Introduction: Communication Ethics: The Front Page Strategy
Ethics are a necessary ingredient in every company. This is especially clear after reading about the unethical behaviors of so many companies in the news. But can employees easily define the meaning ethical behavior in their company? Does the company make it clear how ethics fit with a company’s mission statement? The author describes the difficulty of explaining a company’s ethics unless there has been discussion and attempts to write it down. He argues that an ethics statement is the best way to define the moral behavior of a company. He offers a straight forward way to help accomplish this goal called the Front Page Strategy.
Why companies need a clear Ethics statement now more than ever.
The front pages of newspapers and business magazines have been full of stories about the lying and cheating some corporate leaders have used to deceive their employees, clients, shareholders and even the government’s regulatory agencies. But John A Bryne, Business Week, wrote that “In the post-Enron bubble world, there’s a yearning for corporate values that reach higher than the size of the chief executive’s paycheck or even the latest stock price. Trust, integrity, and fairness do matter, and they are crucial to the bottom line.” (47) Surveys of employees around the country demonstrate that employees are not sure their bosses are behaving ethically. Not only that many employees report seeing unethical behavior but do not report it because
It would not change anything.
They did not trust the system to keep their report anonymous and secret.
They are afraid the company would punish them by retaliating.
Definition of Business Ethics for communication manager
Analyzing the successful moral behavior in a business is the part of ethics important to a communication manager. That means the manager has to know the difference between right and wrong. For example unethical behavior that is alarmingly common is the ‘fixing’ of accounting books to show numbers that do not accurately reflect reality. This is a clear example of unethical or immoral behavior because it is wrong.
External Constituencies are the relationships a business has with people outside of the company like its customers and the government.
Internal Constituencies are just as important as the external in a business. Examples of internal constituencies are the employees, managers and stockholders.
Sort out the philosophical and real problems to decide on appropriate company ethics
Ethical Sensibility can be learned and used to prioritize ethical behavior.
Ethical Reasoning is the ability to identify the type of ethics in a situation. For example it against legal regulations or is it lack of trust in a relationship?
Ethical Conduct is taking ethical action, not just talking about it.
Ethical Leadership means that a person is a role model to others of moral and honest behavior. Anyone can be a leader when it comes to honesty.
Making writing ethical statement easier: the Front Page Strategy
In order to have some idea of what to write in a ethics statement O’Rourke suggests asking: Which of you company’s behaviors would you not want to see in on the front page of the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune? Which behaviors would you not want your family and friends to read about on the front page of your hometown newspaper? Take the time to honestly analyze the communications process in your company to find weak spots in openness and honesty.
Observations I am really impressed with O’Rourke’s Front Page Strategy. Reading through the article I became overwhelmed with the philosophy of ethics and identifying moral behavior. But when I read the Front Page Strategy I immediately understood how to use it. His idea is the kind that seems so simple everyone should have thought of it but it is not that obvious to everyone. This strategy is a winner.
Conclusions Ethics statements require time and effort to write plus the statement will need to be changed as time goes by. In order to make sure there is transparency in the company it is worth the effort. It is also important because it communicates to the employees (and others) that they are working in honest and trustworthy environment. I highly recommend using the Front Page Strategy to get started on writing a company’s ethics statement.
O’Rourke, J. S. (2003). Communication Ethics, Chapter 3. Management Communication: A Case-Analysis Approach. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hill, pp. 47-62.