Jen Eury talks Ethical Challenges

Our November general meeting for PRSSA featured Jen Eury, the director of alumni relations at Smeal College of Business. Eury received her master’s degree in higher education and her bachelor’s degree in ad/pr, both from Penn State. She is now a Ph.D. candidate studying higher education, with a minor in management and organization at Penn State. We asked Eury to tell us about her career and her advice on dealing with ethical challenges.

She began with some lessons she learned throughout her college and professional career:

  • Your first job is your first job. See it as an experience.
  • Workplace culture matters. Ask questions about it before accepting a position in the organization.
  • Grad school is an option.
  • Mentors are important. Use them as an opportunity to seek advice.
  • Challenges create opportunities. Overcoming adversity can benefit you and and your organization.
  • Teamwork counts.
  • Going above and beyond gets noticed. Ask, “what can I do to help?” Thank the HR person for your job with a hand written note.
  • Use alumni to find connections your ideal company.

After going through these lessons, Eury shifted gears. The rest of her presentation focused on “enhancing your effectiveness in recognizing and responding to ethical challenges.”

Individual ethical behavior is influenced in part by our values. Values are abstract conceptions of the ‘desirable’ that drive individuals attitudes and behavior. Our values come from many influences in our lives such as family, peers, experiences and society. Ask yourself, which values are most important to you personally?

An ethical dilemma is when your values are in conflict.

  • There can be conflict between your personal values.
    • If you value honesty and financial success, do you stretch the truth on your resume to get a higher paid position? Or do you list your skills truthfully and get a position that earns less?
  • There can be conflict in your organization’s values.
    • Let’s say you work at a company that values both diversity and customer satisfaction. If a customer says he or she does not want to deal with your employee of a different ethnic background, what do you do? Your choice will violate one of these two values.
  • There can also be conflict between your personal values and your organization’s values.
    • If you value honesty and your organization values obedience, what do you do if your boss asks you to skew some totals on a budget report? Do you side with your personal value? Or do you obey your boss?

“It’s okay to stand up when something is wrong,” Eury says. “Say something.”

Everyone faces ethical dilemmas, no matter how big or small the consequences. It is important to be able to leave the situation when something doesn’t feel right. If your values are in conflict, trust your instincts. Think about a person in your life who you would never want to let down (your mother, for example).

It is essential to understand an organization’s values and decide, do your values fit with theirs?

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