Author Archives: bizcombuzz

Complicity Can Lead to Bad Business

When we know something is wrong and we ignore it, we are complicit in the consequences. History is full of examples in which complicity led to horrendous outcomes, but in today’s global marketplace, complicity involving bad business decisions comes at a great cost.

In his new book, Complicit: How We Enable the Unethical and How to Stop, Professor Max Bazerman of Harvard Business School focuses on Purdue Pharma’s knowledge of OxyContin’s addictiveness. Bazerman makes the point that many individuals within the organization knew about the drug’s likely effect on users but remained silent. They were complicit, and the outcome of their inaction has been disastrous to the public and costly to Purdue Pharma’s image and bottom line.

Human beings, Bazerman says, are prone to go along with transgressions made by others. However, consumers expect corporations to behave responsibly, so leaders and individuals must stop such misconduct before it can wreak havoc.

First comes understanding the nuances of complicity. There are “true partners,” or those who agree with the unethical values being perpetrated, and “collaborators,” who acquiesce for personal gain although they may not believe in the wrongdoer’s acts.

Examples of collaborators are not hard to find. Film industry personnel who witnessed women being harassed by men and did not intervene, Germans who did not believe in Nazism but remained silent, and the US Olympic Committee, which was aware that coach Larry Nasser was sexually abusing female athletes but kept him on. Similarly, working for a company when knowing that the organization is consciously destroying the environment can be viewed as an act of complicity.

Bazerman spells out strategies organizations can employ to create a workplace in which people feel safe to speak up when they witness wrongdoing. These include adding more decision-makers to avoid tunnel vision and implementing systems in which groups of people can freely protest unethical behavior.

Nevertheless, Bazerman contends, the bottom line is to be clear about one’s own ethical code and ask questions such as, Do I want to live with the fact that I could have done something when I saw XX being sexually harassed but didn’t? or Do I want to be part of an elitist system that promotes discrimination? or Do I want to work for a company that is contributing to environmental or human rights violations?

Being on the side of what is right and good is ultimately a personal choice, but it can impact an organization’s bottom line, too.


  1. How can complicity with an unethical policy affect a company’s image when that complicity is made public?
  2. How might diversity reduce complicity in the workplace?
  3. What possible ramifications face an employee who speaks up about an organization’s wrongdoing?

Source: Reynolds, P. (2022, November 15.) Stop ignoring bad behavior: 6 tips for better ethics at work. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Retried from

The Latest AI Challenge to Teaching: ChatGPT

Since its launch in late November 2022, the new AI tool ChatGPT has college instructors in a well-deserved frenzy. The free (for now) technology introduced by Open AI is an easy-to-use chatbot that can interact with the user to generate serviceable, if bland, prose, among other things. And its product is good enough to have college instructors altering pedagogy and the nation’s largest public school system banning its use entirely.

While the folks at ChatGPT admonish students not to use the technology for schoolwork—going to far as to call use of any automated writing tool “cheating”—instructors are familiar with just how little those constraints mean when students choose to turn in work they have not completed themselves. Validating this perspective, recently conducted a survey that revealed 89 percent of 1000 student respondents reported that they had already used ChatGPT to help with a “homework assignment.”

Business communication is not exempt from this threat. Recently a Business Insider reporter used ChatGPT’s ability to create fictitious résumés and cover letters. While not perfect, these AI-produced documents were chillingly adequate. Hiring managers who saw the job-related documents said they would have given the applicant an interview despite the fact that the letters and résumés “lacked personality.”

Some commentators see good in the situation. What’s the harm if ChatGPT is used to produce a first draft that the student later revises, or vice versa—the student writes a draft that ChatGPT edits? Writers have been using tools to streamline the laborious task of writing for centuries, from the thesaurus to spellcheck to Grammarly. Who among us has not used a citation generator, proponents of AI ask.

One of the advocates is Dr. Cynthia Alby, a professor of teacher education at Georgia College & State University who has written that AI is only going to improve. She suggests that instead of punishing and surveilling students who turn to it, instructors can view the situation as an opportunity to turn their attention to developing students’ information literacy, research and study skills, and metacognition. Dr. Alby envisions a new paradigm in which students develop foundational skills via self-paced AI modules, ultimately enabling them to move to higher level learning situations such as case-based learning and team projects.

