Ethics Communications 1

The Free Marketplace

¡  “All members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries . . . Society, however, cannot subsist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another.” (Adam Smith)

The Long view: ethics in perspective

¡  Ethics & the question of the ethical:

§  “The moral principles by which a person is guided” (OED)

§  “The rules of conduct recognized in certain associations or departments of human life.” (OED)

§  “First there is the law. It must be obeyed. But the law is the minimum. You must act ethically.” (IBM Conduct Guidelines)

¡  Questions of – and agreements on – conduct, behaviour, decisions, and judgments

§  Prescriptive but often implicit and assumed

§  Policed and regulated by communities and cultures

The long view: Ethics at work

¡  Standards of conduct and moral judgment that determine what is acceptable and unacceptable in individual, institutional, and social behaviour

¡  Ethics is “knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is the right thing to do” (Justice Potter Stewart).

¡  Ethics raise questions about harmful effects of business actions, choices, and decisions.

¡  Ethics is implicit & explicit, “assigned” in practice

¡  Ethics: difficult to “measure”

What is Misconduct?

¡  Illegal political contributions.

¡  Insider trading

¡  Bribe public officials

¡  Anti-competitive practices

¡  Use  competitor’s info

¡  Accept gifts and kickbacks

¡  Misrepresent financial records

¡  Environmental violations

¡  Customer privacy breach

¡  Misuse company’s confidential info

¡  Document alteration

¡  Substance abuse

¡  Sexual harassment

¡  Stealing

¡  Poor product quality

¡  Falsifying time or expenses.

¡  Improper hiring practices

¡  Employee privacy breach

¡  Health or safety violations

¡  Employee benefit violation

¡  Lying to outside stakeholders

¡  Discrimination

¡  Conflicts of interest

¡  Email or Internet abuse

2009 National Business Ethics Survey

¡  We are experiencing an ethics bubble. The positive results of this study are likely to be temporary.  We are beginning to see an important connection between workplace ethics and the larger economic and business cycle:  when times are tough, ethics improve. 

¡  Executives who don’t elevate culture to a priority risk long-term business problems. NBES data suggest that once the economy rights itself and business difficulties recede, misconduct is likely to rise – unless a strong ethical culture is in place.

Reporting Misconduct

¡  63% of those who observed misconduct reported it.

¡  Most reports (75%) are made to management, either a direct supervisor or higher management.

NBES 2009: Recommendations

¡  Prepare for the return of business as usual

¡  Integrate ethical leadership within performance goals for senior managers.

¡  Establish financial incentives for ethical leadership by CEO.

¡  Emphasize culture and principles.

¡  Encourage disclosures about corporate ethical culture.

Pillars of Business Ethics Education

¡  Graduating business students should have an awareness of:

§  Moral philosophy: applied philosophy – in the context of a life lived in business and commerce

§  Corporate social responsibility: as an alternative to regulation

§  Experiential ethical dilemmas: as means of self-examination and evaluation; also useful for cross-cultural ethics

§  Moral psychology:  theory of moral development. Can help us understand how “good” people change in “bad’ environment”

§  Corporate culture and the impact of organizational design:how to design more responsive and moral organizations.

§  Studies in obedience to authority and motivation at work: Loss of identity within certain cultures.

§  Interaction of society, business, and law: current events. Business issues in the news and in society.

Ethical Cultures

¡  “Corporate values that reward only financial results will influence employees to make more unethical work-place decisions compared to when corporate [i.e., organizational and business] values reward integrity and good business practices.”(Ghosh 2008)

Ethical cultures and climates

¡  Internal influences

§  “Ethical climates serve as a perceptual lens through which employees diagnose and assess situations when making workplace decisions.”

§  “Although an individual retains the ultimate moral agency for his or her actions, research consistently indicates that the ethical philosophies and values of management have a major impact on the ethical choices and behaviors of employees.”(Ghosh 2008)

§  Significance of the manager as moral compass.  Sets the tone – or the temperature – of the ethical climate.  Similar in function to mission and vision statements.

Ethical communications

¡  Transparency

§  “A condition in which information about the priorities, intentions, capabilities, and behaviour of powerful organizations is widely available to the global public . . .A condition of openness enhanced by any mechanism that discloses and disseminates information.” (Lord, 2006, p.5)

§  “[is] every aspect of corporate communications that embraces open, authentic communication of organizational successes and failures; facilitates ongoing discussion; and relinquishes a seemingly incessant institutional drive to maintain the image of perfection” (Rawlins, 2008)

Communicating Transparency

¡  From the inside:

§  Providing employees access to information that is relevant to strategic direction and performance of the company.

