What Happened to Common Courtesy
and Business Ethics?

June 27, 2020



Business ethics is something we face every day, in every industry. We started thinking about basic common and professional courtesy and the changing standards of both. How can we maintain our integrity when society and politicians are lowering their standards of what is acceptable?

Do The Right Thing In Marketing
Do The Right Thing In Marketing

Social Media is the most casual form of public relations. That doesn’t mean we should be casual in our level of professionalism, even as it becomes more acceptable on our personal pages.

We often are compelled to comment on a hot button post in our personal news feed, try as we might to fight that impulse. We shouldn’t argue politics, religion or social issues on social media, but what we ought to try is to say, “Argue if you must, but let’s play fair.” If people are nice, you might get an, “Aw. Come here and let me pat you on the head, you poor, naive soul,” type of response. But usually people aren’t nice, and we get blatant condescension. We’re often left to wonder, “Is there no such thing as common courtesy anymore?”

Our impulse to comment doesn’t stem from some superior level of human decency, but from working in an industry where posting false, unfair or ugly remarks on social media will land our company in hot water and send us looking for a new job.

Do you think a social climate where personal standards of courtesy are being diminished will influence professional courtesy or social communication standards? We shudder to think. As advertising and public relations professionals, it’s up to us to keep the bar set high. Let’s remember what happens when our social actions are not guided by clear, professional standards.

What about formal news outlets? Everyone accuses the media of bias. We know there are some major conspiracy theories about some “unnamed” media outlets, but we do pay careful attention to every word and phrase presented.

We can talk all day about legal wording or ethics, but humans with a point of view are clever little things. And it’s not that hard to present something technically correct but clearly produced to manipulate.

If you’ve never considered the ways in which information can be intentionally misleading, please watch this re-edited trailer depicting Stephen King’s The Shining.

Every day, we are faced with ethical challenges. In many cases, our professional ethics are governed by a formal code of conduct, other times by the law. Then there are the grey areas where we must rely on our own professional standards and conscience. What happens when it’s difficult to determine what is right? Will we go the easy route and then try and rationalize it, or will we pause and take the high road?

No one ever said doing the right thing is easy, but keeping our integrity, both professionally and personally, is always worth it.

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