Interview Segments on Topic: Ethical Decisionmaking/Behavior
Angela Buonocore is senior vice president and chief communications officer for Xylem, a spinoff business from ITT Corporation. She is responsible for global brand and reputation management, public relations, employee communications, corporate advertising, community relations and corporate philanthropy.
INTERVIEWER: Is it important, do you think, for a corporation to have an ethical mission statement or credo? And should ethics training be provided for corporate staff?
BUONOCORE: I think ethics training is very important. And I think having an understanding—whether you reflect that in a credo or a statement of ethics that goes along with your vision and values and mission statement is important. And I think that the values of the company should always include honesty or integrity or both as part of a set of values because I think people need to understand that that’s the price of entry. And they need to really understand because doing business, particularly if you’re a global company, there are different mores and customs in different countries but you have to be able to explain to people in very concrete terms, what you will accept as ways of doing business and what you won’t accept. And some of that really is just a case of training and for people to really get an understanding around what that is so I do think it’s very necessary to have ethics training and to refresh it very often. It’s not just once and done. As new employees come in, it’s part of their orientation and you really at a minimum, once a year, have to have training. And the best kind of training in these sorts of things are scenario, role-plays, so that people can really understand because it’s often not always a bright line between what is right and what is wrong.
INTERVIEWER: Continuing with the ethics theme, what education or previous professional experience best prepares a person for the rigors of ethical decision-making?
BUONOCORE: Now that’s a great question. If I had it to do over again and I were back at the university, I would love to have taken some ethics courses in conjunction with communications courses. That was not part of the curriculum that I took but, I was in school 30 years ago and I do think a lot of communications programs do have ethics in communications or certainly courses where you can have discussions around these topics and I do think that that is a very progressive way to look at a well-rounded communications education. But I do think that some of this education is also easily obtained on the job. If your company, as we just talked about, is doing ethics training; I think communicators have a role in that. They certainly have a role to be totally knowledgeable about it, but they also have a role sometimes in helping to create it, and I think that that’s very important.