Ethics in Communication
by Nathan Beavers
Chapter 3 of Management Communications: A Case Analysis Approach deals with Communication Ethics. It is analyzed by the various levels of people communication could affect, the views on how to make a decision from communication, the nature of moral judgment and many other topics dealing with how ethics an important part of managerial communication, rather it be from employers to employees, employees to employers, or peers to peers in an organization.
While working for Kroger, a grocery store, I have been subjected to a lack of ethics in communication, or just a lack of ethics overall, for some time. The most telling incident happened a few years ago. There is a policy that allows an employee to clock in and out seven minutes before or after your shift ends or begins. This allowed for workers to arrive “late” and leave “early” according to management, which they deemed time theft. During the holidays they would particularly try to drive this point home, requiring us to review our hours and signing for our paychecks to acknowledge we understood we had unaccounted for time. However, these did not dissuade anyone. This finally stopped for a few weeks. Eventually, they called up the most egregious offenders of their policy. Management explained to them that because of their time theft under the new policy, they would have disciplinary action brought against them and be on probation for the next six months. No one had heard of the new policy and pointed this out. Management said they had posted it in the break room on the bulletin board. Everyone accepted the punishment reluctantly. It was then that most found out that a notice had been put on the bulletin board, behind three other older notices.
Admittedly, the time theft should not have continued, but if there is a loophole in the system that benefits someone, odds are good that they will take advantage of the loophole. That does not make it right or wrong. The real issue here was management. I believe they were not even close to being ethical when they put a notice on change in policy behind several other notices. They failed to make a moral decision. Moral leadership would not have “trapped” employees when not making a policy change, and in doing so proved that they could not act ethically or make ethical decisions.