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Communication Ethics: A Vital Resource in an Ever-Changing World (October 2016): Case Studies, Organizational Communication, and Workplaces

By Robert L. Ballard, Melba Vélez Ortiz, and Leeanne M. Bell McManus

Case Studies, Organizational Communication, and Workplaces

Communication ethics also involves documenting case studies in organizational contexts. One example is Democracy, Dialogue, and Community Action: Truth and Reconciliation in Greensboro by Spoma Jovanovic. The book revolves around the 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Greensboro, North Carolina, the first of its kind formed to address racially motivated killings in 1979. Jovanovic offers practical models of civil discourse that demonstrate how communication, when engaged ethically, promotes reconciliation and the possibility of a deliberative and participatory democracy. Similarly, Communicative Engagement and Social Liberation: Justice Will Be Made by Pat Arneson traces the communicative choices of three white women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who fought for racial equality. Arneson’s research highlights how marginalized voices drew on resources to take a stand for liberty, equality, and democracy, to the extent that tangible accomplishments were made.

Case studies are powerful research approaches. Since ethical communication choices are situated within experience, and are often very complex and personal, case studies provide the opportunity to describe the contextual factors that lead to ethical dilemmas. They also document the difficulty of moral choices and the outcomes associated with those choices. Moreover, case studies highlight the subjective nature of ethical decisions and the courage necessary to make one in light of opposing social forces.

Similarly, others in communication ethics orient their work toward organizational communication. Matthew Seeger’s Ethics and Organizational Communication was one of the first to explicate the connections between ethics and organizational communication. Others have followed. Janie Harden Fritz and Becky L. Omdahl edited two volumes titled Problematic Relationships in the Workplace with attention to how problematic relationships are framed and constructed, the experience of them, and the effects of them, especially regarding health and wellness in organizations. The ethical approach frames their work, integrating concerns of values and pragmatics.