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Technical Communication:

Process and Product


Eighth Edition

Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Chapter 5: Ethical
Considerations

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Learning Objectives
Understand that doing, saying, and writing the
right things are ethical considerations and an
important part of business
Understand that decisions based on ethical
considerations often are a gray area dependent
on how the subsequent actions, words, or
behavior are perceived by colleagues, clients,
stakeholders, and legal personnel

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Learning Objectives (continued)


Understand that failure to consider ethics can
result in dissatisfied customers, large legal
judgments, prison terms, anti-trust litigation, loss
of goodwill, lost sales, fines, and bankruptcies
Recognize that laws are based on ethics and
practical applications

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Learning Objectives (continued)


Apply the following strategies to your
communication: use language and visuals with
precision; satisfy the audiences need for
information, not your own need for selfexpression; prefer simple, direct expression of
ideas; hold yourself responsible for how well the
audience understands the message; observe
liability laws; avoid plagiarism; respect your
audiences privacy and rights to courtesy and
confidentiality; and be ethical when using social
media for business
Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e
Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Learning Objectives (continued)


Understand that in the workplace, a company
owns the e-mail system, just as it owns other
more tangible items such as desks, computers,
and file cabinets
Avoid problems with social media in the
workplace by following your employers rules
regarding electronic communication conduct

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Learning Objectives (continued)


Understand that if you copy images or text
designated as trademarks, the individual or
company from whom you have taken this
information can sue for trademark infringement
Recognize that the creator of a unique product,
term, image, or invention is protected by
intellectual property rights

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Ethics
Ethical considerationsdoing the right thing
are an important part of business.
Decisions based on ethical considerations often
are a gray area. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Where the action takes place
2. When the action takes place
3. Who sees or hears the action or words
4. Whether or not the action or words subjectively offend
5. If the action is an isolated incident

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Ethics
6. If the company has a policy prohibiting the action or
words
7. Whether or not the person holds a position of power
over other people involved
8. If the action or words are expressed when the person
is a public face of the company
9. Whether the appropriate action was egregious

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Why Business Ethics Are Important


When confronted with an ethical dilemma, look
at it from three angles, which often cross over:
1.Is it legal? Does it follow the letter of the
law?
2.Is it practical? Although it may save time,
money, or effort in the short run, will the longterm repercussions be impractical?
3.Is it ethical? Does it follow ethical standard,
often outlined in codes of ethics?

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

Strategies for Communicating


Ethically
Avoid unethical behavior by observing the
following:
Use language and visuals with precision
Prefer simple, direct expression of ideas
Satisfy the audiences need for information, not your own
need for selfexpression
Hold yourself responsible for how well the audience
understands the message
Observe liability laws
Avoid plagiarism

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

10

Strategies for Communicating


Ethically (continued)
Respect your audiences privacy
Be ethical when using social media for business
Strive continually to improve your professional
competence, and promote a climate that encourages the
exercise of professional judgment

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

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The Ethics of Intellectual Property


Laws
The creator of a unique product, term, image, or invention
is protected by intellectual property rights. Types of
intellectual property include copyrights and trademarks.
Copyright laws protect original authorship, including text,
artwork, music, audiovisual material, and sound
recordings.
Trademark laws protect a companys image, including its
logo, symbols, slogans, and design.
If you are using your own companys materials, it is
acceptable to copy it, as long as you give credit, as
boilerplate content.

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

12

Guidelines to Protecting Intellectual


Copyright
To protect your rights and those of others, you should:
Assume that information is covered under copyright and
trademark protection laws unless proven otherwise
Obtain permission for use from the original creator of graphics
or text
Cite the source of your information
Create your own graphics and text
Copyright any information you create
Place a copyright notice at the bottom of your Web site

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

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Ten Questions to Ask When


Confronting and Ethical Dilemma
1. Does your company have a policy regarding the
situation?
2. Have you discussed the situation with your boss?
3. Have you met with the director of human resources for
guidance?
4. Does your company have an ombudsman who provides
support or training?
5. What do your colleagues say about the situation?
6. Do you belong to a professional organization with
published policies regarding ethical behavior?

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

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Ten Questions to Ask When


Confronting and Ethical Dilemma
(continued)
7. Do you have a moral authority with whom you can
confer?
8. How has your organization dealt with similar situations in
the past?
9. Does your company have a way to communicate
anonymously about ethical issues, such as a drop box or
secure email address?
10. Has your company offered training about ethical
behavior in the workplace?

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

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Strategies for Making Ethical


Decisions
When confronted with ethical challenges, try following these
writing strategies (Guy 165).
Define the problem. Is the dilemma legal, practical,
ethical, or a combination of all three?
Determine your audience. Who will be affected by the
problem (clients,coworkers, management)?
Maximize values; minimize problems. Ethical dilemmas
always involve options.
Consider the big picture. Dont just focus on shortterm
benefits when making your ethical decisions.

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

16

Chapter Highlights
1. Doing, saying, and writing the right thing are
ethical considerations that are an important part of
business.
2. Decisions based on ethical considerations often
are a gray area dependent on how the
subsequent actions, words, or behavior are
perceived by colleagues, clients, stakeholders, and
legal personnel.

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

17

Chapter Highlights (continued)


3. Failure to consider ethics can result in
dissatisfied customers, large legal judgments,
prison terms, antitrust litigation, loss of goodwill,
lost sales, fines, and bankruptcies.
4. Laws are based on ethics and practical
applications.

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

18

Chapter Highlights (continued)


5. When writing or speaking, apply the following
strategies to your communication: use language
and visuals with precision; satisfy the audiences
need for information, not your own need for self
expression; prefer simple, direct expression of
ideas; hold yourself responsible for how well the
audience understands the message; observe
liability laws; avoid plagiarism; respect your
audiences privacy and rights to courtesy and
confidentiality; and be ethical when using social
media for business.
Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e
Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

19

Chapter Highlights (continued)


6. In the workplace, a company owns the e mail
system, just as it owns other more tangible items
such as desks, computers, and file cabinets. Follow
corporate guidelines when using your companys e
mail system.
7. To avoid problems with social media in the
workplace, follow your employers rules regarding
electronic communication conduct.

Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e


Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

20

Chapter Highlights (continued)


8. If you copy images or text designated as
trademarks, the individual or company from whom
you have taken this information can sue for
trademark infringement.
9. The creator of a unique product, term, image, or
invention is protected by intellectual property rights.
10. If you are writing a proposal to a new client, and
you draw from your companys library of existing
proposals for content, that is acceptable use of
boilerplate content and templates.
Technical Communication: Process and Product, 8/e
Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson

Copyright 2014, 2012, 2008 Pearson Education, Inc.

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