Ethical standards in the work place are an area of tremendous controversy due to their lack in definable characteristics. Ethics are the moral compass we as individuals follow in our daily lives as we make decisions about how to handle the situations we face. They largely rely on our past experiences as individuals or as a group and differ regionally and from person to person. In the case of ad ethics in the digital age it is hard to define a white and black or a right and wrong to the ethical standards we are to follow. There are many gray areas and while advertising agencies do their best to fill in those gray areas, more appear as outside culture progresses.
Companies are constantly updating their ethical code of conducts in effort to keep their employees up to the standards of the organization. With ethics, there is an inevitable gap between the company’s ethics and the ethics of the individual employee. Codes of conduct look to bridge the gap in hopes that what their employees see as wrong is supported and further examined within the company’s guidelines. The hard part about ethics is that sometimes what the company sees as right the employee sees as wrong. These are the areas many advertisers seek to avoid, but in the case that they happen a decision must be made; follow the company’s instructions, or your own moral, ethical compass.
I see ethics as a defining characteristic and for me, following my moral compass is very important. Ethics are moral principles and therefor are only the foundational blocks of which we develop our own moral standards upon. Companies can provide ethical standards, but in the end employees have to think for themselves and decided whether or not their actions follow their own moral compass.
If a company were to request that I do a task that goes against my moral standards, I would have to refuse the job. It wouldn’t matter to me if their ethical standards were in congruence with the job requested of me or not. If I see it as wrong by my own standards I would have to turn down the job, consequences set aside. That in mind, I often seek out companies who have ethical standards that closely align with my own moral standards. Many digital media age companies have their code of conducts online for employees and job searchers to look over.
I’m not saying that I would refuse a job I didn’t particularly feel enthusiastic about completing. I believe in a hierarchy and that there will be some ads you don’t want to work on, but you have to anyway. But there is something to be said about a person who works hard for their job, without brainwashing themselves of their own ethics. When it comes to working ethically, the code of conduct can only take you so far, you have to be able to think on your own about the decisions you are making as an advertiser in the field.
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have to do and what is right to do.” –Potter Stewart