Communication in Organizations

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What are examples of ethical communication?

An example of ethical communication include a company providing a community with warning of disturbances which may take place in their area and responding to any crisis quickly and honestly. On an interpersonal level, ethical communication involves being honest and transparent.

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Ethical communication is an extremely broad term. This term can be used to refer to any type of communication in which one is honest and responsible. I will put this into perspective with some examples as requested.

If a company was going to undertake a project that would temporarily bring a lot of noise pollution into a neighborhood, an example of ethical communication would be sending a notice to residents of the area warning them about the disturbance and explaining the reasons for it.

Times of crisis are another example of when good ethical communication is an absolute necessity. For example, if the above-mentioned company accidentally caused an oil spill into a river that ran through a residential neighborhood, they would need to communicate factually and ethically in order to minimize the damage to their reputation.

With the term "ethical communication" being so broad, it is not limited to written communication. It can be extended to verbal communication, as well as the content we post on social media.

Being truthful with your employer when asked tough questions can be classified as ethical communication, while lying to protect yourself would be unethical. Being mindful of what you share on social media and ensuring that any news articles you share are not fake would be another great example of ethical communication.

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"Ethical communication" simply refers to the practice of conveying honest information in a manner that is not intended to be misleading. In other words, the information should be presented within a context that ensures that the information is not misleading as a result of being conveyed in a sort of vacuum. Information might be true, but if it is not presented in a fair and open manner, then it serves to distort the recipient's understanding.

One form of ethical communication involves the questioning of suspects and witnesses by police officers and prosecutors. Interrogations sometimes involve deliberately misleading information that, while accurate, is conveyed in a manner intended to confuse the suspect or witness. A suspect in a criminal investigation might be told that he or she was seen committing the act in question but not that the supposed witness was known to be unreliable, had viewed the act from a great distance, or had viewed the act under conditions that would obscure visibility. In this case, the suspect, or somebody who looks like him or her, was seen, but this occurred under adverse conditions, rendering any testimony by the witness unreliable.

Another form of ethical communication could involve the techniques used by automobile dealerships to sell vehicles. The buying and selling of automobiles is a notoriously difficult process in which the seller, whether a dealer or a private citizen, is almost always going to conceal certain facts about the vehicle in question regarding its reliability, such as whether it has an oil leak that will require repairs. The prospects of a sell may hinge on a certain amount of deception regarding the vehicle's condition. This would clearly involve unethical communication. A salesman or private citizen selling a car who divulges the entire history of the vehicle, including any accidents in which it has been involved, is practicing ethical communication.

A third example of ethical communication could involve a physician and his or her patient. The code of ethics under which medical professionals operate is very strict with regard to honesty and integrity, but there are bad individuals in every profession, including medicine. Doctors have been known to prescribe medications and recommend procedures that they know are not necessary but will generate revenue. Ethical communication, then, would be those that inform the patient honestly and with no regard for fiduciary matters. Anytime a surgeon informs a patient that surgery is not necessary, it is usually an example of ethical communication in practice.

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In business communication, one often needs to make ethical choices about what information to provide and how to provide it. One way to understand this is to think about relevant ethical dilemmas or test cases.

Scenario 1: Your company is considering closing a factory in the United States and outsourcing production to Mexico. The earlier you inform workers of this decision, the more time they will have to find new positions, something obviously beneficial to them. Such early notification may also result in high employee turnover and low morale in the period immediately preceding the factory closure, though. When to tell workers of the impending plant closure is an example of an ethical issue in business communications.

Scenario 2: Imagine an engineer discovers a flaw in a part that might, under rare conditions, cause that part to fail. The engineer includes a mention of this possibility in a report. As a manager, you have the choice of highlighting the problem, causing a missed deadline and loss of revenue as the part is re-engineered, or you minimize the risks in your reports to upper management. This sort of failure of communication was a crucial element in the Challenger disaster.

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