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Ethics in Business Communication

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Ethics in Business Communication
Ethical dilemmas happen regularly within a business. These ethical situations range from the common to the rare, and include “half-truths, outright lies, unethical practices, harmful actions, and unsavory company allegations” (Bell & Smith, 2010). It is how a company handles these ethical situations, however, that defines their character.
General Motors is a company that has been around for over one hundred years. They have been an industry leader in the manufacturing of automobiles in the United States for decades, but they have recently come under fire for the mishandling of a harmful action. General Motors vehicles manufactured between 2003 and 2007 had a faulty ignition switch installed in them which can cause the car to suddenly turn off, leading to the power steering, power brakes, and airbags becoming inoperable. This factory defect has caused General Motors to recently recall approximately 1.37 million vehicles. However, General Motors has known of this issue for ten years and “elected not to replace a part that would have cost 57 cents a car because of cost and the lack of 'an acceptable business case' for doing so" (Isidore, 2014).
From the apathetic handling of the recall to the greed-infused decision to save a few dollars, General Motors has been acting like a company with little ethical compass. CEO Mary Barra has issued a statement of apology, giving her “apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall…especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured” (General Motors, 2014), but good ethics should be preliminary actions not post-factum reactions. The lives that were injured and lost because of the actions by General Motors cannot be returned with a generic apology. General Motors now has to prove that their values are in line with what their customers’ needs are and they need to work hard in order to repair their damaged reputation. They have recalled all of the affected vehicles and will, obviously, replace the damaged part at no cost to the customer. But the lasting effects of their actions will only be determined after significant time has passed.
Integrity and character are two important values that each company should work hard to establish. Dealing with ethical situations in the proper way is how a company can define themselves in regards to integrity and character, and more companies should place high importance upon hiring individuals who know how to make proper ethical decisions.

References
Bell, A. H., & Smith, D. M. (2010). Management Communication (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
General Motors. (2014, March). CEO Mary Barra’s written congressional testimony now available. Retrieved from http://media.gm.com/media/us/en/gm/news.detail.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2014/mar/0331-barra-written-testimony.html
Isidore, C. (2014, April). GM CEO Barra: "I am deeply sorry". Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/01/news/companies/barra-congress-testimony/index.html?iid=lead2

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