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What Are Professional Ethics?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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Business or professional ethics are standards or codes of conduct set by people in a specific profession. A code of ethics is a part of the expectations of those involved in many different types of professions. People in a profession don't want to condone bad, dishonest or irresponsible behavior if it does occur by someone in their field. By setting out expected behaviors in the form of professional ethics, professionals work together to try to uphold a good reputation. Professional ethics are commonly known as ethical business practices.

Respect and honesty are the two main components of professional ethics. All employees are expected to represent a business ethically as they are a part of it. This is why businesspeople traditionally speak of "we" or "us" rather than the more personal "I" for the most part. For instance, if an employee must mention company policy to a customer, he or she may say "I'm sorry, but this is our company policy in these situations." Policies are another type of preferred standards in how business is done, and everyone in a company is expected to represent them.

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It should be noted that people within each profession are expected to be respectful and honest in their personal dealings as well. For instance, it would be unethical for law enforcement professionals to also be criminals in their time off the job. Professionals are also expected to uphold professional ethics by not getting involved in any type of conflict of interest. A conflict of interest situation may occur when an individual tries to accomplish personal goals as a result of being in a certain profession. For example, a politician who uses government resources to get work done on his personal home could be seen as being involved in a conflict of interest.

Professional ethics training is often included in career education programs. For instance, medical assistants are trained on the many ethics issues regarding patient confidentiality. It is both unethical and unlawful to discuss a patient's health records with others who are not involved in the medical care of the individual.

Engineering, journalism, religious organizations and many other professions have professional ethics. These ethical codes or rules must never go against laws, but rather often coordinate with them as in the case of medical record confidentiality. In general, professional ethics always include upholding honesty and respect in the profession over personal needs, conflicts or biases. A bias is a personal belief such as prejudice toward a certain group of people.

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Discuss this Article

parmnparsley
Post 2

@ Babalaas- You are so right. People often oppose further regulation because it will slow short-term growth, but without some regulation, those with fewer resources get hurt (the "poorest" 90% of Americans).

If the government implements regulations properly then many industries will see sustainable growth. Maybe we will also see professional ethics upheld. There has to be some way to place checks and balances on regulations so that they do not favor small groups with a personal interest in regulation. Regulations have to serve the majority…isn’t that the premise of a democracy?

Professional ethics should also apply to government. Government should work to serve the majority of those involved in the respective business transactions, not just those who will benefit the most. This is where our system has failed, resulting in cycles of boom and bust that get shorter and shorter. The last cycle only lasted 6 years, the next may only last two.

Babalaas
Post 1

The article pointed out that codes of ethics often follow laws, but sometimes there is a lack of ethical behavior in the business world because laws are not made to enforce ethical behavior. For this reason, I believe that massive deregulation will often lead to deterioration in professional ethics.

The most recent financial crisis was the result of many different industries acting unethically. No one is holding these companies responsible because the laws were designed to let these types of behavior happen. The recent financial crisis is reminiscent of what I read about the 80s and the era of corporate greed.

The savings and loan crisis that caused the bank failures then were due to a lack of regulation and oversight. It wasn't so much those that created the mess that suffered as much as it was the people who held deposits and investments in those banks.

Fast forward to today, and you have many "reputable" banks committing predatory lending practices and selling investments while betting on their failure. If this is not an escape from professional ethics then I do not know what is.

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