Communication, Ethics, and a Command Decision

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Scenario Analysis

The concept of ethics is a system of norms of moral behavior and responsibilities of people about each other and society as a whole. Labor activity is one of the leading types of human activity. Being in different situations, a person performs actions in the labor process, constituting the aggregate behavior. In turn, behavior determines the subsequent actions, including communication conduct. As an applied science, business communication ethics relies on and uses the achievements of several fundamental humanities. However, more often, a person faces communication ethics not as a science but as a choice in life situations. This paper will analyze a situation in which a person is faced with a difficult choice in communication ethics.

Brett Crozier, the captain of the USS aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, battling an outbreak of coronavirus, wrote a controversial letter to his superiors asking for help. In the letter, he warned of dire consequences if most of the sailors from Roosevelt were not evacuated. In his letter, Crozier demanded in concrete terms that all but 10 percent of the crew from the aircraft carrier be evacuated (Brook, 2020). He stated that it was impossible to properly isolate sailors on the ship to stop the growing outbreak of the coronavirus. He also stressed that in the absence of hostilities, the crew should not die, and if the command did not act immediately, the captain would not be able to take proper care of them. After the ship arrived in the port of Guam, the 1,000 crew were evacuated to shore and placed inwards (Gibbons-Neff & Cooper, 2020). Most of them were found to have an acute coronavirus disease.

After the Crozier letter was leaked, US Navy officials announced that they would soon evacuate 2,700 sailors from the ship in addition to the thousand who had come ashore earlier. Captain Crozier said he did not know who shared the letter with social media and gave it wide publicity (Starr et al., 2020). As a result of this situation, Brett Crozier was removed from command of the ship. According to his superiors, the captain panicked, making the families of the sailors on board nervous and providing information about the ship’s capabilities to US adversaries.

The captain’s ethical decision and dilemma is the need to betray the chain of command to communicate the severity of the problem to management. His position is high enough relative to the ship’s organizational structure but not his immediate superiors. Accordingly, he had to be careful in expressing himself not to violate the chain of command. However, the epidemiological situation on the ship continued to deteriorate sharply, so it was vital for him to convey the severity of the problem. The difficulty with the ethical decision is that the sender was most likely aware of the negative implications of this letter for him but chose to help his crew.

The sender, in this case, was captain Crozier, and the official recipients were his immediate superiors. The unofficial recipients were the media, and consequently, the general public. The channels are the official US Navy correspondence feeds and mainstream social media. If the first type of channel is relatively closed and does not contribute to the rapid dissemination of information, the media promptly distributes information to the general public. The official way the letter was distributed was through an unknown media leak. This was one of the reasons for the captain’s dismissal, as civil society gained access to classified information.

In analyzing the failures and successes of the letter, it is worth admitting that it had more positive effects. The negative consequences were the leakage of Army information to the media and the dismissal of the ship’s captain. The leak may pose an objective threat, but the public saw no classified information. The major successes of the letter were the evacuation of many of the ship’s personnel and the drawing of public attention to the health problem of military personnel. Thanks to captain Crozier, the seafarers received timely medical care and isolation to prevent the virus from spreading. In turn, the military command, thanks to this precedent, paid more attention to protecting its subordinates from coronavirus infection. Therefore, the communication strategy of the ship’s captain proved to be effective for the common good. Although the neglect of the chain of command harmed his career but did not harm his public profile. He is the savior of his crew and the purveyor of truth about the US Navy system to the public.

If this situation had arisen in the private sector rather than the military, the consequences would have been much less extensive. The fact is that the army is the benchmark for discipline and keeping officers safe. It is also a system that is not entirely open to the general public’s eyes. When any disturbance occurs in the army, it instantly affects every country’s citizens. That is why the situation with captain Crozier’s aircraft carrier received such a resonance. It is also a blatant case of negligent leadership, which turned a blind eye to the dire epidemiological situation at a military facility. People who could have died due to this negligence should have been protecting the country in an emergency. People from the private sector are not that important on a national scale. In addition, a leak of private sector correspondence would not have caused a threat to national security, unlike a leak from the military sector. Thus, in such a situation in the private sector, the situation would not be as high profile.

Letter Writing

Dear Officer Keith,

In response to the current situation in the USS Theodore Roosevelt, I would like to comment on its communications strategy and the lessons to be learned from it. The first lesson is that one must not forget communication subordination even in communicating the urgency or seriousness of a situation. Naval forces must maintain discipline in any situation in order not to sow panic. This is also very important in the case of information leaks since an emotional tone can resonate with public unrest and cause anxiety in society. The captain made it his primary goal to point out a pressing issue but did not consider how his emotionality would affect public unrest. Information about this letter should indeed have leaked out before, but such a possibility must be considered in any sector of government work.

The second lesson is that the ethical interests of a wriggle or group are not always aligned with the ethical interests of the system. It was far more critical for the Navy to hush up the situation than help its soldiers. That is why they began to actively speak out against the ship’s captain in their interviews. Putting one’s ethical considerations ahead of the system in which one functions, one must expect a negative return. Although the end justifies the means, a more formal tone of the communication might have prevented the captain’s dismissal. For this message, the medium must be the state channel of communication. This is primarily due to the confidentiality of this message. It expressed an opinion regarding the ethical aspects of military communication, which should not concern the general public. Consequently, the communication must be transmitted by all state structure standards of confidentiality.

Sincerely yours,

Captain Adams.


Brook, T. V. (2020). Navy fires USS Theodore Roosevelt captain days after he pleaded for help for sailors with coronavirus. USA Today. Web.

Gibbons-Neff, T., & Cooper, H. (2020). Captain of aircraft carrier pleads for help as virus cases increase onboard. The New York Times. Web.

Starr, B., Browne, R., Herb J., & Cohen, Z. (2020). Navy launches broader investigation into virus-stricken aircraft carrier. CNN Politics. Web.

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BusinessEssay. "Communication, Ethics, and a Command Decision." January 7, 2023.