When we turn to Webster to define ethics, it means moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior. Why then when it comes to what is “right” and what is “wrong”, is there misinterpretation? It’s likely because it varies by an individual’s upbringing and culture.
My upbringing was full of guidelines. I can still hear my mom say, tell the truth, play nicely with others, be accepting, and mind your manners. One of the hardest ones my dad would say, is life isn’t fair. Both would join in with, there is an omnipotent presence (God) who loves you and is walking beside you. For me, those guidelines and Christian values helped define my ethics barometer.
When I joined the Navy, it was a valuable lesson about values and ethics. As a slick sleeve Navy seaman (meaning an E-0) I had to earn every stripe along the way. My first six months were cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, emptying the trash, painting flagpoles, mowing the lawn and picking up around the base.
When I was done with this assignment, I was able to move on and use my typing skills to work my way up. I became responsible for creating the Plan of the Day, giving important news, watch schedules, events and activities to the troops where I was stationed.
Through these duties, I learned to respect the individual. Just because I was mopping the floors, or typing didn’t mean I wasn’t part of the bigger picture. In the military you’re exposed to the broadest mix of people you can find. As sailors, we come from all backgrounds, cultures and countries. We worked alongside immigrants from Haiti, the Philippines and Canada to name a few. They wanted to become American citizens. And we all took the time to pull together to be one team with a singular focus, to defend American freedom.
In my military travels I began to better value our American way of life. Other countries didn’t have the luxuries we had. Like a democracy, an abundance of food and supplies, and the ability to change your lot in life. In fact, in some countries, the people there would be lucky if they saw any of these in their lifetime. It made me realize our many American opportunities.
When I left the Navy , I became affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America. Here I took on a new role as a public relations counselor and advisor. In this capacity, ethics come into play time and time again. My job as PR counselor includes the role as our organization’s ethics barometer. When making decisions, I ask who will this impact? What does it mean? Are we building winning relationships? Are we improving our reputation? Do we uphold our values? How does it align with our values. In 2015, when I attended the PRSA International Conference it was heartwarming to hear PRSA’s Values and ethics:
· Respect for the Individual.
· Courage to speak your mind openly, candidly and respectfully.
· Honesty/Integrity How you will behave when no one will ever know.
· Servant’s heart, having a sincere desire to serve others inside and outside the organization.
· Innovation, creativity and risk taking by uncoupling ourselves from legacy thinking and fear of change.
· Commitment to personal and professional growth. Having both the attitude and aptitude to learn and grow.
Whether raising a family, being in service to our country being a public relations counselor, or whatever you do, values and ethics matter. By looking to these PRSA values, and to the PRSA ethics it is likely we can refine our ethics barometer to point to the moral good.