25. March, 2016|Blog, Featured Blog Post|Comments Off on Ethical Communication is Individual, Not Corporate

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I spoke to a group of college students last week about ethics in communication, and I stressed this point: ethical choices are made by individuals.

When false or misleading information is released by a company or nonprofit, people often talk about the unethical organization.

While meetings may occur among a group of leaders – and while a statement may come out on company letterhead – ultimately, the decision for what and how to communicate comes down to a person. A single individual.

One person types the information onto the page – the speech, the statement, the talking points – or one person stands at the microphone and speaks the lie or the slightly off-kilter information that leads the public away from the truth.

This is important to note because often many people are involved in developing the strategy or the words – therefore no single individual feels responsible.

The CEO makes a decision and tells the vice president or chief communications officer to figure out how to communicate it.

The VP passes the communication challenge on to a spokeperson or perhaps to a director of communication or a department head.

The director or spokesperson may get help from a staff wordsmith to craft the carefully worded statement.

All this activity may occur within a single hour or over days. Regardless, at any step along the way – any one of these individuals can say, “Stop! That’s wrong!” or “I refuse to say this” or “Let’s reconsider our approach.”

So when three leaders at a university all choose to release a statement saying there is no sign of foul play when a student is obviously murdered, you wonder why no one said, “We can’t say this. It puts students at risk.”

Or when a national nonprofit consistently releases faulty statements about the organization’s finances, you wonder, “Where was the ethical leader?”

It just takes one person to ask why. To check the facts. To reconsider the tweet. To ask, “Will this hurt anyone?”

Ethical communication flows from ethical people who have the courage to speak up, to stand up – and perhaps – to walk out. Organizations aren’t ethical or unethical. People are.

Post by Dr. Michelle Morris, GideonStone, LLC, CEO and Managing Partner

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