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Anti-Employer Blogging: An Overview of Legal and Ethical Issues   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Anti-employer blogs, those which criticize companies or their employees, are posing significant legal and ethical challenges for corporations. The important legal issue is the conflict between the employee's legal duty of loyalty to the employer and the employee's right to free speech. Although U.S. and state law describes what an employee may or may not say in a blog, corporations should encourage employees to contribute to the process of creating clear, reasonable policies that will help prevent expensive court cases. The important ethical issue concerning anti-employer blogs is whether an employee incurs an ethical duty of loyalty. In this article, I conclude that there is no such ethical duty. The legal duty of loyalty, explained in a company-written policy statement that employees must endorse as a condition of employment, offers the best means of protecting the legal and ethical rights of both employers and employees.

Markel, Mike. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Blogging>Ethics


Building Your Personal Brand Online

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that we are operating in a distrustful world, and that both companies and individual executives are subject to suspicion. In 2005, a worldwide Gallup poll found that 40 percent of people believe that company leaders are “largely dishonest,” and a 2006 Watson Wyatt study says that only 56 percent of company employees believe their top management acts with honesty and integrity. These are worrisome figures, given that senior executives worry a great deal about their companies’ reputations but may spend little time on their own.

Fierman, Stephanie. Communication World Bulletin (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics>Online


Embracing Left and Right: Image Repair and Crisis Communication in a Polarized Ideological Milieu   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The author explores how a tobacco firm in crisis engaged in crisis communication and image repair work in a highly polarized ideological milieu. Through an analysis of the tobacco firm's public statements produced in the aftermath of a 1997 lawsuit, the author demonstrates how the firm dealt with its milieu by exploiting and embracing both of the ambient ideological poles. By embracing these poles, the firm turned critique and opposition into discursive resources for its crisis communication. The author argues that political-ideological framing of organizational communication and discursive appropriation of critique and opposition serve as critical foci for organizational communication scholarship.

Svensson, Peter. Management Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Crisis Communication>Ethics


An Ethical Gamble   (PDF)

Are the ethical issues affected by a vendor's status as an offshore operation? By the prospect of Internet gambling becoming illegal in the U.S. (bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives)? By the presumption of shady morals in the gambling industry? Should one's choices be affected by his/her rocky employment history?

Bryan, John G. Intercom (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics


Interpreting Ethics as a Daily Mandate

There is much discussion in today’s corporate environment about accountability and responsibility. This rich debate has led me to consider at length the subject of applied or “operationalized” ethics. As lead counselors of senior management, and as the primary liaison to the public, we are in a position of great influence. Our behavior must be credible for our organizations to foster a positive image and reputation.

Silver, Gillian. Communication World Bulletin (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics


Legal and Ethical Issues of the Corporate Blogosphere   (members only)

In the increasingly competitive global economy, corporations throughout the world must take advantage of all the marketing and communication tools available to them, including blogging. Blogs allow corporations to connect with their stakeholders in a more personal way and, thus, strengthen their image, brand, and customer loyalty. Instant feedback is available through comments posted on the corporate blog, saving organizations large sums of money otherwise spent on market research. However, entering the blogosphere poses a number of risks for a corporation, such as potential damage to the corporate reputation and customer loyalty as well as legal liability. Conflicts still exist between the rights of bloggers and a corporation's interests. Blogs may be restricted by legal and ethical boundaries, which may differ across countries. This paper presents the benefits and risks associated with corporate blogging around the world and provides some interesting success stories as well as lessons learned. It also offers a compilation of guidelines for effective blogging and suggests topics for future research.

Strother, Judith B., Zohra Fazal and Melinda Millsap. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Blogging>Ethics


Mirror, Mirror

A few months ago, I read with interest an article that indicated that executives are influenced more by the court of public opinion as a catalyst for making positive behavior changes than they are by even a court of law. So what contribution do we make to this discussion, as public relations and media relations practitioners? Do we shove our heads in the sand and say, "It's not up to us to influence the ethical behavior of our internal and external clients"?

Bergman, Eric. Communication World Bulletin (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Public Relations>Ethics


A Response To Patrick Moore's 'Questioning The Motives Of Technical Communication and Rhetoric: Steven Katz's 'Ethic Of Expediency''   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In my 1992 College English article 'The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust' [1], I looked at the implications of a Nazi memo whose sole purpose was to improve the efficiency of the gassing vans, in order to begin to try to understand and discuss the negative uses and ethical abuses to which technical communication, and deliberative rhetoric generally, could be taken by the powerful and unscrupulous. In 'Questioning the Motives of Technical Communication and Rhetoric: Steven Katz's 'Ethic of Expediency'' [2], Patrick Moore accuses me of ignoring alternate translations, citing out of context, and focusing on the negative meaning of words to make my case. The point at issue in these charges, I believe, is whether (and to what degree) Aristotle meant to base deliberative discourse on 'expediency.' I will take each of these charges up one at a time to explore them more thoroughly, discuss their interrelations, and then conclude with a few observations of my own.

Katz, Steven B. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics>Theory


Tweet Ethics: Trust and Transparency in a Web 2.0 World

Don’t we all want to get the conversation going in a positive direction when it comes to representing the companies and clients we work for? And while there have, of course, always been incidents of deception in journalism and PR, somehow the advent of the Internet and social media has made this a much bigger issue. As PR representatives and journalists for individuals and companies learn more about the benefits of Twitter and other forms of social media, questions are arising about how—and how not—to present information.

Pophal, Linda. Communication World Bulletin (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics>Social Networking


Waiver Culture: The Unintended Consequence of Ethics Compliance   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The passage of the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002) spawned a series of compliance and ethics programs--the revised Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations known as the Thompson Memo (Thompson, 2003), the revised Federal Sentencing Guidelines that included the Effective Compliance and Ethics Program and the corporate 'culpability score' (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2004), and another revision of the Principles of Federal Prosecution of Business Organizations now known as the McNulty Memo (McNulty, 2006). These programs were meant to shift business toward an 'organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law' (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2007). These developments spurred human resource departments and legal counsel to draft new workplace policies to embrace, implement, and monitor compliance programs. Consequently, there was a dramatic increase in the number of businesses with some kind of ethics training: from 44% in pre-guideline 1987 up to 92% in post-guideline 2005 (Berenbeim, 2006). Because compliance with the McNulty Memo and Federal Sentencing Guidelines can substantially reduce an organization's sentence of improper conduct or cause the government not to prosecute (Berenbeim, 2006), an organization under investigation could turn to its newly minted compliance programs and its cooperation as a shield. But these federal guidelines lacked a clear definition of an organization's 'cooperation' and whether a lack of cooperation could be viewed as obstruction of justice and thereby increase punishment of that organization.

Genova, Gina L. Business Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Legal>Ethics


Why Corporate Social Responsibility? An Analysis of Drivers of CSR in India   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study aimed to generate a more nuanced and socioculturally grounded analysis of the key drivers of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in India than those provided by current debates. Results, based on 19 elite, in-depth conversations with business leaders and senior managers actively involved in shaping CSR in India revealed that participant understandings of the drivers of CSR in India simultaneously negotiated apparently contradictory notions of moral and economic imperatives. Building on earlier calls for culturally locating the study of CSR, the article further proposes that the ancient Indian concept of dharma might be a probable theoretical framework within which these key drivers of CSR in India could be further understood.

Dhanesh, Ganga S. Management Communication Quarterly (2015). Articles>Business Communication>Ethics>India

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