April 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 11 
Q and A

Leadership focus: Commitments, teamwork

Stephens, Soodik address recent frequently asked employee questions

In the days following the departure of former Boeing President and CEO Harry Stonecipher, employees asked questions through various feedback channels, including their managers and the Boeing Web site. They also sent questions through the feedback function of Boeing News Now, the company's news site on the Boeing intranet. Most respondents expressed both the great pride employees have in Boeing and their personal dismay over the recent events; many also asked questions about what took place and how employees may be affected.

While there are privacy issues and legal limitations as to what the company can share, Boeing Frontiers talked with Rick Stephens, senior vice president, Internal Services, and Bonnie Soodik, senior vice president, Office of Internal Governance (OIG), about some of the toughest and most frequently asked questions by Boeing employees.

Q: What are the questions you're hearing the most from employees, and how are you responding?

Stephens: The question I'm hearing most is, "Does Boeing have a policy about interoffice relationships?" The answer is yes and no. We don't have a policy that prohibits consensual interoffice relationships, but we do have policies in place that are intended to protect the company and employees.

Rick Stephens quoteFor example, relationships where one individual is in the other's reporting chain or can improperly exert influence over the other person's career or salary are not acceptable. Also, the more senior one person's job is, the greater the likelihood that any interoffice relationship that person has will be perceived as inappropriate. Finally, both parties need to be aware of the potential problems that the end of a romantic relationship can present in the work place.

We're not putting our heads in the sand; we know that romantic relationships can develop in the workplace. But relationships that pose a conflict of interest must be properly disclosed, and employees cannot misuse company resources or time. As with everything, employees need to use good judgment and common sense. And senior leaders, in particular, need to exercise good judgment about all things at all times.

Soodik: In OIG, we're getting that question and "Do we have to take even more ethics training?" In fact, every time we start annual ethics training we hear this question. The answer is no, we are not suggesting additional training, but we still have to take the ethics training that's in place.

Ethics training has been a part of Boeing's overall ethics program for almost 20 years. Major defense contractors in 1986 established the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics and Conduct. The contractors agreed to adopt and implement a standard for business ethics and conduct which includes annual training.

I think it's important for people to remember that we don't have ethics training because anybody thinks we have an unethical workforce. The training is more than an obligation; it allows employees and managers time to discuss a subject that is critical to operating a successful company.

Q: It took only 10 days from when Boeing received the anonymous tip to the Board of Directors accepting Harry Stonecipher's resignation; but it took longer to complete the investigation for the female executive. Why the difference?

Stephens: Investigations of company officers such as the CEO take priority. When a valid complaint is made about a company officer, the Board of Directors must respond as quickly as possible, particularly when it comes to those individuals whose employment status may have a material effect on the company. We also have an obligation to protect employees during these reviews. The company must follow certain processes to ensure that it meets all legal and ethical requirements surrounding the investigation and any actions that may result. Doing things correctly takes time; exactly how long varies by case.

Q: In the last 15 months, there have been a few highly publicized ethics breaches by members of Boeing's senior leadership. Do we have more ethics complaints against managers than nonmanagers?

Soodik: No. For example, in 2004 we had many more complaints about nonmanagers. It's easy to see how someone might develop this misperception, because events involving senior-level executives tend to be widely covered by the media. Overall, we have an ethical workforce, which includes our senior executives.

Bonnie Soodik quoteThe Ethics organization receives thousands of inquiries each year. Most of these are questions from individuals seeking guidance on how to handle issues in an ethical manner, because most people want to do what's right.

Q: Does the company expect me to watch my coworkers and report on their activity?

Soodik: No, first and foremost, we ask employees to take responsibility for their own actions and deal openly and honestly about business issues with their colleagues and supervisors. When there are valid concerns regarding business misconduct, employees should feel confident in using the available resources to appropriately report problems.

Stephens: The Boeing culture is about working together. This is part of the company's Vision 2016 mission statement, and it's a core value.

If we know about issues early, we can work together to address them before they become hot-buttons for public attention. Maintaining a "working together" environment means that we need to be personally accountable for our own actions and decisions, and willing to be open with each other when concerns arise. This is something we all need to keep working toward.

Q: Boeing people are also speculating about the future CEO. As members of the Executive Council, can you tell us how senior leadership is addressing the conjecture, and do you sense any divisiveness as a result of the uncertainty?

Stephens: The Board of Directors will decide who will be the next CEO, and I have no doubt that that person will be excellent. The Executive Council is pulling more together—not apart. We're doing the same thing that we're asking all the rest of employees to do: focusing on the business, delivering on our commitments to our customers and working together as a team to support (Boeing CEO and President) James Bell during this transition.


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