Businesses and Selfishness

When I first got into public relations as a sophomore, PR Ethics was the one class I honestly did not want to take because, frankly, it sounded hard. When I thought of Ethics, all I could think was studying about several ethical theories that could all be correct at some point and having classroom discussions where people argue about which one is correct. None of this intrigued me and it all intimidated me. I honestly did not believe the real world used these ethical theories.  

Now that I am on the other side of Media Ethics and Law, I can honestly say that I was happily wrong. While we did learn and discuss several ethical theories that could all be right or wrong at some point, the material was surprisingly interesting. I learned that ethics do have a place in the real world, even if they are not always used.

To me, the most interesting thing I learned in ethics is how it seems that selfishness causes a large portion of the issues in business and business communications. It seems that when businesses follow the egoist theory of ethics, which is the idea of only doing things are in one’s own longtime self interest. Many followers of this theory do not act in ways that would fall under the idea of “not my problem,” which often leads to selfish actions, or in some cases, inactions. I heard before that many corporations are selfish, but I guess I never realized how prevalent it seems to be.

This does not seem to be a correct or efficient way to  run business communications. All communications, especially between a business and its publics, is a relationship because both sides must trust each other and believe the other side is being truthful. This relationship, like all others, cannot work without both partners participating in some form of sacrifice. If one portion of the relationship only does actions that are in its best interest and is not willing to sacrifice anything, the relationship will not work well and is definitely not an efficient way to conduct business.

An example of this theory is when Toyota changed its story on why cars were having accidents. At first, the company said the problem was caused by drivers themselves and the floor mats under the feet of the driver. Once this was found to not be the issue, the company said it was the accelerator. This action shows the company did not seem to want to deal with the issue because they did not feel it affected them. Even though the company did issue a recall on all vehicles, it was evidently discovered that the organization knew more about the situation then they originally led the public to believe. I am sure there are several other examples of how organizations have used this theory which evidently led to its downfall.

I feel that realizing this now, before my career in pr officially begins, is probably a good thing because it is often helpful to see how a certain course of action can lead down a path you may not want to go down in the first place. Often, seeing someone else do something that leads to certain consequences can help you to know not to do that action. I feel that studying how this selfish attitude leads to not only hurt relationships with publics but can also lead to the destruction of an organization.



  1. I agree! Selfishness place a big part in being ethical.. I don’t believe an ethical person is that selfish because if they were they would consider other people in their decisions and not just themselves!
    – Karren Hodge

  2. Hey Allison!

    I liked your post a lot. I was also terrified of taking ethics!! I thought it would be boring and hard, but like you, I was pleasantly surprised. I agree that selfishness is a really detrimental aspect of the business world.


  3. octoviac Said:

    Your take on relationships between businesses and their clients sounds a lot like a relationship between two people. I think consumers think of businesses and companies as a separate entity when really it’s made of people just like you and me.

    More often than not a company’s work ethic can reflect a higher-up’s personal ethical standard and it’s unfortunate if that standard is low and the consumer is left to pick up the pieces of an unethical and immoral relationship.

    On the flip side, if this IS the case (that company culture reflects that of it’s worker’s personal ethics) I trust that you personally will provide as an excellent ethical conscience to any company you join.

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