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3.6: Communicating Ethically

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    As you consider ethical communication within workplace contexts, make sure to think about the following:

    • The code of ethics within your field
    • The code of ethics followed by your employer, and
    • Your own personal code of ethics

    Once you are on the job, you will be asked to create many documents during your professional career. Some writing you do may be daily tasks or simple and straightforward documents. Other writing tasks may be more complex and require research or navigating difficult professional situations. In all of these contexts, understand that it is important to never mislead someone or a company, misrepresent information, or stereotype.

    Misleading can mean multiple things when writing in professional contexts. In one scenario, do not mislead simply refers to not misleading with facts or other information. Facts must be presented clearly and effectively. Be cautious when using figures, charts and tables, making sure they are not misleading. While this may seem easy to read about, when the pressure is on and there are deadlines to meet, taking shortcuts and stretching the truth are very common.

    A less common form of misleading is through plagiarism. You may think of plagiarism within educational contexts, but the truth is plagiarism can happen anywhere, even in business environments. Plagiarizing is misrepresenting the source or facts, most commonly when you claim the ideas you are writing about are yours. When you are researching professional documents, make sure you are using material with permission and that you are also correctly citing all sources of that information. If you are writing about what you’ve researched, make sure you are citing the sources of your information and giving credit to all the necessary researchers.

    You also need to be aware of laws regarding intellectual property.Intellectual property includes patents, or items whose credit for creation is protected; trademarks, meaning company names, logos, or slogans; and copyright, which are items whose distribution is protected by law. None of these things can be used without proper recognition or approval of the company or creator.

    You also want to be careful not to manipulate. If you are holding a professional job, it is understood that you have a decent ability to write persuasively. Do not use your ability to persuade people to do what is not in their best interest. A good writer with a bad motive can twist words to make something sound like it is beneficial to all audiences. The audience may find out too late that what you wrote only benefited you and actual ended up hurting them. In the end, this kind of behavior will only hurt your professional reputation and may even cost you a job, or even your career in extreme cases.

    Finally, when communicating ethically in professional contexts, you want to avoid stereotyping. Most stereotyping takes place subconsciously. Remember that all workplaces have anti-discrimination policies, so make sure you understand these policies and know what behaviors may be counterintuitive to such policies. A good rule of thumb is to always have a co-worker proofread your documents just in case you may have written something that goes against a particular policy or code of ethics.


    You now know some ways to communicate ethically, but you likely also will find yourself in a situation where you may have to address unethical practices in the workplace. Addressing unethical situations is not easy, and often requires that you perform the following tasks for addressing an unethical situation:

    1. Ask questions: While this action sounds simple, asking questions serves as an effective way of getting attention on an unethical practice. Ask questions about who certain decisions are affecting and how those individuals or groups are affected by those decisions. Ask why particular decisions were made. Asking these types of questions will help to not put you on the spot, but help to show that you are concerned about the decision making that was involved in a particular situation or process.
    2. Use facts and reason: Avoid accusations. Instead focus on the facts of the situation and the reasons decisions were made. Before you react to a situation you believe is unethical, learn as many facts about the situation and know the reasons for making those decisions. If you base your thoughts around a situation on the facts of the case, you will be seen as someone who has considered the situation seriously and the company will likely take your opinions seriously.
    3. Remain open to other ideas: You want to use the ideas of others in your approach to a solution. People often have different ethical values, so you want to use the ideas of others as well as consider your own ideas. Doing this will help you be more ethical in the overall approach you take.

    Hopefully any unethical situation you come into contact with will be easy to manage. You may have to work with extremely difficult, and timely, ethical concerns. Keeping the ideas presented above in mind when you encounter these challenges will help your job, and your career, progress more smoothly.

    3.6: Communicating Ethically is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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