columns, and we solicit your suggestions in the Comments section below.
February 07, 2011
Training Tip 6: Make Sure to Cover All Mandatory Topics
The United States Office of Governnment Ethics establishes the minimum required content of ethics training in 5 C.F.R. § 2638.704(b):
Content of training. Agencies are encouraged to vary the content of verbal training from year to year but the training must include, at least, a review of:
- The Principles;
- The Standards;
- Any agency supplemental standards;
- The Federal conflict of interest statutes; and
- [Contact information on] agency ethics officials available to advise the employee on ethics issues.
I've attended more than one ethics training session that did not reference these mandatory topics, but I strongly recommend:
If you are going to do ethics training at all, comply with the regulation.
Otherwise, what's the point?
There is no specified time for the "review" component, so presumably a cursory reference to the cited references will suffice. Spending most of your time on a limited subset of ethics issues is much smarter than trying to explain every reference cited in 5 C.F.R. § 2638.704(b), but make sure that at a minimum you remind your audience of these references and let them know how to obtain copies. A hypertext link to the references is a good idea, especially if that part of your training is in electronic format.
I remember one trainer who failed to include her name and contact information on her slide show. She included only her predecessor's name and contact information on the handouts. Was she lazy, or trying to elude those who might have pesky requests for advice? Does it really matter? The damage is the same. Always include the appropriate names and contact information. This might be the most important information you give the audience.
We welcome your thoughts in the Comments section below.
January 31, 2011
Training Tip 5: What Not to Do (The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation)
Peter Norvig's clever demonstration of how computer slideshow software would have mangled the Gettysburg Address provides more than its share of laughs, but there is also much to learn from it.
In an accompanying essay, Norvig seems to suggest that Powerpoint presentations are always bad. Antipathy toward slide shows is understandable: A large majority of the ones I've seen have been poorly done.
However, it's important to keep things in perspective. Slide shows are merely tools. They can produce good results or bad results, depending on the skill of the workman.
One of the goals of Training Tips is to help ethics trainers make sure their presentation skills are workmanlike. We will be devoting multiple columns toward helping you come up with high quality audiovisual aids, including slide shows. In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts in the Comment section below.
January 27, 2011
Training Aid: Photo Story on White House Gift Report
Droning oral explanations and abstractions run the risk of boring audiences. "Show and Tell" is not just for second graders. Use pictures to catch the audience's attention and illustrate the points you are making. Our new Training Tips columnist will be expanding on this theme in future columns.
January 24, 2011
Training Tip 4: Never Complain, Never Explain?
Have you observed trainers doing things like this?
Before beginning her presentation, a trainer tells the audience, "I had planned to show you this wonderful video with actors from The Office singing this song "Let's Get Ethical," to the tune of "Let's Get Physical." Unfortunately, I can't get the DVD to work, so I can't show it, but let me tell you, it would be really funny if you could see it."
The example brings to mind the "Never complain, never explain" rule. I've seen this pithy saying variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Ford and Katherine Hepburn. Regardless of the originator, it always struck me as a little dubious. "Never?" Isn't that a recipe for being a jerk?
However, with a little adjustment for rhetorical excess, this saying does describe a sound principle for instructors. It's nearly always a mistake to apologize to the audience. In the example described, the trainer was smart to try to use a training aid recommended by IEC Journal, but when that did not pan out, she unwisely demonstrated to the audience not just her incompetence with technology, but her poor judgment. If she had never apologized for failing to get the DVD to work, the audience would never have known of her failure. Experienced presenters understand that in many cases the audience will never know if the speaker made a mistake unless he or she draws attention to the error by apologizing.
The same principle applies to other mistakes made during your presentation, explains speech expert Richard Zeoli:
When you make a mistake, no one cares but you: Even the most accomplished public speaker will make mistakes. Yet it is important to remember that the only one who cares about any given mistake is the one doing the speaking.
