Just a Job?: Communication, Ethics, and Professional Life

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From cartoons to boardrooms comes the statement, "It's not personal. It's just business."

Just a Job? Communication, Ethics, and Professional Life offers a provocative perspective on ethics at work. The book questions the notions that doing ethics at work has to be work, and that work is somehow a sphere where a different set of rules applies. This problematic line between work and life runs through the ways we commonly talk about ethics, from our personal relationships to the domains of work, including the organization, the profession, and the market. Talk about ethics is far more than "just talk," and this book shows how and why it matters.
Drawing from the fields of communication and rhetoric, the authors show how the very framing of ethics—even before we approach specific decisions—limits the potential roles of ethics in our work lives and the pursuit of happiness, and treats it as something that is meaningful only at special moments such as when faced with dilemmas, or as the last chapter in a business book. Separating ethics from life, we put it beyond our daily reach.
The authors argue against ethical myopia limited to spectacular scandals or comprehensive professional codes. Instead, they propose a master reframe of ethics based on a new take on virtue ethics, including Aristotle's practical ideal of eudaimonia or flourishing, which tells new stories about the ordinary as well as extraordinary aspects of professional integrity and success. By reframing ethics as not special, they elevate it to its rightful position in work and personal life.
Generously illustrated with examples and ideas from scholarly as well as popular sources, this book asks us to reconsider the meaning of and path toward the "good life."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clearly written and will be easily accessible to students. Throughout the book, the arguments and analyses rest on numerous specific examples from the authors personal experiences in the classroom, as well as recent news stories and popular culture. These appeals are very effective both in terms of clarifying aspects of the discussion and in terms of grounding the arguments....the books greatest value is as a resource for instructors who teach professional ethics."—Journal of Mass Media Ethics

"A theoretically rigorous work that combines expertly chosen examples with profound analysis....well suited for advanced undergraduate or graduate classes focusing on organizational communication, work sociology, or ethics.... Just a Job? is a brilliantly written, well-referenced, and compelling book that is a must read for organizational communication scholars and anyone who is interested in the possibilities of 'the flourishing of all' (p. 260)."—Journal of Communication

"This well-written, well-referenced, state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research will challenge the way many scholars (and nonscholars) approach applied ethics....an important acquisition for most academic collections and highly recommended for courses in communications, leadership, organizational theory, business, and applied ethics. Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"Just a job? Communication, Ethics, and Professional Life eloquently demonstrates how ethics inform the way we talk, work, and live. The authors argue that while some moral decisions can be difficult, the daily choice to do the right thing in all aspects of life will ultimately make behaving ethically seem less like work. In this book, professional and personal ethics emerge, not as laws, sermons, or finger shaking prohibitions, but as the vibrant foundation of a happy life."—Joanne B. Ciulla, Professor, Coston Family Chair in Leadership and Ethics, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond and author of The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work

"Just a Job? is a clearly written and provocative communication-centered approach to the ethics of work. Throughout the book, the authors explore the power, complexity, and implications of labels, definitions, metaphors, and narratives. They heighten our awareness of the implicit and explicit ways that communication both reflects and creates ethical issues. Rather than focusing on the traditional ethics of duty, consequences, and justice or on ethical dilemmas, they illustrate everyday ethical situations and offer a revised and reformulated Aristotelian virtue ethics to complement more traditional theories."—Richard L. Johannesen, Emeritus Professor of Communication, Northern Illinois University, Senior author, Ethics in Human Communication, 6th Edition

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195182774
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/12/2009
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

George Cheney is Professor of Communication and Director of the Tanner Human Rights Center and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Utah. He is Adjunct Professor of Management Communication at The University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ. In the fall of 2010, he will become the John T. Jones Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, USA. He has published widely, and has taught, consulted, and participated in service projects on several continents.

Dan Lair is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Ethics in the Department of Human Communication Studies at the University of Denver. His research has appeared in outlets including Management Communication Quarterly, Communication Yearbook, and the Handbook of Organizational Discourse.

Dean Ritz is a consultant for corporate compliance. His research on ethics has been published in outlets including the New College of California Law Review, the journal Ethical Space, and most recently in the Oxford University Press volume The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility.

Brenden Kendall is a doctoral candidate and Steffensen Cannon Research Fellow in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. His research has been published in outlets including Environmental Communication and the Oxford University Press volume The Debate over Corporate Social Responsibility.

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Table of Contents

1. (Re)Framing Ethics at Work
2. Starting Conversations about Professional Ethics
3. Working for a Good Life
4. Being a Professional: Problems and Promises
5. Reconsidering Organizations as Cultures of Integrity
6. Seeking Something More in the Market
7. Finding New Ways to Talk about Everyday Ethics

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