Professor’s new book teaches confidence in workplace

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Marlene Neill

By Reagan Ebb | Staff Writer

Baylor journalism professor Dr. Marlene Neill recently published her book “Public Relations Ethics: Senior PR Pros Tell Us How to Speak Up and Keep Your Job.”

Neill and co-author Amy Oliver Barnes, an associate professor in the School of Mass Communications at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, began collaborating on the project Dec. 2016 and recently published hard copy and e-book versions.

In their book, Neill and Barnes explore methods of preparing oneself for ethical counsel in the workplace. The content is not limited to aspiring public relations professionals, including, for example, advice about non-confrontational approaches to addressing change in the professional world.

Neill said the reason for writing this book was to provide interested readers with methods for speaking up. Though companies hire ethics officers, Neill said it is the employee’s responsibility to evaluate the company’s decisions and determine whether that decision corresponds with their core values.

“We did a study a few years ago, and we found that young professionals did not feel prepared to provide ethics counsel,” Neill said. “Therefore, they were unlikely to speak up.”

To address this issue, Neill and Barnes interviewed senior public relations executives from various Fortune 500 companies.

“The whole focus of the book is on the different techniques they used…to see what is right and lawful,” Neill said.

According to the book, developing relationships is one of the core approaches young professionals can take to inspire workplace conversation relating to ethics. Neill emphasized the importance of building relationships with co-workers and employees in different branches outside of one’s department, which ultimately helps workers establish credibility.

“You have to have those relationships … where people value and respect the counsel that you give,” Neill said.

Neill said her studies revealed that millennials who have a mentor or have some training in ethical law felt more confident in speaking up about their opinions. Neill also said young professionals need to prepare themselves for ethical counsel ahead of time. Neill plans to teach her book in the Media Law and Ethics Journalism class in the Fall 2018 semester.

Shreveport sophomore Melanie Pace, a University Scholar major, is currently studying Advertising Copywriting under Neill. Pace said Neill teaches her students in a way that will prepare them for the real world.

“Dr. Neill creates an incredibly warm learning environment and is always super helpful,” Pace said.

Neill’s book encourages young professionals to be confident when approaching a potentially unethical situation in the workplace. The importance of making moral, positive changes to uphold company core values is significant for creating a just world. Neill said her book teaches readers not only how to speak up for themselves and their beliefs, but also how to speak up in a professional manner.