People’s attention spans constantly wander. In fact, most people only absorb about 20 percent of a speaker’s message. The other 80 percent is internalized visually. This ratio is true in nearly everything: a football game, a favorite television show, and even a heart-to-heart conversation. The point is that when you make a mistake, the audience rarely even notices. The most important thing a speaker can do after making a mistake is to keep going. Don’t stop and – unless the mistake was truly earth shattering – never apologize to the audience for a minor slip. Unless they are reading the speech during your delivery, the audience won’t know if you left out a word, said the wrong name, or skipped a page.
"Never" apologize? Probably a mistake. "Almost never" apologize? Sounds about right.
We solicit your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
January 10, 2011
Training Tip 2: Studies Prove Positive Approach Pays Dividends
How many times have you attended training where the trainer seemed nervous, skeptical, just going through the motions, or otherwise acting like they just didn't want to be there? Perhaps there were attempts at self-deprecating humor, like referring to how much coffee the trainer would need to get through the training?
When we pause for reflection, we intuitively realize that trainer behavior like this cannot be good. An article by Dr. Brian Fitch for police trainers in the December 2010 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin entitled "Attitudes and Performance: The Impact of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies" explains that multiple scientific studies confirm what our intuition tells us:
Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that, on average, educators' assumptions do influence the actions and achievements of their pupils. If teachers anticipate that students will succeed, they usually do. On the other hand, when they expect learners to perform poorly, they often are not disappointed. In either case, pupils rise to the level of teacher expectations—either positive or negative. Generally speaking, trainers who anticipate more from students by setting higher standards, providing encouragement, and offering positive feedback inspire higher levels of performance than those who lack faith in the ability and motivation of their charges.
While the earliest studies began with school-age children, subsequent research has examined the role of instructor suppositions with salespeople, athletes, pilots, law enforcement officers, and military personnel. [Footnote omitted].
Perhaps the most instructive message in Dr. Fitch's article is the emphasis on non-verbal communications from instructor:
Studies in communication and psychology have suggested that people rely on three channels to convey their emotions.
- Verbal (words and phrases)
- Paralanguage (tone, pitch, and volume)
- Nonverbal (facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, posture, and distance)
What is surprising, however, is the relatively minor role played by the spoken word in communicating emotion. In fact, communication studies have indicated that the majority of emotions, including how instructors truly feel about a student's performance and potential, are communicated nonverbally. More specifically, fully 55 percent of the emotional impact of a communicator's message is nonverbal, with 38 percent accounted for by paralanguage and only 7 percent explained by spoken words.
The apparent power of nonverbal communication reinforces the importance of sending consistent messages. When instructors say one thing but broadcast a different message nonverbally, they invariably undermine the credibility of their communication. For example, law enforcement firearms trainers can significantly undermine their effectiveness by telling students that anyone can shoot well while, at the same time, displaying subtle cues of frustration, such as exhaling deeply, looking disgusted, or speaking in a patronizing voice to recruits having trouble attaining a qualifying score.
Students, however, are surprisingly adept at picking up nonverbal cues, such as subtle changes in facial expression, eye contact, posture, or tone of voice. If instructors send mixed messages, learners invariably will pay greater attention to the nonverbal one, especially if it is negative. [Emphasis added, footnotes omitted]:
Of course, these instructional principles apply just as well to standards of conduct training. If your body language and other cues send the message that the training will be boring and worthless, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. You must make sure your nonverbal communications are not undermining your verbal training message.
Mere awareness of this potential trap should go a long way toward preventing the problem. In future Training Tips columns we will address methods for building confidence and other techniques that should further strengthen performance. In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions in the Comments section below.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
Edited Jan. 23 to correct bad link to columnist biography.
December 23, 2010
More on "I Wanna Get Ethical, Ethical"
We pointed out previously that the comical "I Wanna Get Ethical" song and dance routine from the popular TV show The Office can be used in ethics training. We provided a UTube link earlier. In case you need a DVD version, note that it is from Season 5, Episode 2 "Business Ethics." It is on Disk 1.
December 15, 2010
Ethical Principles in Verse
Rosa M. Koppel drafts the "Ethics Corner" column for the Federal Labor Relations Authority's weekly newsletter, One of her recent columns contained a poetic translation of the 14 principles of ethical conduct. This excellent teaching aid has both amusement and instructional value, and we greatly appreciate Ms. Koppel's sharing it with us.
