• Joseph Brennan

Ethical Decisions: 8 Steps

Several years ago I was serving as ethics officer for my local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. I wanted to get a sense of what was happening, so I sent out a survey to the senior PR professionals asking how often they’d been asked to do something they thought unethical – and 100 percent reported this happened at least once a year (with many more saying they encountered this pressure more often).


Trevino and Nelson recommend 8 steps to follow when confronted with an ethical dilemma in their excellent text Managing Business Ethics:

  1. Gather the facts.

  2. Define the ethical issues.

  3. Identify the affected parties.

  4. Identify the consequences.

  5. Identify the obligations.

  6. Consider your character and integrity.

  7. Think creatively about potential actions.

  8. Check your gut.

"Check your gut" - even if you can rationalize a decision, take a moment to listen to what you are sensing. Our bodies tell us things that our minds don't know.


And stress takes a toll on our bodies. The challenge of facing ethical dilemmas may be why so many PR people report high levels of stress, as documented in a survey I did with Jim Lukaszewski a few years back.

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