Dr. Wilson Spoorly has produced an article depicting the managers entanglements with a clubs “ethic Police” that sit stiffly in the club, sermonising constantly, chastising committee members, management and staff. The article explains the different types of ethical extremists with their motives and advice on how to handle these individuals.
hypocrisy of those who claim the ethical high ground but are quicker than most
to transgress their own supposed moral code when it suits their purpose. It is
a comfort to know that the success of the Burns poem is due to the fact that so
many people recognise the ‘Holy Willie’ in their own lives and is a universal
figure much despised by all. The Holy Willie’s in your club collectively regard
themselves as the guardians of ethical behaviour and form a formidable police
The Ethics Police sit stifly in the club, sermonising
constantly, chastising committee members, management and staff. There are occasions when their complaints are
justified but it is the zeal of their delivery that grinds everyone down. They
maintain that they have no personal agenda and are ‘only concerned for the
club’ when stirring trouble.
Not for them the quiet life of turning up, playing golf,
having a drink and sailing merrily away. The Ethics Police will often make a
specific trip to the club with the sole objective of delivering a lecture to
any of the chosen target audience.
These characters are often (but not exclusively) retired
from a relatively successful career and have been members for a great many
years. They see their role within the club as a sentinel of the chaste members
of the past against the wicked sinners of the present committee and staff.
“O’ Lord, Thou knows what zeal I bear
When drinkers drink, an’ swearers swear”
These extremists may be isolated in their piety, but live to
preach to a congregation. This provides the
support and encouragement they require to continue their ‘mission’. They appear
to rise every morning with the express need to find ways of being insulted,
slighted, offended and oppressed.
There is an irony in the way in which they are so easily
offended. They cry foul when slighted by their fellow members but think nothing
of throwing vicious slurs at others in a whim.
And pass not
in Your mercy by them,
Nor hear their prayer,
But for Your people’s sake destroy them,
And do not spare!
There is no such thing as a throw away remark, or innocent
quip. You must always be accurate and avoid any semblance of humour, as any
opinion offered from the Manager to any branch of the Ethics Police will be
held as the ‘official party line’.
You will never win an argument with an ethical extremist.
They choose their battles very carefully and can twist their rationale so much
that it becomes impossible to follow the debate.
The Ethics Police are at their most acquiescent when club
life follows their narrowly defined path and process is seen to be followed. They
may grudgingly accept the advice received from the Governing body or club
solicitor but the most effective neutralisation is to involve the ethical
extremist in the process.
Ethics Police: Type
One – The Orthodox Pedant
This character is the one who cannot countenance any
deviation from the rules. They’ve no
agenda but live in their own world of perpetual vigilance. In their mind, what is written must be obeyed. They live in a Victorian age. The Orthodox Pedants are so obsessed by the
details of the constitution (or Memorandum and Articles) that most members see
them as such and are ignored. They rant,
heard by few and are generally harmless. Their preferred method of
communication is the lengthy letter or email, which will be factually correct
but embroidered with emotive words such as ‘appalled’, ‘shocked’, ‘stunned’ and
The Pedants need for the strict adherence to the rules is most
typically seen at the AGM when any constitutional change is being proposed. Even
although the Pedant may agree and wish to support the need for change, he may
well obstruct the proceedings based purely on the fact that the constitution may be interpreted in a certain,
slightly obscure way.
In these circumstances, the Orthodox Pedant can be the
member to turn to when revising or devising club rules, such is their attention
to detail. However, it is important to remember that the Pedant can never set
aside the obedience of rules, whether real or imagined, for the pragmatic
benefit of the club and there comes a time when such an extremist has to be
cast aside and treated as the idiosyncratic member they clearly are.
Ethics Police: Type
Two – The Fundamentalist Reactionary
There can be a great many reactionaries in a club, which is
to be expected and understood. Members have chosen to join a certain style of
club and retain their membership because that is the way they like it. It is
natural that they will be resistant to change.
However, the extreme Fundamentalist Reactionary will fight
to turn the clock back to the 1970’s, with no regard or understanding as to how
this will affect the club. The Reactionary cares little for changes in society,
or legislation, or increased competition and is motivated only by the personal
need for the comfort of familiarity.
The Reactionary simply represents the views of a proportion
of the membership magnified to a level that becomes difficult for a rational
person to understand.
