1. What are the similarities and differences in professional ethics and personal ethics? Our decisions are governed by a whole set of ethical principles. Whether at work or at home, we are increasingly concerned about the effects, which our decisions are likely to produce on others. “In the everyday world, the ethical thing to do is sometimes viewed as obvious and self-evident when it should be a matter of debate” (Paul & Elder, 2003), and these ethical issues are mostly similar across professional and personal ethics domains.
Researchers tend to view personal ethics (or morality) as opposed to professional ethics, for “individuals acting in a professional capacity take on an additional burden of ethical responsibility” (Colero, 2006). Objectively, these differences between professional and personal ethics do exist. The principles of personal ethics usually include respect to autonomy, concern about others’ well-being, honesty, justice, fairness, benevolence and avoiding harm. In professional ethics, the principles of objectivity, impartiality, confidentiality, and due diligence dominate (Colero, 2006).
That, however, does not mean that the principles of professional and personal ethics never intersect, and that the principles of personal ethics (e. g. trust) are inapplicable in professional performance. In both professional and personal ethics we keep to a predetermined set of absolute ethical norms. Moreover, we can readily assert that the principles of professional ethics are only supplementary elements of ethics, which governs our personal decisions.
Personal ethics is governed by norms, while professional ethics is governed by the written professional codes (or laws), but we should bear in mind that laws are impossible without morality (Ruggiero, 2004). Although professionals are bound to follow ethical codes of conduct and can be fined or punished in due course for violating the ethical norms, the effectiveness and success of professional ethics largely depends on the way we are able to transfer our personal ethical principles to cover moral situations in professional activity. 2. How have your ethical perspectives changed since you started your educational program?
I always believed that the codes of professional ethics could guarantee professionals’ compliance with ethical norms. That is why I was more than concerned about the decreasing role of ethics and morality in the corporate world. However, with the growing understanding of ethics and its professional implications, I have come to realize the relevance of inner ethics (or personal ethics), when it comes to the quality of professional conduct. Since I started my educational program, my ethical perspectives have changed in ways that place personal ethics as the starting point of ethical conduct in professional fields.
“At the root of virtually every unethical act lies some form and degree of self-delusion. And at the root of every self-delusion lies some flaw in thinking” (Paul & Elder, 2003). These self-delusions and flaws are characteristic of both professional and personal ethical thinking. I realize, that the existence and implementation of ethical codes cannot guarantee professionals’ compliance with the rules of ethical performance. I also understand that how we treat the norms of professional ethics depends on our inner morality and the inner sense of responsibility regarding our actions at workplace.
To a large extent, professional ethics relies on fear, which is characteristic of humans and can make them obey to the law; but fear is not the best guide and companion, when it comes to ethics. Moreover, professionals are not always afraid of the consequences, which their unethical actions may cause. I am sure, that in every controversial situation, and in every situation which requires weighing the morality of certain actions, priority should be given to the principles of morality, fairness, honesty, and avoiding harm.
These principles of personal ethics should serve the basis for choosing the appropriate norm of professional ethics to comply with. I strongly believe that by prioritizing one’s personal morality we will substantially improve the quality of ethical conduct in professional organizational environments. 3. How would you respond to a corporate decision, to which you are ethically opposed? In the world, where the speed of change and our ability to react to these changes determines our chances for corporate success, not all decisions taken by firms can be considered ethical.
In the situation, where a corporate decision goes against my ethical principles, I will primarily have to ask myself, why I am opposed to the corporate decision, and what can be done to change this situation. In the modern world, “the problems we not face and will increasingly face, require a radically different form of thinking, thinking that is more complex, more adaptable, and more sensitive to divergent points of view” (Paul & Elder, 2002). That is why the mere fact that I am ethically opposed to a corporate decision does not necessarily mean that the decision itself is unethical.
If that is the case, however, I will need to decide, how the unethical decision will impact other corporate players and whether unethical conduct is also unlawful. In my self-research of the (possibly) unethical corporate decision, I will have to review numerous facts and multiple perspectives, to ensure that the decision does not benefit the firm and may also become the source of irreversible negative outcomes. I may want to reflect my ethical concerns in writing, to ensure that I have reviewed all relevant information regarding the issue.
It should be noted, that ethics is extremely flexible. Moreover, ethics tends to be relative and varies from society to society. That is why we should be particularly cautious in our ethical judgments. If the new corporate decision is designed to satisfy the needs of specific groups, or to resolve the major corporate controversies; if it is the necessary step to better company’s performance and does not imply breaking the laws, our ethical attitudes toward this decision may be changed as a result of rethinking the major aspects and drivers that stand behind it.
Colero, L. (2006). A framework for universal principles of ethics. U. B. C. Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved February 22, 2009 from http://www. ethics. ubc. ca/papers/invited/colero. html Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2002). Critical thinking: tools for taking charge of your professional and personal life. Financial Times. Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2003). Understanding the foundations of ethical reasoning. The Foundation for Critical Thinking. Ruggiero. (2004). Thinking critically about ethical issues. 6th ed. The McGraw-Hill Companies.