§  Keeping promises and commitments.

§  Making decisions more openly

§  Accepting responsibility for wrongdoing

§  Rewarding performance that supports transparency in the workplace.

¡  From the outside:

§  Providing public access to information

§  Accepting responsibility for actions

§  Making decisions more openly

§  Establishing incentives for business leaders to uphold transparency.

Business Culture Communicates Ethics

¡  Ethical leadership: “tone at the top”

¡  Supervisor reinforcement: representative of leadership

¡  Peer commitment: support for “doing the right thing”

¡  Embedded ethical values: “how we do things around here.”

Conducting Ethical Communications

¡  A person who practices ethical communication advocates truthfulness, accuracy, and honesty; as these foster and maintain the integrity of ethical communication. (Powers 2007)

IABC Code of Ethics: Preface

¡  Because hundreds of thousands of business communicators worldwide engage in activities that affect the lives of millions of people, and because this power carries with it significant social responsibilities, the International Association of Business Communicators developed the Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators.

¡  The Code is based on three different yet interrelated principles of professional communication that apply throughout the world.

¡  These principles assume that just societies are governed by a profound respect for human rights and the rule of law; that ethics, the criteria for determining what is right and wrong, can be agreed upon by members of an organization; and, that understanding matters of taste requires sensitivity to cultural norms.

IABC Code of Ethics: Principles

¡  Professional communication is legal.

¡  Professional communication is ethical.

¡  Professional communication is in good taste.

Recognizing these principles, members of IABC will:

¡  Engage in communication that is not only legal but also ethical and sensitive to cultural values and beliefs;

¡  Engage in truthful, accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding;

Adhere to the following articles of the IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators:

¡  Because conditions in the world are constantly changing, members of IABC will work to improve their individual competence and to increase the body of knowledge in the field with research and education.

IABC Code of ethics: Articles

¡  Professional communicators uphold the credibility and dignity of their profession by practicing honest, candid and timely communication and by fostering the free flow of essential information in accord with the public interest.

¡  Professional communicators disseminate accurate information and promptly correct any erroneous communication for which they may be responsible.

¡  Professional communicators understand and support the principles of free speech, freedom of assembly, and access to an open marketplace of ideas and act accordingly.

¡  Professional communicators are sensitive to cultural values and beliefs and engage in fair and balanced communication activities that foster and encourage mutual understanding.

¡  Professional communicators refrain from taking part in any undertaking which the communicator considers to be unethical.

¡  Professional communicators obey laws and public policies governing their professional activities and are sensitive to the spirit of all laws and regulations and, should any law or public policy be violated, for whatever reason, act promptly to correct the situation.

¡  Professional communicators give credit for unique expressions borrowed from others and identify the sources and purposes of all information disseminated to the public.

¡  Professional communicators protect confidential information and, at the same time, comply with all legal requirements for the disclosure of information affecting the welfare of others.

¡  Professional communicators do not use confidential information gained as a result of professional activities for personal benefit and do not represent conflicting or competing interests without written consent of those involved.

¡  Professional communicators do not accept undisclosed gifts or payments for professional services from anyone other than a client or employer.

¡  Professional communicators do not guarantee results that are beyond the power of the practitioner to deliver.

¡  Professional communicators are honest not only with others but also, and most importantly, with themselves as individuals; for a professional communicator seeks the truth and speaks that truth first to the self.

IABC Code of Ethics: Enforcement

¡  One article on disciplinary action:

§  IABC fosters compliance with its Code by engaging in global communication campaigns rather than through negative sanctions. However, in keeping with the sixth article of the IABC Code, members of IABC who are found guilty by an appropriate governmental agency or judicial body of violating laws and public policies governing their professional activities may have their membership terminated by the IABC executive board following procedures set forth in the association's bylaws.

¡  Remaining details efforts undertaken to disseminate knowledge of the Code, educate current and prospective members about the Code in particular and ethics in general.

¡  Members are required to sign as statement of support for the Code of Ethics.

Ethical Communications

¡  Language: Balance rights of expression with responsibility for honesty?

¡  Graphics: Enhance or obscure messages?

¡  Design: Facilitating reading or hindering?

¡  Argument: Logical and fair appeals?

¡  Organization: Clear or manipulative?

¡  Audience: Sensitive to diversity?

¡  Timeliness: Empowering audience?

¡  Context: Supporting efforts to be honest, fair, and ethical? Sufficient background given?

Application to Communications Plan