We encourage other IEC members to share teaching aids, checklists, etc., through this forum. We can all accomplish so much more if we are not constantly reinventing the wheel.
December 06, 2010
Let’s Get Ethical, Ethical, I Want To Get Ethical…
Ethics trainers might get multiple uses from a video clip from a 2009 episode of the popular television The Office that dealt with ethics training in a commercial office.
- From a "train the trainer" viewpoint, the episode demonstrated poor training techniques, including reading material to the audience and using "HR-speak."
- The segment featuring trainers singing "Let's Get Ethical" to the tune from the Olivia Newton song "Let's Get Physical" could be used to introduce a training module. For example: "Since my singing is poor, I'm bringing in some guest stars to introduce today's topic."
The Office is available on DVD for sale or rental, and the Fair Use doctrine allows some free uses of copyrighted materials for educational purposes.
November 01, 2010
"Tip of the Day" on Dealing with Journalists
March 19, 2010
GAO Launches "Watchdog Report" Podcast Series
From a GAO press release:
. The Watchdog Report is also available free through Apple’s iTunes store.
As part of its ongoing efforts to utilize emerging technologies to help carry out its mission, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched an audio podcast series titled "GAO’s Watchdog Report." These five-minute audio files feature interviews with GAO officials on significant issues and new reports, and are easily downloadable for listening on computers or mobile music devices.
"GAO is always considering new ways to make its findings and products accessible to a wide range of audiences through various media," said Gene L. Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. "Podcasting enhances the service GAO provides to Congress and the public by offering an alternative means for people to learn about significant issues and new GAO reports and testimonies." ...
Users can listen to all episodes of GAO’s Watchdog Report podcast and subscribe to receive future episodes from a feed at GAO’s website
All episodes of the Watchdog report are recorded, hosted, and produced by GAO staff, and are accompanied by a transcript to ensure compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
GAO's move, like that of the FBI recently and others, confirms the value of this new way of distributing information.
March 18, 2010
The FBI is aggressively using podcasts (audio recordings distributed via the Internet) to educate agents and publicize its successes. The podcasts are distributed via an RSS feed. Here are a sample podcast and the blurb summarizing it:
Ex-Army Major in Prison, Part I
He was a major in the Army stationed in Kuwait. And he was on the take. Special Agent Marc Diehl of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office says it was a case of bribes. The episode is part of our "Gotcha" series highlighting closed FBI cases.
As noted here previously, other federal agencies are using podcasts effectively. Since most government-issued computers can play podcasts, they appear to have significant potential as an ethics education/awareness tool.
January 01, 2010
HHS Annual Training 2006-9
A generous reader provided us with links to archived Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Annual Ethics Training (AET):
The 2009 version requires registration and appears to be limited to HHS employees. Requiring registration is understandable as a method of keeping track of which employees have completed the training, but there is something to be said for allowing even non-government employees to access the training. This is the approach taken by the acclaimed Department of Agriculture training program. Openness is particularly appropriate since, so far as I can see, all parts of the training would be releasable to any FOIA requester.
As we begin the new year, please remember: The IEC Journal lives or dies by reader contributions. Please continue to be generous in providing us leads on topics useful to IEC members.
December 24, 2009
POGO On Organizational Conflicts of Interest
Given the popularity of portable music players, especially iPods and cell phones that can play audio recordings, as well as the fact that most office PCs can probably replay voice recordings, podcasts have a lot of potential as a tool for ethics education. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Legal Division uses them extensively. Let us know of your results in this area.
December 12, 2009
Animated Holiday Ethics Slide Show
Jennifer Dickey, of the Department of Treasury's Financial Management Service, was kind enough to share a whimsically charming animated slide show used in her office:
The slide show is in the form of a Microsoft PowerPoint script that will run automatically if users select the file. Important: You can customize the slide show for use in your own office if desired. To avoid having the show run automatically, open PowerPoint first, then select the file. You can edit it in this manner.
