How To Shine as an Ethical Young Professional

Editor’s Note: To commemorate PRSSA and PRSA Ethics Month, PRSSA is running a series of posts on important ethics issues facing students and young professionals in public relations. An archive of PRSSA ethics-related posts can be found here. You can also read ethics-related PRSA posts on the PRSAY blog.

It is now September, which means it is officially PRSSA and PRSA Ethics Month! September calls for a celebration of our Society that honors the integrity of our profession and upholding our high standards of ethical practice. The process of transitioning to an internship or entry-level position at a company can often be daunting. Throw ethics into the equation, and you could be dizzy by your second week. But don’t worry! These tips will help answer questions young professionals have as they approach ethical situations.

How Can I Be Ethical?
1. Know the PRSA Code of Ethics

Familiarize yourself with the professional values and code provisions in the PRSA Code of Ethics, as these will help aid in your ethical decision-making.

2. Be Honest

Being ethical stems from honesty. We all have a conscience; if you get that “I don’t think I should do this” feeling, you probably shouldn’t do it.

3. Protect the Free Flow of Information

The free flow of information instructs professionals to disclose as much information needed for the public to make educated decisions about a specific issue.

4. Think Strategically

Think strategically about the consequences of any questionable decision or action.

What if my supervisor asks me to do something unethical?
1. Evaluate the Situation for Ethical Issues

Use the PRSA Ethical Decision Making Guide to determine whether an action is unethical. Consider: does the action negatively affect any party involved or violate your morality?

2. Speak Your Mind

Young professionals must speak their mind. It’s okay to respectfully explain to a supervisor you aren’t comfortable with an assigned task. Remember your integrity and professionalism are constantly on the line, so speak up!

3. Present a Better Solution

If you are going to execute my last point, and speak with your supervisor, it’s best to present your supervisor with an alternative and ethical resolution. Be proactive and try to create an ethical solution.

4. Seek Guidance

Mentorship is important. Seek a mentor you trust and can confide in. Leaving names out, discuss the situation and how you think it should be solved. Mentors give great advice.

What if I witness unethical behavior?
1. Report the Issue

As professionals, we should report any suspicious issue we think is unethical. Watching unethical acts and not making them right is also unethical. Respectfully (possibly anonymously) report the issue.

2. Do Not Counsel

If you witness unethical behavior, don’t attempt to counsel that person on his or her ethics. Both parties will argue and nothing will get accomplished. In addition, it isn’t really your place. That is a job for the supervisor.

3. Learn From Mistakes

Let experiences help you understand this is a constant learning process. Learn from your mistakes and learn from others’ mistakes. Learn as you go, and don’t ever stop.

If you need any assistance with ethics or have questions please feel free to contact me at any point during the year. I am here to help support you through the professional transition period.

How are you and your Chapter celebrating PRSA Ethics Month? We would love to know, so share your programming ideas!

This is a guest post from National President Adam Aisner.

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