When it clashes

I hope that I will never be in the position where I must choose between my companies morals and my own – but what if I am?

I thought that normally when you join a company you have a duty and a loyalty to that company and you must stick by it, but is this all changing?

‘The Future of PR is underway, and it’s defining who we are and what we choose to represent. Yes, it’s about what we choose to represent (not what we have to or are told to). We’re empowered to make decisions that serve our best interests in the long term, as well as the interests of those companies that need our help. If you don’t have room to grow within your organisation because management chooses not to believe in or conform to the new era of conversations between company executives and those who represent important communities, perhaps your ambition and talents will be appreciated else where’ (Brain Solis: P276)

From reading this paragraph it has made me realise that when I am looking for a job I will have to compare my values with the companies values and their ethics to ensure I am suited to the company and I can conduct the type of PR that I want to be involved with. When I outlined my values in my previous blog it made me realise that job satisfaction is hugely important to be, doing work that I find rewarding to not only myself but also the larger community. As a result, if I find myself in a position that pushes my beliefs I will just have to stand up for my rights!! (girl power and all that)

A recent example of employees standing up for their rights is Nadia Eweida a British Airways employee who is suing BA for religious discrimination after not allowing her to wear a modest Christian cross. BA put her on unpaid suspension for breaching uniform rules yet makes uniform exceptions for Muslim and Sikh minorities. Eweida is now suing BA and has a signed petition of 200 workers. Nadia says in the Daily Mail:

“Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways, but I stand up for the rights of all citizens.”

This is a great example of an employee standing up for her personal beliefs against the company for the rights of herself and citizens in wider society.

This is also an example of where Honest and responsible regard for the public and truth clash. BA has a series of impressive CSR programmes and has just launched a new ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ strategy stating:

This has two simple aims. Firstly, to ensure that everyone understands why and how diversity is important to us and, secondly, to ensure that diversity is integrated into every part of the business.’

If diversity and inclusion were so important to BA, why would they allow the Nadia Edweida case to go public, creating bad PR for their company? And do these CSR programmes make us or their employees trust them as a company? According to this example – no. What do you think?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Adam Fairclough
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 14:45:02

    Wearing an ‘expression of faith’ at work remains a contentious issue for many areas of employment, the recent decision not to allow Sikh police officers who wear turbans to join firearm teams being another good example of this.

    I feel this issue is not one of ‘responsible regard for the public’, but rather an organisation being transparent with its employees, and prospective employees, about their line with wearing faith symbols.

    Leaving the debate about whether people have a right to wear faith symbols at work aside, common sense would suggest that where a company does not allow expressions of faith to be worn, the onus is on the employer to communicate this during the earliest stages of a recruitment process.

    If, however, an employee signs up to work for a company which promotes a diversity policy, only to later discover they can’t wear faith symbols, then that company is making a rod for their own back by not being open at the outset.

    This is important because the recruitment process is an integral part of selling a company’s brand to attract a pool of high calibre, similar-minded candidates.

    PR folks can mitigate potential negative fallout from a client’s or company’s decision to introduce a sensitive policy like this by ensuring the view is communicated to all employees through key channels, such as job application packs, people strategies and diversity and access policies, as early as possible.

    Transparency creates trust and trust creates confidence, and PR is there to catalyse this reaction throughout all interactions with a company’s publics. If this is done well, then a prospective employee should never be in a situation where their morals are compromised.


  2. spratt5429
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 09:19:38

    Thanks for the comment Adam, you raise a good point about the employers making it obvious of their values, morals and ethics in the early stages of recruitment. Not only does an employee have to evaluate whether their morals and ethics suit the companies, the employer must do too.

    I think BA are out of order in this case as they have branded themselves as an employer who value ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ but later contradict themselves.

    Adam you raise an important aspect to the argument – ‘Employer Branding’ by companies, where they need to brand themselves as a type of employer and implement their Values, Ethics and Morals throughout their HR management without contradicting themselves. This way, it will make employees know that they are working for a company that suits their Values, Morals and Ethics and avoid a clash of interests like this example of BA.

    PR is an important aspect of Human Resource Management, where the company needs to PR themselves as a favourable employee and to get their message across of what type of employer they are. As you say Adam if a company PR their employee values correctly then the situation of when an employees values clash with the companies should not arise.


  3. Jez Ashberry
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 09:37:13

    There seems to be a lot of debate among PR students at the moment about morals and priorities. To me it’s simple: in any walk of life you follow your instincts and abide by your own moral code. The money doesn’t enter into it. You put your client’s interests first up to the point at which you disagree with your client on a point of moral principle, and then you suggest that your client finds another PR company.

    Only this year Shooting Star PR was asked to undertake PR work for an organisation whose aims we disagreed with. Luckily my co-director and I took the same view and we politely declined the work.


  4. spratt5429
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 10:29:53

    Hi Jez, thanks for the comment, really interesting to get a practical example from your experience.

    Your right there is a lot of debate among students about morals and priorities, I think because we are beginning to develop our working personalities before we start looking for a job next year so that we know what we have to offer to employers.

    Your right Jez, our morals shape everything we do in life and as I mention in my blog post a PR professional’s duty is to their employee and their client but under the limitations of their personal duty and their duty to public interest.

    I don’t think breaking your personal morals is worth any money or client and in PR not only do employees/employers have to choose each other carefully, we all have to choose our clients carefully. When working in PR we need to choose a client that will compliment our brand and personality and hold similar morals, values and ethics so that we can work together productively with no clashes!


  5. Victoria Scott
    Nov 18, 2010 @ 11:19:32

    I agree with what you are saying and I think it applies to all Business and all graduates of any subject. In all business you need to choose certain clients that will suit your brand so the word-of-mouth is among the right potential of cliental. Additionally, choosing the right client will only mean you have less chance of coming across any problems in dealing with them.
    In all business the professional works by their own morals and ethics while serving their duty to their employee and cliental but not everyone works in a positive and ethical manner.


  6. spratt5429
    Nov 23, 2010 @ 14:15:37

    Thanks for the comment Victoria and you are right, in business not everyone works in a positive and ethical manner – there are baddies out there!
    I also agree with you about choosing the right client that will match you brand – in business there are a range of decisions to be made throughout and you must consistently make the decisions in relation to what suits your brand, this will build a strong brand that is implemented throughout all regions of your business.


  7. Emily Corfield
    Nov 30, 2010 @ 23:45:48

    I would certainly hope that I could work with or for an organisation that had the same ethics and morals as myself and I certaily hope that I could stand up for my rights. The profession will continue to suffer if practitioners continue to obfuscate the truth in the search for a compliment from their boss. I also believe that some PR practitioners feel that they can’t “stand up” for their rights, for whatever reason.

    The audience will find out in the end if there is a lie being told, especially in this digital age. But that obviously isn’t a big threat to the PR practitioners of today.
    Great blog Janey!


  8. spratt5429
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 11:12:39

    Thanks for the comment Emily!
    I agree with you I hope that I would stand up for my rights, I think we have a duty to the profession to do so. I don’t think its right that an employer should feel threatened and scared to stand up for what they believe in especially if it is the truth. Your employees are a key stakeholder and to avoid crisis management you need them to be constantly surveying for arising issues that could cause your company damage and if it is a situation where the employee is torn between truth and morals it is likely to be something that could potentially harm your company then as lying will be found out eventually! I think CEO’s need to ensure the culture in their organisation allows for employees to stand up for their rights and voice out when they think something isn’t right rather then putting them in the position where they feel they cannot speak up, I can only see this as being more damaging to the company.
    As you say Emily the truth always comes out in the end!


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