Tis the Season to be Ethical

Posted by PRSA_MichelleB on 12/06/2020 12:00 am  

By Melissa May, APR
Chapter Ethics Chair

Ethics is really always topical. For example, in December, you may want to buy gifts that are ethically sourced or sustainably produced. You may instead donate money you would have spent on gifts to a favorite charity that supports your values and priorities.

Want to shop for ethically sourced gifts? Here are a few options:


In your professional life, you may give or receive a present with a vendor or boss that merits ethical scrutiny. Does your organization include gift rules in your ethics standards? Are you among the many PR pros who have been told we cannot pick up a lunch tab for a reporter who covers our industry…even to celebrate a holiday?

In an interesting article in McCombs School of Business’s Ethics Unwrapped, author Robert Prentice offers 5 Tips for a Peaceful Holiday Season. He warns how holidays can lead people to diverge from their own ethical standards.

“How we … “frame” decisions can substantially affect the decisions we make. Many of us work in fields where year-end bonuses are an important part of annual compensation. If we focus too much upon hitting sales quotas or other targets necessary to earn these bonuses, the ethical aspects of the decisions we face may fade into the background and we can ignore them. In this way, we may make unethical decisions without even realizing it.”

Now is a great time to examine your organization’s policies to determine if they are encouraging unethical behaviors by how you reward and compensate your staff.

You can also clarify what is and isn’t acceptable for holiday—and year-round—gift-giving and activities. Consider establishing your own guidelines by exploring best practices in organizations you respect.  Here are a few examples that you can use or provide to the leaders of your organization.


While these examples focus on ethics during the holiday season, the counsel you provide to your leadership and staff on the topic of ethics helps deliver value to your organization all year long.