March 10th, 2019
Have you ever run an engagement survey only to be told by leaders to not share the results with the business as they were far from flattering? Or been asked to only share the positive results?
It’s a dilemma many internal communicators find themselves in – do they do what they’re being asked by their boss or do they speak up for what is ethically right?
I recently attended a CIPR Inside session run by Katherine Bradshaw from the Institute of Business Ethics and Katie Marlow from Little Bird Communication. It was a fascinating insight into the various ethical dilemmas we can find ourselves in and how to deal with them.
For example, we make decisions every day and many of them have ethical components whether we consciously realise it or not. For example, tweaking a few words in an intranet article to make some bad news a bit more palatable. Is that good communication because you’re being sensitive to how an audience will receive the information or is it not being entirely transparent with your employees?
Or, when we’re reviewing metrics from our various channels do we, however well intentioned, search for the most positive interpretation and share that with our key stakeholders?
Our role as internal communicators also means that we’re party to information the average employee just doesn’t see. But what if a confidential piece of information we know directly impacts our friend in another department? Do we tell them but ask them to keep it to themselves? Or do we not tell them and risk incurring their wrath when they find out we knew all along?
Navigating the world of ethics isn’t easy. But there are resources out there to help.
Professional bodies such as CIPR and IoIC have codes of conducts that their members are expected to abide by and this includes ethical standards. It can be hugely helpful to reference your professional integrity as a member of a professional body when raising concerns about an ethical dilemma as it adds weight to your argument.
You can also visit the Institute of Business Ethics’ website that has extensive resources, advice and research.
This type of support matters because speaking up is scary and requires a lot of confidence. At the ethics event, Katherine shared a Martin Luther King quote that perfectly summed up why we need to need to speak up when we see unethical behaviour, however scary it may seem:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
We have a responsibility to our employees and stakeholders to communicate in an ethical way. It should form the foundation of the decisions we make and the behaviours we exhibit. Up until recently, ethics was rarely spoken about in relation to internal communications but I’m pleased to see the conversation gaining momentum.
Ethics can be complicated, and we need to consciously consider it in all we do. The more we talk about it, the more we can support each other in doing the right thing.