by Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute (www.bluepencilinstitute.com)
Practicing ethical communication at work isn’t always the easiest way to live. Often, you’ll find it easier to say nothing rather than to tell the truth. However, ethical communication means being truthful and upfront and saying what needs to be said, even when that’s difficult. Fabricating false information is clearly unethical, but so, too, is exaggerating or omitting important information that others need to know.
Ethical communication expresses care and respect for others. Everyone in your workplace deserves to be respected, regardless of the individual’s job, socioeconomic status, gender, race, age, or other characteristics. Communicate with others in ways that demonstrate that respect. And, don’t tolerate communication from others that degrades individuals and humanity through the expression of intolerance and hatred.
Career professionals who practice ethical communication also support others as they share information, opinions, and feelings. Be a person who supports diversity of perspective and freedom of expression in your workplace. Believe wholeheartedly that unethical communication threatens the well-being of others and the integrity of all communication in your workplace. Be a thoughtful listener and keep an open mind to those around you.
Badmouthing your employer or colleagues is unethical communication. Even after work hours, you need to be very careful about what you say about your employer and to whom. Avoid negative communication about your workplace in a public place where your conversation may be overheard. The most ethical behavior is to keep your thoughts to yourself or to address important matters directly with the individuals involved, at appropriate times, in an appropriate place, and in appropriate ways.
Finally, a career professional who communicates ethically maintains confidentiality. Once you’ve agreed to work in your profession or your place of business, you’ve also agreed to abide by certain policies and procedures for maintaining confidentiality. Breaching these rules, except with prior and appropriate permission and under very special circumstances, is unethical communication and carries with it severe consequences. You have an ethical duty not only to keep things confidential by not sharing them wrongfully, but also, to safeguard confidentiality by making sure you’re not overheard and by keeping documents from wandering eyes. Be careful when handling confidential documents or computer files to ensure that others without need don’t have access to the information. Close doors, keep your voice low, and do whatever else you must do to ensure confidentiality.