These moral guardians remember the days when the club was
managed entirely by volunteers and see the proliferation of staff, the
promotion of technology and any general liberalisation as a stain upon the very
founding principles of the club. Their opposition to change is not based on any
in-depth knowledge of the club business but entirely on how they perceive they
would like to spend time at the club.
These types will most usually be seen publicly haranguing
committee members in the clubhouse. They make dread predictions about the
future of the club should any change to the status quo take place. They will do
anything in their power to slow progress to a glacial rate and will use every
available means to achieve this. Letters, emails, phone calls, AGM proposals
and even solicitors letters will be used to restrict progress.
Whether it is dealing with staff issues, amalgamating the
ladies section of the club, promoting junior golf, or developing facilities,
the Reactionary will invoke a most peculiar brand of ethics to argue against
such inevitable change.
Despite obvious shortcomings, the problematic but perhaps
popular member of staff will be protected against the unethical behaviour of
the ‘ruthless and self-aggrandising’ committee.
Despite the holes in the roof and the worn carpets, the
clubhouse will be defended against the immorality of ‘those who are ignorant
and uncaring of the club’s great heritage’.
Despite the desperate need for more members, the proposed
membership drive will be despised and fought against on the basis that
advertising vacancies makes the club seem desperate and ‘lowers the stature of
this great institution’.
The Fundamentalist Reactionary is most likely to generate
support from like-minded acolytes and with some signatures on a letter, or
couple of voices in support, their views are then misinterpreted as that of the
membership as a whole. As a result of this inevitable circumstance, care must
be taken to ensure that the Captain/Chairman is guided to either ignore these
extremists, or survey the membership properly. Once a consensus of opinion has
been established through a thorough consultative process, the Reactionary has
little left to battle with.
Ethics Police: Type
Three – Lone Crusader
The disturbing aspect of this branch of the Ethics Police is
the fact that the Crusader is elected to Committee but cannot maintain any
sense of unity with his or her fellow committee members. He or she wants to avoid
any portion of blame for any perceived ‘poor decision’ made by the committee and
therefore openly disparage fellow committee members and members of staff.
The Crusader tends to be the most vocal critic of any decision
that is perceived not to have followed due process. At times, this may be well
justified, should the club have to endure a Chairman/Captain who is autocratic
and dictatorial in style. However, there will be many occasions when the Crusaders
start their sermonising if they consider their own personal agenda is being
Should a decision be made to relax the dress code, encourage
social members or generally become less discouraging to potential members, the Crusader
will start foaming at the mouth and take every opportunity to disparage the
‘corrupt and incompetent’ committee members.
Unlike the Pedants and the Reactionaries, the Crusaders are
not always obsessed with detail, process and policy. It is far more likely that
they feel the need to be seen as powerful, influential and important. They are
the members most likely to be voted onto committees, or be asked to join,
simply because they seem to be the most interested in the good governance of
the club, despite the fact that they are known within the club as opinionated,
overbearing and inflexible. These traits are often misinterpreted as a display
of deep affection for the club and the Crusader’s obduracy will be forgiven
because ‘he has the club’s best interest at heart’.
This could not be further from the truth and the Crusader
only ever has his or her own best interests at heart. This being the case, the
only defence is to build allies within the committee and club membership at
large and marginalise the Crusader. Easier said than done if the member in
question is charismatic and popular amongst a certain section of the club.
Every club has these characters, Orthodox Pedants, Fundamentalists
and Lone Crusaders.
Their assertion that the current management of the club is operating
within a questionable ethical code creates an atmosphere of unease amongst the
hard-core regular members, who start to question the motives and intents of the
manager as well as the committee.
atmosphere of distrust spreads throughout the whole club and in time staff,
long time members and casual users of the club are passing comment about their
‘concern for the future’.
Seek out the Ethics Police and spend time with them but do
so armed with the knowledge that this may be a never ending ‘ping pong’ of
correspondence or debate. Make sure of your facts and know the club rules
intimately and set your argument out clearly when you meet or email the
extremist but once you have done this, stop there.
The Ethics Police are most damaging when they have an
audience, so ensure that they are disarmed before they get a chance to reach a
very public forum such as the AGM. Their concerns must be dealt with quickly
and at the first available committee meeting.
Never lose sight of the fact that these self-proclaimed
guardians of the club represent a minority of members and should not be
regarded as a gauge of how club policies are perceived by the membership as a
whole. These are members you have to live with but not who you live for.