“Yes men” and “yes women” we are not, and now a study affirms that assertion.
In a study aptly titled “PR Professionals Are Not ‘Yes Men,'” researchers at Baylor University found that senior PR executives would rather get demoted or lose their jobs than give in to pressure to be unethical. True to form, many of the executives interviewed for the study had in fact lost their jobs by not caving in to questionable or dishonest PR strategies.
Baylor researchers found in 30 in-depth interviews with senior public relations professionals in the United States and Australia, with an average of 27 years of experience, that they often found themselves in the “kill the messenger” predicament. This made it hard to give criticism to people who outranked them and to persuade those people to agree with them.
Speaking up on sensitive ethical issues requires courage, study participants said. A few were fired or demoted for refusing to do something that was blatantly unethical; two resigned when their advice was rejected, including one who refused to include false information in a press release.
One participant noted, “I can’t afford to lose my credibility . . . As PR professionals, it’s all we have.”