How Can Professional Values & Ethics Impact Career Success?

Demonstrating healthy values and ethics lets employers put trust in your hands.
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Your values and ethics guide the decisions you make. Making decisions against them can lead to regrets that haunt you later and hurt your career. Similarly, employers and co-workers can help or hinder your career through the values and ethics they demonstrate on the job. Staying true to your personal values brings many benefits to your reputation and career.

Values Guide You

    Values guide your sense of what’s important. Some values are likely more important to you than others, and where they rank in your psyche impacts your career choices. For example, valuing security more than achievement would make you more risk-averse. You’d likely be more comfortable keeping the job you have rather than dropping everything for a risky new opportunity. Conversely, by valuing achievement more than security, you might feel fine risking what you have now for the uncertain chance of something more. Using your values to guide you, you can decide quickly what actions and opportunities to take or leave.

Ethics Ground You

    Ethics ground your behavior in a sense of right and wrong. Personal ethics come from your upbringing, experiences and relationships throughout your life. Professional ethics might stem from your education, or be codified by the organization or profession that you’re in. For example, according to the International Coach Federation, many life coaches follow an industry code of ethics that includes being truthful when advertising and maintaining client confidentiality. Adhering to ethical standards keeps you out of trouble with customers, employers, colleagues and the law. Being ethical strengthens people’s trust in you, which can attract support for your ideas, cooperation at work and leadership opportunities.


    Staying true to your values and ethics builds integrity. Compromising your beliefs for a job can diminish your self-respect and make you resent your job, the people you work with and yourself. Many times the pressure is on to sacrifice values and ethics for the good of the company, the will of the boss, or the reward of more money. Having integrity can serve you more in the long run by strengthening your relationships and reputation as you make career progress.

When Forces Clash

    Being too flexible when your values and ethics clash with your workplace culture has lasting impact. Your health, self-respect and how you want your family or community to remember you should never be compromised, suggests Kathy Caprino in her Forbes article, “What You Should Never Compromise On While Building Your Career.” Some situations, though, might challenge your resolve. For example, you might value honesty but end up pressured to cover up for a co-worker or bend the truth about a product to close a deal. Occasional compromises might be necessary but know the lines you won’t cross. Colleagues may hold themselves to higher standards if you express concern over unethical behavior. As a manager, thinking long-term for the greater good and creating results through integrity can impact employees’ career success along with yours.

When Integrity Backfires

    Upholding your values and ethics could cause rivalry. Forty-five percent of employees responding to the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey by the Ethics Resource Center witnessed unethical behavior in the workplace and 20 percent of whistleblowers suffered some form of retaliation. The pressure to compromise ethics is also rising in more workplaces, according to the survey. Under unethical management, maintaining your integrity may require changing jobs or career paths.

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