Tag Archives: NEI Global Relocation

Morally Mute

March 3, 2016 by

“While at work a few months ago,” a local businessperson once related to me, “I was with a couple of employees talking not about anything in particular, just chatting about random things.

One of the people brought up another co-worker’s sexuality (they were not present). This person was very vocal about their beliefs and disgust of homosexuality. I was uncomfortable with the comments being made. I picked up my coffee mug and said, ‘I have to get to work’ and left. But afterwards I felt guilty. Should I have done something differently?”

The uncomfortable situation concerned sexuality, but it could just as easily have been about a coworker’s race, religion, or economic status. Someone talks negatively about a co-worker and the words cut deep. We don’t agree, but remain silent. Then we chastise ourselves for our weakness. We hit ourselves. We are bad, bad, bad for not being stronger.

But then again, are we weak and bad? Or are we just smart? The workplace is about getting the job done. When is it our role to engage a person in what could easily become a shouting match about ethics?

When we believe in our gut that something is wrong but don’t speak out about it, we are “morally mute.” Notice that muteness itself can sometimes be a good thing. Biologists tell us that it is a survival mechanism. It is a technique mankind learned in order to protect ourselves from the prowling lions and tigers. The species that knows how to remain silent in the face of danger is the species that outlives others.

On the other hand, muteness can also be a downfall. If we don’t scream when we see a car is about to run into us, a distracted driver may miss a potentially lifesaving alert. Making our presence known and not being mute can also be a very good thing.

So when is moral muteness right or wrong? When should we remain silent, and when
should we speak up at work?

An answer to these questions comes from reflecting on our motivations. Moral muteness is wrong when it is a result of rationalization. If we are silent about our moral beliefs just because we want don’t want to rock the boat, we want to fit in, or we don’t want to mess up the team, then we are rationalizing. These rationalizations tend to arise because of fear, but it is always our role to protect each other from the oncoming car, so to speak. And we might be scared because we don’t have the tools to express our beliefs in a way that doesn’t end in a shouting match, or analogously, that doesn’t run both the driver and the pedestrian off the road.

Like most things in life, moral muteness is overcome with practice.

Some of the best firms in Omaha have initiatives for employees to practice their communication skills in role-playing ethical scenarios with colleagues they trust. I know of at least 16 organizations that do this, both for-profit and non-profit: Access Bank, Arbor Bank, Avenue Scholars, Centris Federal Credit Union, the Douglas County Treasurer’s office, General Service Bureau/Early Out, Heartland Family Service, Hayes & Associates, Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, NECA, NEI Global Relocation, OPPD, Seldin Company, and SilverStone Group.

These firms deserve a shout-out because they recognize that employees who know how to overcome moral muteness become stronger as individuals. Their teams are made hardier, more resilient. And those are assets that go straight to the bottom line.

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Out of the Red

July 7, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in Summer 2015 B2B.

Nuns get a bad rap in Hollywood.

“The image is we’re fluffy and don’t have a brain in our head, like The Flying Nun,” says Maryanne Stevens, RSM, Ph.D., president of College of Saint Mary.

Yet nuns are CEOs at Catholic hospitals and small private colleges like the one she leads in Omaha.

No one would ever call Stevens fluffy. When she first arrived in 1996, College of Saint Mary was struggling financially. Now the school’s balance sheet shows no debt.

Stevens has business acumen, says Richard Jeffries, chairman of the college’s board of directors. “During the time Maryanne has been our president, she has put the college on a very sound financial footing,” says Jeffries, partner with Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather. “At one point the college had mortgaged its land and carried substantial debt. Today we’re debt-free and able to operate on the tuition revenue our enrollment generates.”

His co-chair, Kate Dodge, president of NEI Global Relocation, agrees: “Along with being a strong intellectual with a deep spiritual background, she brings an important business perspective to her position as president of CSM. Dr. Stevens is key in the critical fundraising for the university.”

Stevens’ first sight when walking on campus 18 years ago was a lawn made up of weeds. She saw the straggly lawn as a deterrent to enrollment. “Curb appeal is essential to attracting students.”

She realized campus buildings also needed attention when she walked into an office that had a broken window and no air conditioning.

Fast forward to 2015. Construction on a new residence hall for single mothers, a student commons, and two buildings have proceeded without debt collectors lurking at the college doors. Construction financing is all backed by pledges from donors.

Under Stevens’ leadership, innovative programs were developed, including a special residence hall allowing college-age single mothers to live with their children on campus.

“I got the idea in 2000 when a student living in the hall told me she was pregnant and didn’t know how she could finish her education unless she brought her infant to the residence hall,” says Stevens. “The first year, there were eight mothers with their children. Now there are 35.”

Stevens also launched Marie Curie science and math scholarships funded by the National Science Foundation for women and began an unusual online doctoral program for educators in the health professions.

A unique physician assistant program allows students to start as a college freshman and attend for five years. “That can save students a significant amount of money,” says Stevens. “One of my big concerns is how to make post-secondary education affordable.”

Stevens raises about $1 million a year to support scholarships and athletics in addition to capital fundraising. College of Saint Mary has solid support from women in the community.

“They see a college for women as a valuable resource for the community, “Stevens says. “People know there’s a number of first-generation college students who thrive in a small, rather than large, environment.”

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Stevens moved with her Air Force family from southern California to Omaha when she was a high school sophomore. As the oldest of eight children, her future as an educator was foreshadowed.

“We used to play homework after school, and I was the teacher for my younger brothers and sisters,” says Stevens.

She joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1966 as Sister Maryanne after graduating from Mercy High School. After graduation from College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa., she taught high school math in Joplin, Mo. Stevens earned a master’s degree in theology from St. Louis University and a Ph.D. in religion and education from Boston College.

The college president taught theology at Creighton University for 10 years before joining College of Saint Mary.

Jeffries says Stevens is a tenacious fundraiser. “Thanks to her efforts, CSM is now in a position to deliver life-changing education to women well into the future.”

Stevens has great leadership skills, says Dodge. “I learn something from her at each committee or board meeting that I attend. Maryanne is a teacher, a philosopher, and a business woman. She is extraordinary.”

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