Conferences and Codes of Conduct

Nearly every organization has a code of conduct for its employees. These codes are usually explicit rules about what the organization’s members are and aren’t allowed to do, including the penalties – from reprimands to firing – for breaking those rules. Often there are also statements of the organization’s guiding values and principles, which employees are expected to uphold in carrying out their work or making decisions. But when employees go to professional events like conferences – events related to work but which take place outside the workplace – the rules of behaviour aren’t always as clear.

Behaviour at conferences is something that I’ve been thinking about as conference season is starting for me. Every year, away from the watchful eyes of their supervisors and their human resources department, some people act like idiots. They might do things like ask questions during a seminar or presentation with the sole intention of making the presenter look bad and making themselves look good. Or they might harass other conference attendees, usually at social events, by doing things like looking down women’s tops, making inappropriate comments about how someone is dressed, or uttering racist or sexist insults (I’ve personally witnessed all of these).

Surprisingly, though, many conference organizers are reluctant to crack down on these kinds of behaviours by attendees. (more…)

What Being a Professional Really Means

My doctoral dissertation was about workers in semi-professional occupations, and how their identification with their profession’s values affected how they felt about their work. So I’m always fascinated by stories about professionals faced with difficult situations that challenge the values of their chosen occupation.

This article about Geir Lippestad, the Norwegian lawyer who defended mass murderer Anders Breivek, appeared in the Globe and Mail last month. A few weeks later, Doug Christie, a Canadian lawyer who also defended controversial clients, passed away. I’ve been thinking about the contrast between the two and their reasons for doing what they did – and I’m kind of sorry that the article on Lippestad did not get more attention, because to me he represents why professional work is so important. (more…)