For the academic journal entitled "Professional Ethics", see Professional Ethics (journal).
Professional ethics encompass the personal, and corporate standards of behavior expected by professionals.
The word professionalism originally applied to vows of a religious order. By at least the year 1675, the term had seen secular application and was applied to the three learned professions: Divinity, Law, and Medicine. The term professionalism was also used for the military profession around this same time.
Professionals and those working in acknowledged professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill. How the use of this knowledge should be governed when providing a service to the public can be considered a moral issue and is termed professional ethics.
It is capable of making judgments, applying their skills, and reaching informed decisions in situations that the general public cannot because they have not attained the necessary knowledge and skills. One of the earliest examples of professional ethics is the Hippocratic oath to which medical doctors still adhere to this day.
Some professional organizations may define their ethical approach in terms of a number of discrete components. Typically these include:
Most professionals have internally enforced codes of practice that members of the profession must follow to prevent exploitation of the client and to preserve the integrity of the profession. This is not only for the benefit of the client but also for the benefit of those belonging to that profession. Disciplinary codes allow the profession to define a standard of conduct and ensure that individual practitioners meet this standard, by disciplining them from the professional body if they do not practice accordingly. This allows those professionals who act with a conscience to practice in the knowledge that they will not be undermined commercially by those who have fewer ethical qualms. It also maintains the public’s trust in the profession, encouraging the public to continue seeking their services.
In cases where professional bodies regulate their own ethics, there are possibilities for such bodies to become self-serving and fail to follow their own ethical code when dealing with renegade members. This is particularly true of professions in which they have almost a complete monopoly on a particular area of knowledge. For example, until recently, the English courts deferred to the professional consensus on matters relating to their practice that lay outside case law and legislation.
In many countries there is some statutory regulation of professional ethical standards such as the statutory bodies that regulate nursing and midwifery in England and Wales. Failure to comply with these standards can thus become a matter for the courts.
For example, a lay member of the public should not be held responsible for failing to act to save a car crash victim because they could not give an appropriate emergency treatment. Though, they are responsible for attempting to get help for the victim. This is because they do not have the relevant knowledge and experience. In contrast, a fully trained doctor (with the correct equipment) would be capable of making the correct diagnosis and carrying out appropriate procedures. Failure of a doctor to not help at all in such a situation would generally be regarded as negligent and unethical. Though, if a doctor helps and makes a mistake that is considered negligent and unethical, there could be egregious repercussions. An untrained person would only be considered to be negligent for failing to act if they did nothing at all to help and is protected by the "Good Samaritan" laws if they unintentionally caused more damage and possible loss of life.
A business may approach a professional engineer to certify the safety of a project which is not safe. While one engineer may refuse to certify the project on moral grounds, the business may find a less scrupulous engineer who will be prepared to certify the project for a bribe, thus saving the business the expense of redesigning.
On a theoretical level, there is debate as to whether an ethical code for a profession should be consistent with the requirements of morality governing the public. Separatists argue that professions should be allowed to go beyond such confines when they judge it necessary. This is because they are trained to produce certain outcomes which may take moral precedence over other functions of society.:282 For example, it could be argued that a doctor may lie to a patient about the severity of his or her condition if there is reason to believe that telling the patient would cause so much distress that it would be detrimental to his or her health. This would be a disrespect of the patient's autonomy, as it denies the patient information that could have a great impact on his or her life. This would generally be seen as morally wrong. However, if the end of improving and maintaining health is given a moral priority in society, then it may be justifiable to contravene other moral demands in order to meet this goal.:284 Separatism is based on a relativist conception of morality that there can be different, equally valid, moral codes that apply to different sections of society and differences in codes between societies (see moral relativism). If moral universalism is ascribed to, then this would be inconsistent with the view that professions can have a different moral code, as the universalist holds that there is only one valid moral code for all.:285.
As attending college after high school graduation becomes a standard in the lives of young people, colleges and universities are becoming more business-like in their expectations of the students. Although people have differing opinions about if it is effective, surveys state that it is the overall goal of the university administrators. Setting up a business-like atmosphere helps students get adjusted from a more relaxed nature, like high school, towards what will be expected of them in the business world upon graduating from College.
Codes of conduct
Codes of conduct, such as the St. Xavier Code of Conduct, are becoming more a staple in the academic lives of students. While some of these rules are based solely on academics others are more in depth than in previous years. Such as, detailing the level of respect expected towards staff and gambling.
Not only do codes of conduct apply while attending the schools at home, but also while studying abroad. Schools also implement a code of conduct for international study abroad programs which carry over many of the same rules found in most student handbooks.
- ^Royal Institute of British Architects - Code of professional conductArchived 2013-06-18 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^"Professionalism and Ethics"(PDF).
- ^Ruth Chadwick (1998). Professional Ethics. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved October 20, 2006, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/professional-ethics/v-1
- ^Caroline Whitbeck, "Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research" Cambridge University Press, 1998 page 40
- ^RICS- MAINTAINING PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL STANDARDSArchived 2011-12-16 at the Wayback Machine.
- ^Margaret Brazier, ‘’Medicine, Patients and the Law’’, Penguin, 1987 page 147
- ^The Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry-Professional regulation - nursing: the UKCCArchived 2012-07-29 at Archive.is
- ^Michael Davis, ‘Thinking like an Engineer’ in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 20.2 (1991) page 158
- ^ abcGewirth, Alan (Jan 1986). "Professional Ethics: The Separatist Thesis". Ethics. 96 (2): 282–300. doi:10.1086/292747. JSTOR 2381378.