Nevertheless, professors around the globe have celebrated a senior at Princeton who recently created a tool that can detect whether a piece of writing has been created via ChatGPT. His GPTZero isn’t a panacea, however. Even he admits that AI writing tools are here to stay but that they must be used “responsibly.”

Still, from a student’s perspective, ChatGPT is not just convenient; it even adapts to the student’s level of understanding and adjusts to create a more personalized experience. But the downsides are numerous: (1) The AI tool furthers students’ reliance on technology and could disadvantage less tech-savvy learners. It is questionable whether the students using AI in this manner are actually learning to write. (2) ChatGPT does not provide any sources for the copy it retrieves. (3) AI has been occasionally proven to be wrong because the algorithms “vacuum” up information available on the Internet without being able to discern their veracity. The tool’s ability to provide up-to-the-minute knowledge about college-level topics is doubtful.

It’s unlikely that this type of AI will replace human instructors anytime soon. The lack of human interaction would be the antithesis of what face-to-face teaching and even distance learning offer, not the least of which is the instructor’s expertise and creativity: working with students and providing individualized feedback—something machines can’t replicate. Yet.

This topic is far from settled, but writing instructors who ignore the latest challenge to classroom teaching do so at their own peril.



Emoji Meanings Differ Across Generations… Good News for This Year’s Graduates… Should Instructors Allow Smartphones in Class?

Emoji Meanings Differ Across Generations

You’re showing your age if you think the sneezing emoji 🤧 means you’re sick. While millennials take the image literally, Gen Z uses a completely different interpretation, as in “That’s sick!” or to translate, “That’s good!”

Although each generation has long adapted language to express its particular values and beliefs, this behavior causes confusion in today’s workplace, where boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z mingle. But emojis have joined the lexicon, and they are increasingly causing misunderstandings.

According to a survey by Duolingo and Slack, 74 percent of respondents admit to experiencing emoji use confusion. For example, the versatile kissy face 😗 means general affection to some, Platonic love to others, or even romantic love. It’s no wonder use of the popular image in the workplace has been responsible for communication glitches.

The situation is linked to age. The younger the employee, the more meaning the worker attaches to an emoji. A lack of an emoji can likewise cause awkwardness. Such was the case of a 23-year-old staffer who received a simple message from an older coworker: Okay. The youthful recipient worried that the colleague’s lack of a smiley face indicated anger.

Emoji usage at work is constantly evolving. The best advice seems to be to take a cue from how supervisors and coworkers use them and follow their lead.

Source: Lynch, S. (2022, November 4.) This is what Gen Z thinks about their coworkers’ emoji use. Fast Company. Retrieved from

Good News for This Year’s Graduates

Employers plan to tap new college graduates this spring, according to research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The industries most eager to hire include finance, insurance, real estate, computer, and electronics manufacturing.

NACE connects college career services professionals and recruiters while providing research and forecasting about employment and college-educated individuals. The latest NACE survey found that despite growing worries about a recession, companies have unfilled positions and are anxious to close that gap. The research also found that even the tech sector is anxious to hire, despite massive layoffs at Microsoft and Meta.

Similarly, firms are returning to more in-person events to grab graduates’ attention.

Source: Ellis, L. (2022, October 26.) College seniors can expect lots of job offers next spring. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Should Instructors Allow Smartphones in Class?

Instructors have varying approaches to smartphone use in class. Below are three types of policies and their rationales.

1. No phones. Professors who do not allow cellphone use say doing so prevents students from tuning out during classwork and discussions. When students do not comply with the rule, instructors ask those individuals to put away their devices unless they are on an emergency watch.

2. Limited phone use. This tactic allows students to consult their phones only after they have given their full attention to a lesson or lecture for 20-30-minutes. Instructors say this approach is best codified in the course syllabus and requires verbal reminders that the phone break is X minutes away.

3. Integrating smartphones into class. In this strategy, the instructor asks students to use their phones for a specific reason. Some days students are told to use their phones to discover a point about a lesson. When finished, they are told to put their phones away. Other instructors only allow students to use their phones to take images of lecture slides.

One instructor actually performed research about how student work was affected by allowing smartphones in class. She randomly divided the class into sections. One group was allowed phones while the other was not. The results were not surprising: Student without their phones exhibited better comprehension, less anxiety, and more mindfulness.

Source: McMurtrie, B. (2022, October 20.) Should you allow cellphones in class? The Chronicle: Teaching Newsletter. Retrieved from