By: Sarah Lindstrom
Tuesday, Feb. 7, Dr. Marlene Neil shared her recent study with Dr. Bates’ Media Programming class. As a member of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards Dr. Neil conducted a study find out if millennials felt prepared to face and offer counsel regarding ethical dilemmas in the workplace.
Dr. Neil prefaced her findings from the study by sharing a few previous studies about academic integrity and questionable decisions. One study she shared stated that 80 percent of students had cheated at some point in their academic career and that the PRSA code of ethics did not greatly impact them. Two other studies said that millennials, even with and understanding of PRSA’s ethical standards, don’t feel fully comfortable speaking out against unethical decisions.
Neil’s study was focused on millennials perception and response to ethical challenges in their workplaces. Research for the study conducted through an email survey. Surveys were distributed to 800 young PR professionals, PR professionals with under five years of experience in the workplace and born within the Generation Y.
Those who responded were asked questions like:
- What ethical issues PR practitioners would most likely face in their jobs?
- What ethical issues have you faced in your career thus far?
- How likely are you to reach out for counsel when facing ethical issues?
- Do you feel you could provide ethical counsel?
- Have you been provided any kind of ethical training?
The results were surprising to Dr. Neil, as a study she performed last year said that 90 percent of PR practitioners had faced ethical issues in their careers and this study revealed that only 41 percent of millennials thought they would face ethical challenges. Dr. Neil was also fascinated that many of the young PR individuals had faced ethical issues but claimed they didn’t expect to face any.
What was not as surprising was she concluded that millennials felt more comfortable questioning ethical decisions in the workplace when they were familiar with the PRSA code of ethics, had previous training by the employer or in school and when they had a mentor within or outside of work.
Personally I felt the results were pretty similar to how I would feel starting a job in Public Relations. While I do expect to face ethical decisions I would not necessarily feel confident going to a boss I have only been working with for a short time and voicing that opinion. While I don’t believe it is right to present false information to your publics I know in the moment many young PR professionals may be fearful of commenting on the subject. I can see how having a mentor would help to diminish those feelings and help you to feel more confident in the workplace because you have someone with more experience to reach out to. Overall, I enjoyed the findings of Dr. Neil’s study and look forward to hearing more about her new study.