- ^"Are Colleges Preparing Students For The Workplace".
- ^"SXU Code of Conduct". Retrieved 12 February 2016.
- ^"Student Conduct".
- Values, morals, and ethics. Retrieved August 16, 2009,
- Joseph, J. (2007). Ethics in the Workplace. Retrieved August 16, 2009
- Walker, Evelyn, and Perry Deane Young (1986). A Killing Cure. New York: H. Holt and Co. xiv, 338 p. N.B.: Explanatory subtitle on book's dust cover: One Woman's True Account of Sexual and Drug Abuse and Near Death at the Hands of Her Psychiatrist. Without ISBN
According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, ethics is defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.” Therefore, in an ideal world, ethics should play the ultimate role when making a decision. If ethics are the principles which guides one’s behavior then, ideally, all decisions should be made entirely based on ethics. Unfortunately, such is not always the case.
A few problems arise when one tries to make an ethical decision, especially as a leader. First, ethics may mean different things to different people. For example, my religious and spiritual beliefs are the foundation for what I deem ethical. However, for someone else, ethics might be based on laws or their own personal understanding of what is right or wrong. Generally, I do believe there are some behaviors that all can agree upon as being ethical or unethical. For example, most people understand that stealing from someone or murder is wrong. However, it is difficult, at times, to have similar ethical expectations of others as one does of themselves because of these differences in the understanding of ethics. Additionally, there are times when it might be easier for a leader to make an unethical decision for an immediate gain or to appease the wants of others. Examples of these include leaders who embezzle money or use other schemes to make money quickly or unlawfully.
For most leaders, making ethical decisions tends to be the goal. I firmly believe that more often than not, leaders do make ethical decisions for the betterment of their organization or business. There are cases when making an unethical decision might be easier, but the true character of a leader is tested when they are confronted with such a decision. Making the easier decision is not always the best decision for a leader’s personal sake or for the organization/business. Recognizing that not all decisions are ethical, one’s moral principles acts as a guide for their behavior and decision making. Therefore, ethics do (and should) play a major role in decision making.
As previously mentioned, my religious and spiritual beliefs shape my personal ethics. I grew up in a very Christian family (one grandfather was a pastor and the other is a deacon), so from a young age, I was instilled with a belief in God and His teachings, according to the Bible. As I get older, I am learning that a spiritual journey and relationship with God is one that is personal and cannot be easily taught or given by others. Therefore, I will admit that as I continue on my personal journey with God, my personal ethics are still being developed and shaped. Some behaviors that I may have thought were acceptable in the past, I no longer view the same. For example, I have a lot of passion for the organizations I am involved with, especially S.M.A.R.T, which is great as a leader. It is my passion which keeps me dedicated to the organization. However, because of this passion, when things are not going as I want them to, it might cause me to communicate in a way that is considered disrespectful to others. Either my tone, the loudness of my voice, or the things that I say have made others feel disrespected. Personally, I find disrespecting others to be unethical. Although I may not consciously decide to disrespect them, it is a result of my behavior. While, at one point, I made excuses for my “lashing out” but considering it my “burning passion for the organization,” I now realize that it is unacceptable. As a leader, and person, I should be always aim to be respectful of others, regardless of my own feelings. Moreover, I was able to recognize the impact that my behavior was having on other members of my executive board – they, too, began to think it was okay to conduct themselves in a similar manner.
My personal ethics include values such as: respect, honesty, caring, and fairness. When making a decision, I tend to consider these four values the most, in conjunction with how my decision might better the organization. The goal, for me, is to always aid in making an organization or someone else better. These four values tend to help me ensure that my decisions are well-rounded and ethical. I have already alluded to the role respect plays in my decision making. I consider how I might communicate a decision, or I consider other aspects of people’s lives and how this decision might impact them. I try to ensure that all of my decisions are respectful to others. I also aim to always be honest in my decision making. When I need help, I ask for it. I try to be as transparent as possible about any decision I have made and why. I am always willing to share my reasoning and am open to feedback from others. My compassionate side also comes out when making a decision. In most instances, I really try to consider the needs and circumstances of others. For example, S.M.A.R.T. can be a demanding organization, so when making decisions, I always consider the others aspects of our member’s lives and how my decisions could be more of a burden than a help to them. Lastly, I try to make sure my decisions are fair for everyone involved. If I want to inconvenience or be unfair to anyone, I would rather it be myself than someone else.
Communication is key in relation to personal ethics. As previously mentioned, ethical standards differ for different people. Therefore, I find it most difficult to try to understand the reasoning of others’ ethics, rather than communicating my own. I tend to be a very direct person. I get straight to the point, especially as a leader. Therefore, I simply share with others what I believe and value. I also communicate my personal ethics through my actions. If my decisions are made according to my ethical beliefs, then others should be able to recognize, through my behavior, what my personal morals are.
Overall, being an ethical decision maker is important to me. As a leader, I understand that I play a part in establishing what is considered right and wrong, based on my actions and decisions. My hope is to always be an example, and being ethical is the foundation of setting a good example for others. The old adage, “actions speak louder than words” rings true in relation to ethics. I aim to show people what my moral principles are based on my actions. At times, it can get difficult because I might let emotions cloud my judgment, but after all, doing the right thing for the sake of others is most important to me.