Introducing Ethics as Culture

We’ve never lived in times quite like these.

The freedoms that we enjoy, and that so many still fight to defend, have been amplified in amazing new ways by new channels of communication. Our collective voice has never been stronger. Neither has our will to raise that voice to address a wide range of issues and concerns. We demand more. More accountability, more transparency and more action from those we’re invested in – the politicians who represent us, the employers we work for, the businesses we patronize.Ethics as Culture in Public Relations

But it’s one thing to draw more attention to the world’s problems, and quite another to solve them. Despite the greater volume and reach of our collective voice, we continue to witness examples of governments that ignore the needs of their citizens, economies that rise and fall on a tide of unscrupulous activities and corporations that bend the rules in the name of profit.

Some of this, to be sure, is the deliberate work of an unprincipled few. But more often, I think, it flows from an inability of generally well-intentioned people and organizations to maintain an effective ethical compass in our rapidly changing world. Some organizations have fallen behind and don’t understand how to engage in this new communications climate. Others have become too large too fast, growing and expanding at a rate that makes it hard to maintain the strong culture of integrity that’s the foundation for ethical decision-making.

Because that’s really what it all comes down to — people, whatever organization they may be part of, making consistently honest and ethical decisions, one decision at a time.

Ethics as Culture was created to support and promote that kind of business decision-making by providing the tools and resources our employees need to serve our clients in the most ethical manner possible. And its benefits can extend well beyond our own agency teams to the clients we counsel. Through this program, we can help them create a cultural environment in which integrity and ethical behavior are not achieved through a list of rules, but through an innate mindset that permeates all levels of the organization.

I sincerely hope you find this resource guide and associated training materials to be valuable as you review and further develop your company’s ethics initiatives. Please share it with your employees and colleagues. This is an opportunity to set an even higher standard of excellence for our industry, as well as provide our partners with a behavioral model that will help them succeed in this new world.

6 thoughts on “Introducing Ethics as Culture

  1. This is an important subject for all Council Members. The Ethics as Cuture webinar provided last week to Council members demonstrates the holistic integration among what is ethical, credible and legal. I was pleased to team up with the Council on this valuable webinar. Thanks to Dave Senay for his leadership and to FH for contributions.

  2. Linhart Public Relations has adopted the Ethics program and utilized it in a training session for our entire team. It was turn-key and easily adapted to our group. We will continue to use the relevant sample scenarios to generate ethics discussions in staff gatherings. We found that our team enjoyed the training and want more! Thanks to the Council and to Dave Senay and FH for developing such a comprehensive, pertinent program and making it readily available!

  3. Promoting an ethical climate will have benefits that we the whole organization can enjoy. Ethics as a culture should be integrated in to the culture of the organization itself. Having a written ethical code is not enough by itself.

    According to Johannesen, Valde, and Whedbee (2008), “The types of ethical climates existing in an organization or group influence what ethical conflicts are considered, the process by which such conflicts are resolved, and the characteristics of their resolution. The 2005 National Business Ethics Survey found the ethical culture of an organization influences people’s perceptions and actions: ethical behaviors on the part of top management is associated with employees observing less misconduct; ethical actions by coworkers is associated with employees having an increased willingness to report misconduct; and employees’ overall satisfaction increases when they perceive that organizational members are held accountable for their actions”(p. 157-158).

    Having the culture of an organization with ethics integrated in to the culture can boost employee morale. Having an overall employee population with a high morale leads to the organization as a whole being more productive.

    Johannesen, R.L., Valde, K.S., Whedbee, K.E. (2008). Ethics in Human Communication. Long Grove, IL, Waveland Press, Inc.


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