How to Describe the Difference Between Personal & Professional Ethics

Professional and personal ethics can often differ.

Professional and personal ethics can often differ.

Ethics are the standards of right and wrong that refer to what we should and should not do. Often, our personal feelings differ from those of our employers. The things we are asked to do at work may not be illegal, but they can impose a conflict with what we think is the right thing to do in our personal life. The majority of professionals solve this by choosing to separate their professional lives from their personal lives.

Define what your own personal ethics are. These could include the characteristics of honesty, integrity, human rights, compassion toward others and upholding religious principles. Personal ethics begins with the information we have been exposed to. This includes the books we read, the type of religious instruction we receive and the people we associate with.

Examine what your company's ethics are. What characteristics do your employer and management hold as most important? These can include giving proper credit for ideas, respect for others or using the company's technology solely for work. For instance, the Illinois Institute of Technology defines professional ethics as the principles and standards that underlie a profession’s responsibilities and conduct, or the way the company treats employees and customers.

Read over your employer's code of ethics. Many companies have a code of ethics that details how to act in a variety of conditions. For example, the American Bar Association provides a code of ethics for attorneys. This code includes expectations for client confidentiality, misrepresentation, solicitation of clients and pro bono service. When an employee fails to follow a professional code of ethics set forth by a company, he or she can face disciplinary action and possible legal liability. It's important to understand what is expected of you.

Compare where your company's professional ethics and your own personal ethics differ. For example, if you are a physician who believes in the right to life, and a patient asks for information to terminate her pregnancy, your professional responsibility is to provide her with the information she needs regardless of your own feelings.

Look at case-by-case scenarios where your employer has responded to certain situations. How do each of these situations compare to how you would personally act? For example, could you fire an employee with five children before Christmas even if the employee was costing the company money? In addition, if you are a person who tells your spouse everything, could you go home each night and maintain workplace confidentiality?

 

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Melody Dawn has been writing business articles and blogs since 2004. Her work has appeared in the "Gainesville Times," "Player's Press" and "USA Today." She is also skilled in writing product descriptions and marketing materials. Dawn holds a Master of Business from Brenau University.

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