Abstract

Communication is constant, especially in the information age. Savvy professionals know how to communicate quickly, effectively and ethically. The term "ethical communication" has different meanings depending on the context. A shampoo advertiser and a sports team spokesperson may have dissimilar views on what constitutes as ethical communication. Some communication guidelines are only applicable to certain situations, while others could be understood as ethical in one situation and unethical in another. Every aspect of ethical communication should be considered within the boundaries of the issue at hand.

such as "Do not share the customer's private information with anyone outside of the company. An example of the first type is between a business and its suppliers or distributors."). raises money for nonprofits and strengthens a business. The second is organizational communication within the business itself. It's what makes new policy in government. " or "Treat the customer with respect and kindness. good behavior. promote values such as trust. communication with the public is how the business develops its public image. a business and its employees or a business and the public." Ethical Communication in Business Every business is dependent on effective ethical communication. whether it's verbal or nonverbal.Introduction The Business Dictionary defines ethical standards as follows: Principles that when followed. Others can be more specific. There is not one consistent set of standards that all companies follow. fairness. as they are frequently vaguely defined and somewhat open to interpretation ("Men and women should be treated equally. between two businesses. and/or kindness. but each company has the right to develop the standards that are meaningful for their organization. Business communication occurs any time a message is given or received. how the leadership communicates with the employees. Maintaining high ethical standards on each front is essential to success in business. Ethical standards are not always easily enforceable. Significance Ethical business communication holds great significance on three main fronts: business to business. The messages sent and received by a business need to follow ethical norms that don't offend or make individuals feel uncomfortable. business to employees and business to the public. Lastly. .

Misconceptions A common misconception concerning ethical communication in business is that most unethical communication is obvious and overt. The same is true with interpersonal interactions between employees. resulting in a more attractive bottom line. The communication in any business is for the purpose of maintaining order and the proper image with its employees and society. the communication can be considered unethical. The company may also change a policy pertaining to the issue that non-verbally communicates the same message. Ethical business communication is intended to care for the emotional and perceptive needs of its employees and customers. if an accusation was to arise against a particular company. If a person or people group perceive or interpret certain actions or words to be discriminatory or offensive. non-offensive manner. respect and maintain a good public image. Ethical effective communication skills in business strengthen its corporate culture. it can be categorized as unethical. If a particular form of communication or gesture is offensive to another employee. a poor public image and a decrease in the bottom line. Purpose The purpose of ethical communication in business is to protect. When communication does not adhere to ethical standards. the public relations representative will arrange a press conference to verbally address the issue at hand. the consequences can include unhappy employees. . For example.Function Ethical business communication's primary function is to send and receive messages in a neutral. True unethical communication is based on perception.

Distorting visuals: Making a product look bigger or changing the scale of graphs and charts to exaggerate or conceal differences. It avoids language and images that manipulate. which is a form of legal protection for the expression of creative ideas. they will not be satisfied.Consequences There are many consequences to unethical business communication. Everything in business rises and falls on communication. moral. but deciding what is ethical can be a considerable challenge in complex business situations. On the surface. is true in every sense. . but if it doesn't communicate well with its customers. consumer groups. or omitting numerical data. Ethical behavior is a companywide concern. unethical communication can include falsehoods and misleading information (or can withhold important information). A business may have an outstanding product or service. Note that plagiarism can also be illegal if it violates a copyright. and is not deceptive in any way. and anyone else affected by business activities. discriminate. labor organizations. Misrepresenting numbers: Increasing or decreasing exaggerating. When ethical communication is lacking. investors. In contrast. Selective misquoting: Deliberately omitting damaging or unflattering comments to paint a better (but untruthful) picture of you or your company. altering statistics. which in turn will reflect to the customer and result in a decrease in revenue. Some examples of unethical communication include: Plagiarism: Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s words or other creative product as your own. In contrast. Each of these elements affects the spirit of the employees. Ethical communication includes all relevant information. such ethical practices appear fairly easy to recognize. corporate image and motivation will lack as well. and this can weaken the business/customer relationship. an ethical message is accurate and sincere. of course. they are subjected to particularly rigorous scrutiny from regulators. legislators. or exaggerate. but because communication efforts are the public face of a company. numbers. environmental groups.

