The Communication Contract and Its Ten Ground Clauses

Journal of Business Ethics 87 (3):415-436 (2008)
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Global society issues are putting increasing pressure on both small and large organizations to communicate ethically at all levels. Achieving this requires social skills beyond the choice of language or vocabulary and relies above all on individual social responsibility. Arguments from social contract philosophy and speech act theory lead to consider a communication contract that identifies the necessary individual skills for ethical communication on the basis of a limited number of explicit clauses. These latter are pragmatically binding for all partners involved and help to ensure that the ground rules of cooperative communication are observed within a group or an organization. Beyond promoting ethical communication, the communication contract clarifies how individual discursive behaviour can be constructively and ethically monitored by group leaders in business meetings. A case study which shows what may happen when ground clauses of ethical communication are violated is presented. The conclusions of the study highlights why attempting to respect the communication contract is in the best interest of all partners at all levels within any group or organization.
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