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Business Communication Ethics. Includes material from Guffey text Ch 1. What would you do?. You are driving along in your two-seater car on a very stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus: 1. An old lady who looks like she is about to die.

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Business communication ethics

Business Communication Ethics

Includes material from Guffey text Ch 1

What would you do
What would you do?

You are driving along in your two-seater car on a very stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus:

1. An old lady who looks like she is about to die.

2. An old friend who once saved your life.

3. The perfect man/woman you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car?

Stages of ethical decisions
Stages of Ethical Decisions








Moral awareness
Moral Awareness

  • Violation of a Behavioral Norm

    • Motive (accidental, intentional)

    • Strength (consensus, personal)

    • Relevance (observer, violator)

  • Harm

    • Nature (financial, physical, psychological, etc.)

    • Level (individual, group, societal)

    • Strength (magnitude/concentration of impact)

    • Time Frame (potential, realized)

Moral judgment intent
Moral Judgment/Intent

  • Internal focus

    • impact on me, my family, my career

  • External focus

    • alignment with other’s expectations of me

    • alignment with community norms

  • Integrated focus

    • impact on my view of myself

    • alignment with my internal set of values/ beliefs of justice (equity, dignity, reciprocity)

Moral behavior
Moral Behavior

  • Individual Characteristics

    • Courage

    • Internalization of values/beliefs (strength of convictions)

    • Risk sensitivity (likely reaction/impact on me of action/non-action)

  • Environment Characteristics

    • Norms/expectations

    • Likely reaction/impact of my action/non-action on issue

Examples of unethical behavior by corporations

Financial Harm





Psychological Harm

Beach Nut Baby Apple Juice

Physical Harm

Phillip-Morris Cigarettes

Ford Pinto

Firestone Tires

Nestle Baby Formula

Examples of Unethical Behavior by Corporations

Goals of ethical communication
Goals of Ethical Communication

  • Telling the truth

    • half truths

    • exaggerations

    • deceptions

Goals of ethical communication1
Goals of Ethical Communication

  • Labeling Opinions

    • differentiating between facts (quantifiable and/or verifiable) and opinions (beliefs that are not verified)

    • stating opinions as if they were facts is unethical

Goals of ethical communication2
Goals of Ethical Communication

  • Being Objective

    • recognize your own biases and keep them from distorting your message

    • honest reporting means presenting the whole picture and relating all facts fairly

Goals of ethical communication3
Goals of Ethical Communication

  • Communicating Clearly

    • use simple language comprehensible to average reader

    • short sentences, simple words, clear organization

Goals of ethical communication4
Goals of Ethical Communication

  • Giving Credit

    • referring to originators’ names within the text

    • using quotation marks

    • documenting sources

Five common ethical traps
Five Common Ethical Traps

  • False-necessity

  • Doctrine-of-relative-filth

  • Rationalization

  • Self-deception

  • Ends-justify-the-means

Rotary 4 way test
Rotary 4-Way Test

Of the things we think, say or do:

  • Is it the TRUTH?

  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?


  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

Framework for identifying and resolving ethical issues source dunn bradstreet

Why is this bothering me?

Am I genuinely perplexed?

Am I afraid to do what I know is right?

Who else matters?

Implications for customers, peers shareholders?

How does the problem appear from the other side?

Is it my responsibility?

What will happen if I do/don’t act?

What is the ethical concern?

Legal obligation?

Honesty, fairness, promise-keeping, avoiding harm?

Whom can give me advice?

Supervisor, peers, HR, legal, ethics hot line?

Am I being true to myself?

Consistency with my values and personal commitments? With company values?

Can I share my decision with family, colleagues, customers?

Can I see my decision on the front page of the newspaper?

Framework for Identifying and Resolving Ethical Issues(source: Dunn & Bradstreet)

Markkula center for applied ethics santa clara college
Markkula Center for Applied Ethics (Santa Clara College)

  • What benefits and harms are produced  which action best overall?

  • What moral rights to the parties have  which action respects those rights?

  • Which action treats all equally?

  • Which action advances the common good?

  • Which action develops moral virtue?

Creating ethical companies

Behavior standards


Professional/trade assoc. codes

Community concept of morality

Individual conscience

Organizational policies

Creating Ethical Companies

Creating ethical companies1
Creating Ethical Companies

Ethical culture

  • Code of ethics, ethics training, social audit

  • Managers lead by example

    Ethical infrastructure

  • Hiring processes

  • Evaluation processes

  • Monitoring/control processes

    • Identification/punishment of unethical behavior

    • Incentivise/reward ethical behavior

Ethical communication honesty integrity
Ethical Communication = Honesty/Integrity

“Being honest means more than not deceiving. For leaders within organizations, being honest means do not promise what you can’t deliver, do not misrepresent, do not hide behind spin-doctored evasions, do not suppress obligations, do not evade accountability, do not accept that the ‘survival of the fittest’ pressures of business release any of us from the responsibility to respect another’s dignity and humanity.”

Dalla Costa The Ethical Imperative 1998