December 11, 2009
Ethics Training DVDs at Naval AcademyThe training techniques used by Navy midshipmen in some interactive DVDs described in this Washington Post story might be adapted to standards of conduct training:
Generations of midshipmen have judged case studies about personal conduct and wartime decisions through the prisms of those wise men of old. Now they're also testing their fitness to be leaders with a series of interactive DVDs that demand snap decisions in 21st-century dilemmas.
Each video presents a scenario with several critical forks. There's no time to philosophize: Click one of the buttons, then deal with the consequences as the rest of the story unfolds.
Your buddy is drunk and argumentative in a bar, and tomorrow is a big day for your unit. Wait to get him home safely, or grab some precious sleep yourself?
Morning comes, and he's drunk on the couch. Persuade him to stay home and face the consequences, or let him report for duty and risk getting caught?
November 25, 2009
FMS Training Video AvailableTo see an example of an ethics training video that was produced in-house without any special equipment (aside from a digital video camera) and without any special funding, watch the Financial Management Service's premiere episode of its ethics web series. The Financial Management Service (FMS) is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury. The FMS Ethics Attorney recruited employees to write, film, and act in a web series and an ethics orientation video. Employee response to these training products has been overwhelmingly positive.
The premiere episode of the web series is available for IEC members to view at the following page:
For more information about these training videos, please contact Jen Dickey, the FMS Ethics Attorney, at 202) 874-6680
November 22, 2009
Revolving Door CartoonPulitzer Prize winning-cartoonist Tom Toles has a great take on revolving door issues. Consider Fair Use issues before reproducing it in instructional materials.
November 16, 2009
Ethics Advisory ServiceThanks to Wendy Pond for sharing useful information she picked up about Australian government ethics at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Beijing last month.
A. The Australian Code of Conduct consists of 13 bullet points:
B. The "Ethics Advisory Service" produces a number of training videos. As Ms. Pond notes, "Part of what makes the video and accompanying written guide interesting, is that there is not a right or wrong, definitive "answer" to the dilemma. Australia has what the international community calls a "values-based" code of conduct, which contrasts with the U.S. rules-based model." The videos are here:
The most recent videos are:
- Passion (disclosure of information, conflict of interest, procedural fairness) and
- A Fine Pair (workplace behaviour and respect)
March 27, 2009
New Employee Training Checklist
Department of the Treasury ethics officials have successfully used a new employee ethics training checklist for a couple of years now. They recently modified it to accommodate the additional information that political appointees covered by the Ethics Pledge need to know. One version is slightly less-detailed regarding the Pledge information. Here are links to download the MS Word files:
We appreciate Treasury for sharing these checklists, and we would love to receive material from other agencies.
January 28, 2009
Ethics Reminder Through Security Tip?
At least one federal agency provides employees a daily security tip when users log onto the computer network. If your IT deparment is agreeable, this can serve as an alternate delivery mechanism for ethics reminders, as demonstrated by this file.
October 30, 2008
"Preparing for a very rainy day" presentation from OGE Conference
Ethics challenges for Emergency Planners and Ethics Officials.
October 02, 2008
Ethics Training Storytelling Resources
Danielle Mozzetta's "Train the Trainer" program was one of the more effective sessions at the recent OGE conference. She stressed the importance of "storytelling" (i.e., providing real examples) as a way of increasing student retention, giving rise to the question, "But what if you don't know any relevant stories to tell the audience?"
Two good sources of instructional ethics examples are:
- The Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office's "Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure," acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal and others, and
- This web site. We routinely link to news accounts of ethical transgressions. Our archives are searchable via by topics using our "Categories" system, linked at the left of every page or by key words using our search engine box in the upper right hand corner of every page.
Incidentally, note that the current search engine results page has advertisements inserted by the company that provides this service. We do not receive any revenue from them. We hope to install a search engine without ads in the not too distant future, but for the time being, this is the best we can do with our limited budget (basically, zero $).
September 10, 2008
Education and Communication Award Winners
Congratulations to the winners of OGE's 2008 Education and Communication Award:
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- Federal Trade Commission
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- U.S. Agency for International Development
- U.S. Air Force
- U.S. Army, CECOM Life Cycle Management Command
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- U.S. Department of the Interior
- U.S. Department of State
- U.S. Department of the Treasury – Departmental Offices
I hope to learn more about their achievements at this month's OGE conference, including “Ask Cagney the Ethics Dog.”