began issuing full refunds. and those various groups often have competing interests. an ethical lapse is a clearly unethical (and frequently illegal) choice. which could drive sales down even more—clearly not a good thing. ethical company leadership.39 Moreover. After the situation was brought to national attention by the New York Times and other news media.You’ve decided to wait two months before making this tough decision. In contrast. Suppose you are the chief executive of a company whose sales are declining and you might be forced to reduce costs by laying off 100 employees. at least two of the companies involved. An ethical dilemma involves choosing among alternatives that aren’t clear-cut. these three elements need to work in harmony. If employees see company executives making unethical decisions and flouting company . Madison National Life Insurance Company and American Amicable Life Insurance. vital employees nervous about their future could jump ship. Situations such as these often have no clear answer. if you tell them now. However. Ensuring Ethical Communication Ensuring ethical business communication requires three elements: ethical individuals. Perhaps two conflicting alternatives are both ethical and valid. In 2004. And what if you tell them now and many people leave but then sales improve enough in the next two months that you can avoid the layoffs? You will have unnecessarily disrupted many careers and families. and the appropriate policies and structures to support employees’ efforts to make ethical choices. Many of these young men and women thought they were signing up for savings programs when in fact they were buying extremely expensive and frequently unnecessary life insurance policies. Here’s your dilemma: Do you tell the workforce now that several hundred jobs could disappear in the near future? Telling them now would give people more time to look for new jobs and adjust their finances—clearly a good thing. and other bases around the country.Distinguishing Ethical Dilemmas from Ethical Lapses Every company has responsibilities to its stakeholders. who were given no time to read the documents they signed. Camp Pendleton in California. several insurance companies were accused of misleading military personnel at Fort Benning in Georgia. or perhaps the alternatives lie somewhere in the gray area between clearly right and clearly wrong. The policies were often sold during mandatory financial training sessions for the soldiers.

a large aerospace and defense company based in Hartford. Employers have a responsibility to establish clear guidelines for ethical behavior. The people who share their concerns through the program then receive a written response that explains how the situation was resolved. On a somewhat less positive note. customers.guidelines. and/or kindness. Many aspects of what is "good" are taught (consciously and subconsciously) . promote values such as trust. fairness. In a recent global survey by the International Association of Business Communicators. good behavior. Rather. A code is often part of a larger program of employee training and communication channels that allow employees to ask questions and report instances of questionable ethics. and suppliers a confidential way to report suspected fraud and other ethical concerns. Expect Differences Ethical principles are not the same across cultures.41 To ensure ongoing compliance with their codes of ethics. United Technologies. "The right thing to do" is not just instinctive in humans. including business communication. it is essential to understand their ethical framework. ethics are culturally informed. Principles of Ethical Communication The Business Dictionary defines ethical standards as "Principles that when followed. In order to learn ethical intercultural communication. many companies also conduct ethics audits to monitor ethical progress and to point out any weaknesses that need to be addressed. Many companies establish an explicit ethics policy by using a written code of ethics to help employees determine what is acceptable. offers employees. 70 percent of communication professionals said their companies clearly define what is considered ethical and unethical behavior." In order to establish good communication with people of other cultures. you must expect people of other cultures to think differently. For example. slightly fewer than half said their companies encourage open discussion of ethical issues and dilemmas. they might conclude that the guidelines are meaningless and emulate their bosses’ unethical behavior. Connecticut. be willing to learn culturally appropriate behavior and (at least to some extent) practice what their cultures consider ethical.

