To commemorate PRSA Ethics Month, PRSAY is offering a monthlong series of posts on important ethics issues facing the public relations profession. This is the fourth and final post in the series.
As I settled in and attempted to get comfortable in seat 1A on a puddle jumper to parts west recently, my conversation with the flight attendant turned to our life histories. Garrett H., age 55, shared with me that he’s been flying for the past five years, following a successful, 30-year career as an executive at an insurance company. Having been summarily “let go,” he came to realize that life at the top was no longer the thrill ride it once was. Yes, the perquisites were nice, but not worth having to endure petty politics and insecure executives, and certainly not worth compromising his personal integrity.
Listening to his story got me thinking about personal ethics. As PRSA members, our professional behavior is bound by our Society’s Code of Ethics. But more importantly, the manner in which we live our lives ought to be compelled by a personal code of behavior. So here are my top ten rules for shaping your personal ethics:
1. Listen to your mother. She’s usually right.
2. Be true to who you are and what you believe. It’s called authenticity, and others can sense it in you.
3. Take the long view and gain from the perspective. Short-term gains are just that — short. Go for the long haul, if you want sustainability.
4. Don’t lie. It shows. Even small untruths can grow like Pinocchio’s nose and impede your progress or, worse, completely derail you. Speak the truth.
5. Do what’s right, not what’s most expedient. It may take longer but, in the end, the results will be more rewarding, not to mention genuine.
6. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably wrong. The gut is inextricably connected to the heart and brain. Go with it.
7. Give others a chance. If you’ve had your turn, let someone else take a shot. You’ve made your point; people will listen and absorb it, assuming it has value.
8. Get over it. If you’ve been wronged (or think you have), remember that “time wounds all heels.” Revenge is not sweet; it’s toxic. You’ll start healing the second you put it behind you. And, don’t worry, the heel will get booted in time, likely on his or her own petard.
9. Stay grounded. You don’t live in an ivory tower, nor should you. While we’re all human, privilege is reserved for those who are long gone. A level head and clever mind will help you make your way in this world and make the best of your life. Treat everyone with due consideration and courtesy, regardless of social standing.
10. Be an example. Inherent in our obligations as PRSA members is a duty to mentor, curate and support the next generation of public relations leaders. The ways in which we behave, practice and perform are ripe for emulation; do the right thing and people will follow.
As for Garrett H., he’s content with his decision to start a second career serving the public at 30,000 feet. He travels, meets interesting people, makes a livable wage and is appreciated by individuals like me for his high-minded (or high-altitude?) thinking. Now, please sit back, relax and enjoy your flight, wherever it may take you.
Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is PRSA Secretary and the CEO of Redphlag LLC in San Bruno, Calif.