Whether or not you were a winner this year, if your organization has training aids that you think would benefit other agencies, please contact us about sharing them with the community through IEC Journal. Good ideas deserve wide circulation. You can always find our archive of training aids, sorted chronologically by the date posted, by selecting the category Training Aids in the left margin.
September 02, 2008
Fixing Broken OGE Web Site Links
While clearly a large improvement, the recent upgrade to the OGE web site had the unfortunate side effect of changing the URLs, or web page addresses, to many pages on the OGE site. This breaks the existing links that other web sites, including this one, have built to OGE. Due to resource constraints, we don't plan on correcting all the broken archived links to OGE pages. We will try to correct the most important ones that come to our attention (including the ones to OGE pages in the column at right, in the hopefully-not-too-distant future). If you are aware of a key link that should be changed, let us know.
We'll be publishing some advice on finding items on the revised OGE web page soon.
August 27, 2008
Assessing Your Training Quality: See Yourself As Others See You
O wad some Power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us ...
These lines from "To A Louse On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnett at Church," possibly the "Greatest Hit" of Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), are relevant to ethics training. "Seeing ourselves as others see us" can be a welcome antidote to complacency as we try to comply with OGE's requirements for initial ethics orientation (5 C.F.R. § 2638.703). Getting feedback from trainees, or even better, having a neutral evaluator go through the training experience, can be an eye-opener. Here's a comment one new employee offered when asked about the initial ethics orientation offered by her agency:
As for my own experience with ethics training/the handout I received I have to say, it was pretty pathetic. If you look closely at the packet I was given, some of the pages are not even readable. I don’t know if the problem was with the printer or whatever, but it seems pretty useless to print out all those documents, if some of them, you can’t even read. There was basically no training whatsoever on ethics or the standards for things like breaks, lunches, what you should/should not talk about, etc. It was mostly a "give this a look" type thing.
Do you know how many new employees would rate your agency's initial ethics orientation as "pretty pathetic"?
August 06, 2008
DOD OIG FOIA Reading Room
"It can't happen to me." Sound familiar?
Real life examples of high ranking officials whose disregard for ethics rules led to problems are one of the best ways to undercut this overconfident view.
The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General's Freedom of Information Act "Electronic Reading Room" is a good place to look for cautionary tales to use in training. It archives files expected to be the frequent subject of FOIA requests, thus saving the agency processing time and reducing access time for the public. The reports available there include the following:
"Alleged Improprieties Related To Public Speaking: Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, U.S. Army Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence", August 5, 2004
Alleged Misconduct: General Kevin P. Byrnes, U.S. Army Commanding General U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, July 29, 2005
Alleged Misconduct: Vice Admiral John D. Stufflebeem, U.S. Navy Director, Navy Staff, March 19, 2008
August 05, 2008
New OGE Crossword Puzzle Available
July 16, 2008
Share the Wealth at OGE Conference
Have you developed training-related materials, automation programs, procedures, or job aids that could be useful to other ethics offices? OGE is providing a place to share such resources at its "Products to Share Exhibit" at the 2008 National Government Ethics Conference in Orlando, Florida. Those interested in participating should contact Ciara Guzman by July 18th:
cmguzman _ AT_ oge _DOT_ gov
(Address disguised to throw off spammers).
May 17, 2008
OGE Training Award Nominations Due May 30
There are only a couple of weeks left before the May 30, 2008 deadline for nominations for OGE's 2008 Education and Communication Awards. The awards will be presented at the September OGE National Government Ethics Conference in Orlando. The OGE web site has details.
May 08, 2008
Podcasts for Training
OGE lists "podcasts" as one of the one of the media that is ripe for receiving its training awards. Podcasts are sound recordings distributed via the Internet. They can be used not just on the very popular iPods and similar portable music players, but on most PCs in use in the federal government. They are an inexpensive way to distribute lectures to an audience. The USA.gov web site has a section explaining podcasts.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center uses podcasts effectively for training criminal procedure, etc. We are not aware of any agency that uses them yet for ethics training, but it seems like a natural function.