Learn their Culture To really communicate well interculturally. So. that the things that make a "good" person in your culture are not the same things that comprise a "good" person in every culture. Do not expect that what seems good to you will also seem good to them. understand that they may view some things as bad that you view as fine or good. there are some ethical standards that are universal. prepare yourself to see the world differently. you can take the first step in communicating and connecting well with people of another culture. According to William Howell in his Ethics of Intercultural Communication. while American culture teaches that individuality is a good thing and that "standing on your own two feet" is a position you should strive for.by a person's culture. and always keep others' best interests in mind. . in most African cultures. For example. For example." Act in such a way that you do not intentionally bring harm to anyone. by striving to abide by ethical standards that are universally received. many other cultures value the group more than the individual. "Two principles that are universal are that no action is ethical if it harms persons. being part of a strong family support system is considered much more important and valuable than standing alone as an individual. What attitudes and actions does a good person possess? Does a good person set aside his personal work to take care of his parents when they are elderly? Does a good person control his anger at all times? Does a good person practice abstinence in certain areas? You will find. Exemplify the Universal Although different cultures will have varying expectations and standards as to what is ethical. if you want to establish ethical intercultural communication with people of another background. and the action that benefits persons accumulates ethical quality. So. as you look into someone else's culture. you must ask the question: "What makes a 'good' person in your culture?" Talk with people in the target culture to discover the traits of an ethical person.

Some television news commentators do it every day. so in the long run the ethical company benefits from its behavior. This willingness to adopt the standards of another culture is the best way to establish ethical and intercultural communication. corporate communication must strive to attain certain specific ethical goals. use them. They may be considered entertaining. people prefer doing business with a company they can trust. Learn at least enough of the language to greet people and ask how they are doing in their native tongue. Enjoy the food people prepare for you. they will trust it. If others feel that they can believe what a company says. Honesty is the basis of trust. The International Association of Business Communicators maintains that companies that the practice of ethical business communication also increases a team feeling among employees and boosts employee morale. Honesty It is to a company's benefit to be honest. the best way to establish good intercultural communication is to act in a way that is considered ethical in that culture. To accomplish these goals. Goals of Ethical Business Communications The purpose of business is to make money. This means that the goal of ethical business communication is to build the trust and credibility of the company. Wear clothing that is culturally appropriate. It is easy to disguise opinion as fact. Honesty means saying what you believe to be true.Empathize Through Action As you learn the ways of another culture. companies they can trust. Behaving ethically serves that purpose. and their credibility suffers for it. but what they say is . Other factors being equal. but it also means distinguishing fact from opinion. People prefer doing business with ethical companies. Do and say the things that will express that you have the best interest of those around you in mind. Respect family organization and methods of doing education and business. If there are certain respectful gestures associated with greeting people older or more prestigious than yourself (or everyone). On every level of life and society. share in the way people think and act as much as you are able to.

It means that the company is not seen as attempting to obfuscate or confuse the public and other companies with whom it does business. such as feedback forms. Commitment In the context of business communications. for only when time and resources.taken with a grain of salt. Within the company. . Consultant Michelle Howe advises any company that wants to be trusted to clearly label opinion as such. Employees want credit for their work. Some people believe that concerns about plagiarism are only important in academic settings. commitment means allocating the necessary time and resources to discussing issues fully. but it's also good practice and sound business to acknowledge ideas that are not your own. but anytime someone is caught "borrowing" someone else's ideas without proper acknowledgment. Most people realize it's important to use quotations when citing direct statements from others. Acknowledging Sources Few things create as much tension as when someone presents another person's ideas as his own. are dedicated to discussing issues is there a chance for everyone in the organization to have their voice heard. so failure to acknowledge them is not only unethical but also bad for morale. trustworthiness takes a nosedive. Communication needs to be thorough. acknowledging problems and keeping relevant people informed with clear and direct communications helps dampen the "rumor mill" and maintains better employee morale. Clarity Distinguishing fact from opinion is part of a larger goal of being clear and easy to understand. and to present what it has to say in an unbiased manner. Timeliness of communication can also help. Ethical business communication calls for being clearly understood.

openness means being open to diverse ideas and opinions. Taking Care with Confidential Information Confidential information is a special class of information that requires special attention. because intolerance of divergent opinions means intolerance of differences and free flow of information is essential to both the public's and the organization's long-term well-being. A business environment where people are not free to play the devil's advocate and say unpopular opinions is not an ethical one.Openness to Other Views Openness is one of the key pillars of ethical communication. In communication. IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators . as well as being ready to offer your own opinions even if you do not think they will be popular. The North Carolina State University business department emphasizes the importance of the ethical business practice of protecting confidential information while complying with public disclosure laws. Any use of confidential information for personal gain is also clearly unethical.

