February 2, 2009
Governor Blagojevich was impeached and ousted last week by a unanimous vote of the Illinois State Senate. He now is facing many Federal charges and among them the one of influence peddling.
Don't we all exert some influence on people around us whether a spouse, a child, or in our social and professional lives? Our experience, knowledge, skills or function give us some authority on those we are in contact with.
One of the roles of public relations is to influence behavior of targeted audiences to either purchase the products or services of a client or to adopt a point of view on a particular issue that is favorable to the client.
How do we know that influence we exert is within the boundaries of what is acceptable and good ethical conduct?
Different cultures have different criteria. For instance in some cultures fathers have, what we consider in our culture, excessive influence on their daughters as to who they should or have to marry.
To prevent the abuse of our influence or authority, we should first check our motives and make sure that we do not benefit personally from the influence we have or at least that our potential benefit is not the primary motive of our action.
Secondly we have to make sure we are not using coercion, forcing someone to do something they do not want to do.
Thirdly, we have to be very careful not to manipulate. That is not always easy when you believe that the action you are trying to get others to take is the right one. David Rosen, a friend, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland has a superb command of the English language and is a great speaker. He once told me that he was always aware of the risk of manipulating his audience by his oratory skills.
What ethical value can prevent us from using undue influence?
I believe it is respect.
Mark S. Putnam, the founder and president of Character Training Inc. and the author of the Business Ethics Advisor says that: "Ethical success depends on understanding the profound impact that respect has on your ethics and character."
As Immanuel Kant said:
"Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end."