Many businesses claim to promote the values of trust, honesty, and transparency in their day-to-day practices. However, what an organisation says doesn’t always align with what an organisation does. When this happens, businesses can face harsh financial and reputational consequences.
Communication ethics are critical. Not only for avoiding these pitfalls but to build a strong company culture and help you create positive business relationships. Employing the key elements of ethical communication can make your business seem more credible and trustworthy. It can also enhance the decision-making process, help you negate unnecessary conflict and create better business relationships.
Taking responsibility now can ensure you avoid the risks and pitfalls of unethical communication. This can ensure your success in the future. Here’s everything you need to know about ethical communication.
What is ethical communication?
Around the world, ethical standards are improving. According to the Institute of Business Ethics, 37% of employees say their organisations have improved ethically since the pandemic. It’s no wonder, with activism and positive action a major governing voice behind the consumer behaviour of Millennials and Gen Z.
Much like ethical practices, ethical communication is also imperative to modern business practices. Ethical communication is a set of principles based on certain business values that are used to guide corporate communication practices. It determines that a business communicator’s thoughts and messages need to be expressed effectively and concisely.
Generally, ethical communication refers to communication that’s clear, truthful, concise and responsible. It’s also a communicative style characterised by a desire to understand and appreciate the different needs of the audience involved.
The basic principles of ethical communication
It’s generally acknowledged that there are four pillars, or key elements, to ethical communication. Each pillar is essential in fostering a strong framework of communication ethics. In fact, if even one of these key elements were to be ignored, the entire ethical balance would be jeopardised. Here are those key ethical communication principles in more detail.
Honesty and transparency
Transparent and honest communication is the cornerstone practice of any ethical communicator. On behalf of your business, everything you say must be 100% truthful. You should also tell the whole truth, not just the partial truth or a fragment of more complex facts. Doing so would put you at risk of reputational damage.
Workplace communication should always be clear in both message and purpose. You should also take a great deal of care to make sure you communicate lawfully. This means adhering to any regulations that might govern your industry.
As an example, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated by global laws and codes of practice. While ethical business communication isn’t always governed by the same laws, it’s still important to stick to the basic principles.
Ethical communication should also go hand in hand with ethical behaviour. A company that doesn’t practice what they preach will inevitably end up seeming less credible. If your business is believed to be untrustworthy, this will no doubt have a negative impact on business relationships in the future.
Communication isn’t just about who is creating and presenting the messages, it’s also about who is receiving those messages. When communication becomes overcomplicated with too much jargon, for example, it’s not going to appeal to the general population.
Ethical communication is about speaking with the audience in mind. Using simple words that are easy to understand will be far more appreciated than using language that’s too highbrow. It also wouldn’t make much sense to communicate vital business information in English if you’re talking to an audience who speaks Italian, for example.
You also need to consider the way you communicate. Are you communicating information using an inaccessible platform? Technology accessibility and disability accessibility are just as important as language accessibility.
Choosing the right time and place
The timing and placement of messaging can sometimes be overlooked. However, this is an important factor in ethical communications. An advert for a scary film, for example, shouldn’t be shown on TV before 8 pm, when children might be watching. This might seem like an obvious ethical consideration, but it demonstrates the importance of time and place.
Communicating ethically means being mindful of where your messaging goes. Think about the when and where as you plan your communication strategy. Research your audience and think about the most appropriate channel and platform options for your messages. Also, be mindful of any events as they occur, such as natural disasters or even terrorist attacks.
Respect privacy and confidentiality
Data protection, privacy and cybersecurity are global concerns. It seems as though news channels are constantly reporting about the latest data breach or cyber incident. There were an average of 97 data breach victims every hour around the world in 2021.
The confidentiality of your customers and clients is hugely important in business ethics. Many companies and organisations capture and process data for marketing purposes. It’s important to keep this information secure. Sharing this information would violate the trust your clients and customers have in your business.
The importance of ethical communication
When sharing messages, every business should be guided by the key elements of ethical communication. Not only are professional ethics morally right, but practising ethical values can be an effective strategy for business success.
Ethical conduct will help you build a foundation of trust in your organisation while avoiding the risks associated with unethical behaviour. It’ll also help you build stronger relationships with customers and employees.