members of IABC will work to improve their individual competence and to increase the body of knowledge in the field with research and education.Preface Because hundreds of thousands of business communicators worldwide engage in activities that affect the lives of millions of people. can be agreed upon by members of an organization. and because this power carries with it significant social responsibilities. members of IABC will: • • • Engage in communication that is not only legal but also ethical and sensitive to cultural values and beliefs. The Code is based on three different yet interrelated principles of professional communication that apply throughout the world. Engage in truthful. the criteria for determining what is right and wrong. Recognizing these principles. and. Because conditions in the world are constantly changing. that understanding matters of taste requires sensitivity to cultural norms. that ethics. Professional communication is in good taste. These principles assume that just societies are governed by a profound respect for human rights and the rule of law. Articles . Professional communication is ethical. the International Association of Business Communicators developed the Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators. accurate and fair communication that facilitates respect and mutual understanding. These principles are essential: • • • Professional communication is legal. adhere to the following articles of the IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators.

12. 5. 6. 4. 10. Professional communicators do not guarantee results that are beyond the power of the practitioner to deliver. 9. for whatever reason. and most importantly. Professional communicators are sensitive to cultural values and beliefs and engage in fair and balanced communication activities that foster and encourage mutual understanding. at the same time. 11. Professional communicators do not accept undisclosed gifts or payments for professional services from anyone other than a client or employer. comply with all legal requirements for the disclosure of information affecting the welfare of others. with themselves as individuals. 3. 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. for a professional communicator seeks the truth and speaks that truth first to the self. Enforcement and Communication of the IABC Code of Ethics . 2. freedom of assembly. Professional communicators refrain from taking part in any undertaking which the communicator considers to be unethical. and access to an open marketplace of ideas and act accordingly. should any law or public policy be violated. Professional communicators give credit for unique expressions borrowed from others and identify the sources and purposes of all information disseminated to the public. 8. Professional communicators uphold the credibility and dignity of their profession by practicing honest. Professional communicators obey laws and public policies governing their professional activities and are sensitive to the spirit of all laws and regulations and. Professional communicators disseminate accurate information and promptly correct any erroneous communication for which they may be responsible. 7. Professional communicators protect confidential information and. Professional communicators understand and support the principles of free speech. Professional communicators are honest not only with others but also.1. act promptly to correct the situation. candid and timely communication and by fostering the free flow of essential information in accord with the public interest.

The association’s bimonthly magazine. The IABC Ethics Committee is composed of at least three accredited members of IABC who serve staggered three-year terms. through its professional development activities. Communication World. New and renewing members of IABC sign the following statement as part of their application: “I have reviewed and understand the IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators. Other IABC members may serve on the committee with the approval of the IABC executive committee. The functions of the Ethics Committee are to assist with professional development activities dealing with ethics and to offer advice and assistance to individual communicators regarding specific ethical situations.” As a service to communicators worldwide. professional chapters. encourages and supports efforts by IABC student chapters. 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. The IABC Code is published on the association’s web site. At least one session at the association’s annual conference is devoted to ethics. The IABC Code of Ethics for Professional Communicators is published in several languages and is freely available to all: Permission is hereby granted to any individual or organization wishing to copy and incorporate all or part of the IABC Code into personal and corporate codes. publishes periodic articles dealing with ethical issues. Conclusion . and regions to conduct meetings and workshops devoted to the topic of ethics and the IABC Code. with the understanding that appropriate credit be given to IABC in any publication of such codes. However. IABC encourages the widest possible communication about its Code.IABC fosters compliance with its Code by engaging in global communication campaigns rather than through negative sanctions. The international headquarters of IABC. in keeping with the sixth article of the IABC Code. inquiries about ethics and questions or comments about the IABC Code may be addressed to members of the IABC Ethics Committee.

or dangerous products. Nonetheless. Businesses should not sell products that are unsafe or unhealthy. many businesses do all of these things. A business should also be honest with his employees and customers. References . They sell information. ethical communication implies keeping privacy of customers and employees.In business.

Business Communication Today by Bovee & Thill www.htm .iabc.pdf www.com/companyoffices/aboutus/ethics/ethics_booklet.boeing.com/about/code.

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