Conference Examines Ethical Behavior

We blog a lot about ethics and treating people the right way day-to- day and moment-to-moment.  That’s why it was particularly rewarding to be asked to speak on the topic over the weekend at Central Michigan University’s PRSSA Annual Conference. From the definition of the word ‘ethics’ to the importance of setting a foundation and following particular principles, a range of topics, including many real world (albeit anonymous), examples were discussed.

Over the course of the next three blogs, I’m going to recount the three primary areas covered with the CMU students with regard to audiences we should all behave ethically toward: colleagues, clients and media. This time: Colleagues.

One area of particular interest to attendees was career-pathing and the right of all professionals to be provided with proper guidance and feedback from superiors in order to grow and succeed. Telling someone in a review to “keep on doing what you are doing” and then berating them for not possessing particular skills at a later point is obviously the opposite of an ethical approach to employee communications. So is continuing to put someone on small clients, deciding the individual is not a  fit for larger initiatives, and then refusing to give them a decent salary increase each year as their “billables are not high enough.”

Over my more than 30-year career and positions in radio, print journalism and public relations, I have seen it all: the good, the bad and the terrible. Individuals being yelled at; others having items thrown at them; those not supported by management when clients are unethical; still others being physically threatened.  These occurred not in prisons or backstreets, mind you but in “professional” work settings.  Unethical if not bordering on litigious examples all.

Such shameful tactics are  aimed at keeping employees “down”, “in a box”, “under control.”  And when such employees leave and, down the road, are in decision makers role to perhaps hire outside support, do you think their former employers stand a chance in (you know what) of getting the business? Not a chance – and an appropriate comeuppance.  Next time: ethics with clients.