Chapter 4: Weighing the Ethical Issues

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ENG-2050 Chapter 4

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  • This chapter introduces the long-overlooked notion of accountability, and serves as a
    reference point for ethical considerations throughout the text and the course. Students need
    to understand that their communications choices have definite ethical consequences, and
    that standards of usefulness and persuasiveness have as corollaries standards of honesty
    and fairness.
    Chapter 4 further expands our definition of the communication problem faced by workplace
    writers:
    1. “How do I give readers the information they need?” (The Information Problem)
    2. “How can I get the response I want?” (The Persuasion Problem)
    3. “How can I do the right thing?” (The Ethics Problem)
    The focus here is on ethical dilemmas in the workplace and on the causes and effects of
    deliberate miscommunication.
    Here is a dilemma we face as writing teachers who could presume to teach ethics at all:
    Should we advance the organizational perspective (which tends to stress professional
    competence and the organization’s welfare) or the academic perspective (which tends to
    stress social good)? One researcher points out that the first perspective engenders ethical
    equivocation, while the second imposes rarefied standards that are seen as unrealistic in
    the world of work. [See Gregory Clark’s lucid and insightful article, “Ethics in Communication:
    A Rhetorical Perspective,” IEEE Transactions in Professional Communication 30.3
    (September 1987): 190–196.]
    This chapter aims at a balance (albeit tenuous) between equivocal and polemical viewpoints
    by taking a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, approach to the ethics problem:
    namely, by examining the issues and inviting readers to draw their own conclusions.
  • Answers
    1. Behaving in a manner that is accurate, honest, and fair.
    2. Yielding to social pressure and blindly following the group.
    3. Any of the following: Suppressing knowledge the public needs, hiding conflicts of interest, exaggerating claims about technology, falsifying or fabricating data, using visual images that conceal the truth, stealing or divulging proprietary information, misusing electronic information, withholding information people need for their jobs, exploiting cultural differences.
    4. Use your critical thinking skills.
    5. They are standards that most people consider acceptable, and they can help you make ethical decisions.
  • Answers (continued)
    6. Obligation to yourself, obligation to clients and customers, obligation to your company, obligation to coworkers, obligation to the community, and obligation to society.
    7. Legal guidelines often do not go far enough to measure unethical behavior.
    8. Representing the words, ideas, or perspectives of others as your own.
    9. Intentional and unintentional.
    10. Whistle-blowing is reporting someone else’s ethical abuses.
  • Chapter 4: Weighing the Ethical Issues

    1. 1. Chapter 4 Weighing the Ethical Issues Technical Communication, 13th Edition John M. Lannon Laura J. Gurak Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    2. 2. Learning Objectives  Appreciate the role of ethics in technical communication  Identify workplace pressures that lead to unethical communication  Recognize common workplace examples of hiding the truth  Use critical thinking to help solve ethical dilemmas  Differentiate between ethical practices and legal guidelines Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    3. 3. Learning Objectives (continued)  Avoid plagiarism—either intentional or unintentional  Determine when and how to report ethical violations on the job Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    4. 4. Ethics When providing information or persuading an audience, always ensure that your writing is ethical: accurate, honest, and fair. Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    5. 5. Recognize Unethical Communication in the Workplace Unethical workplace behaviors are common, but they are not always black and white. Usually they are a result of yielding to social pressure and blindly following the group: Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    6. 6. Understand the Potential for Communication Abuse Unethical workplace communication usually takes on the following forms: Suppressing knowledge the public needs Hiding conflicts of interest Exaggerating claims about technology Falsifying or fabricating data Using visual images that conceal the truth Stealing or divulging proprietary information Misusing electronic information Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    7. 7. Understand the Potential for Communication Abuse (continued)  Withholding information people need for their jobs  Exploiting cultural differences Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    8. 8. Rely on Critical Thinking for Ethical Decisions Keep in mind reasonable criteria (standards that most people consider acceptable) when faced with ethical dilemmas: Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    9. 9. Rely on Critical Thinking for Ethical Decisions (continued) Reasonable criteria take the form of the following obligations: obligation to yourself obligation to clients and customers obligation to your company obligation to coworkers obligation to the community obligation to society Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    10. 10. Never Depend Only on Legal Guidelines Legal guidelines often do not go far enough to measure unethical behavior. For example, the following misleading statements are not illegal: Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    11. 11. Learn to Recognize Plagiarism  Ethical communication includes giving proper credit to the work of others. In both workplace and academic settings, plagiarism (representing the words, ideas, or perspectives of others as your own) is a serious breach of ethics.  Plagiarism can be either blatant or unintentional.  The Internet has only made plagiarism easier than ever before. Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    12. 12. Decide When and How to Report Ethical Abuses Whistle-blowing is reporting someone else’s ethical abuses, but is tricky because it can backfire on you and you will not always be legally protected from the consequences. Think very carefully about deciding when and how to report unethical situations in the workplace. Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    13. 13. Review Questions 1. What is the definition of ethics? 2. What are the two major causes of unethical behavior in the workplace? 3. What are five types of ethical abuses that are common in the workplace? 4. What is the best way to make ethical decisions on the job? 5. What are reasonable criteria and why are they important? Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
    14. 14. Review Questions (continued) 6. What are the six types of obligations to keep in mind in order to make ethical decisions? 7. Why can’t you always depend on legal guidelines to act ethically? 8. What is the definition of plagiarism? 9. What are the two types of plagiarism? 10. What is whistle-blowing? Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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