Professional Ethics


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Professional Ethics
  Webster's Collegiate Dictionary  defines "ethics" as the "discipline dealing with what is good and  bad and with moral duty and obligation," "a set of moral principles or value" or "a theory or system of moral values." Ethics assists individuals in deciding when an act is moral or immoral, right or wrong. Ethics can be grounded in natural law, religious tenets, parental and family influence, educational experiences, life experiences, and cultural and societal expectations. A simple definition for "ethics" is those standards or morals a person sets for himself or herself regarding what is good and bad and right and wrong. If something is "ethical", it does not necessarily mean that it is legal, and vice-versa. This is partially because ethics are "subjective"  –   that is, each person's ethics are unique to that individual Individual ethics is a category of philosophy that determines what an individual believes about morality and right and wrong. This is usually distinguished from business ethics or legal ethics. These branches of ethics come from outside organizations or governments, not the individual's conscience. These branches of ethics occasionally overlap. Individual ethics can affect all areas of life, including family, finances and relationships. The purpose of personal ethics is often debated. Ideas can range from pleasing a personal god to creating a thriving community to learning the best way to please oneself. Religion inspires a large portion of individual ethics. Many devoted followers are willing to adhere to a specific morality system on faith alone. Others are motivated by humanitarian interests. These individual ethics can breed lofty goals. Some people shape their actions and priorities around ending world hunger, slowing global warming or encouraging world peace. Humanitarian efforts can also be more subtle, such as random acts of kindness for a neighbor or volunteering as a tutor. Sometimes different motivations can blend together. A religious person might make individual ethical choices that simultaneously please her god while also helping her community. Another possible motivation for individual ethics is to serve the individual. Philosophers might argue that a child will learn to share, tell the truth and work hard because he sees that these actions benefit him. For example, when a child chooses to break the rules of a game, he is creating conflict and building a barrier between himself and his peers. On the other hand, the  child who plays by the rules enjoys friendship and intimacy with his peers, ultimately benefiting himself. FACTORS AFFECTING ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING Family Influence Individuals start to form ethical standards as children in response to their perception of their  parents behaviors. Children are more likely to adopt high ethical standards if they see that their family members adhere to high standards (such as being truthful) and if they receive rewards for conforming, and punishment for not conforming, to these standards. If family members engage in unethical behaviors (such as being untruthful) and allow their children to do the same, then the latter to develop lower ethical standards. People tend to develop beliefs about ethics and morals from their parents, brothers, and sisters based on observing their behaviour, and punishment for doing things that the family perceives as "unethical". Peer Influence When children enter school, they are influenced by peers with whom they interact every day. For example, if a child’s friends engage in shoplifting, vandalism or drug abuse, the child too, may decide to do t he same. Conversely, if the child’s peers have higher ethical standards and reject the said behaviors, he is likely to adopt these standards. Classmates and others in a person's social network can shape ethics. Peer pressure, for example, can help determine how much a  person is willing to engage in questionable activities like shoplifting, lying, etc. Life Experiences Dozens of important events, both positive and negative, shape people’s lives and influences their ethical beliefs and behavior. These events are a part of growing up and maturing. For example, a  person who steals something and does not get caught feel no remorse and continue to steal. However, a person who is caught stealing may feel guilty enough to revise his ethical standards and not steal in the future. Often, the consequences of previous behaviour condition a person to  feel comfortable with certain ethical standards. For instance, if a sales person lies to a customer to make a sale and then is reprimanded by the manager, he or she would likely perceive lying as undesirable behaviour and unethical. On the other hand, if the person makes the sale, and is rewarded by the manager, lying may become perceived as a desirable and ethical behaviour. Personal Values and Morals Values and morals also influence a person’s ethical standards. For instance, a person who places financial gain and personal advancement at the top of his list of priorities will adopt a personal code of ethics that promotes the pursuit of wealth. Thus he may be ruthless in attempting to gain these rewards regardless of the cost to others. A person who puts his family at the top of his  priority list will adopt different ethical standards. Generally, a person's religious affiliation (if one exists), will shape what that person perceives as right and wrong. ISSUE-RELATED FACTORS. Moral and Ethical Decision Making One of the defining features of an ethical conflict is that it involves being pulled between two or more objectives, values, or ideals which often elicit strong emotional reactions. The competing objectives or values may both be ethical in nature, as in the conflict between loyalty to a friend and duty to report that friend’s unlawful behavior. Alternately, one of the competing values may  be ethical (e.g., the desire to help a person in need or in danger) while the other is pragmatic (e.g., financial prudence or self-protection). In either situation, a moral or ethical conflict more than other conflicts often has a strong emotional component. One of the challenges decision makers face in such situations is the need to integrate their emotional reactions to different choice options with their cognitive evaluations of the possible or expected outcomes of these options. Following this definition of an ethical decision, ethical or moral decisions do not simply constitute a specific content domain of decisions that parallels and complements other content  domains such as financial decision making or recreational decision making (Weber, Blais, & Betz, 2002). Instead, ethical decisions can occur in any substantive content domain; putting it differently, many decisions across content domains include ethical aspects or considerations. The factors that contribute to whether a specific decision is being construed as an ethical issue or a health or financial issue are themselves an important topic of empirical investigation that have implications for the ethical training and education. Morality can be defined as a system of judging acts in light of an ideal or a code of conduct. Moral judgments involve judgments about what somebody (either the decision maker or another  person) should do in a certain situation. Haidt (2001) defines moral judgments as judgments about the actions or character of other people, using as a standard of comparison the moral  prescriptions and ideals of one’s culture or subculture, which are frequently  formalized in written or unwritten codes of conduct. Most scholars agree that moral or ethical decisions need to be intentional and in response to a sense of obligation that is shaped by an ideal (Blasi, 1987). In confining ethical decision making to a business or group context, decisions on ethics are necessarily limited to actions and words (e.g., no deceit in sales promotion, use words to manipulate performance). Right behavior can be evaluated though actions and words, but there is no way to know one's thoughts. Per our distinction, thoughts and beliefs (e.g., I want to help and  benefit my customer as opposed to I want their money without regards to what is right, personal gain at the cost of someone else's reputation) will be confined to moral decisions that are part of  personal decision making. Clearly our thoughts affect our words and deeds, and in a group context, ethics in decision making can be evaluated through the tangible evidence and outcomes from words and actions. Again, thoughts and motivation are left to the personal realm. As a consequence, evaluation of appropriate ethical behavior will have limitations. In all outcomes there are the following  possibilities:     Right motivation with right action    Right motivation with wrong action    Wrong motivation with right action    Wrong motivation with wrong action Given the difficulty in exposing true motivation, ethical assessments will inherently be limited to an evaluation emphasis on action or outcome. Decision Modes and Strategies Moral philosophers have sometimes offered hypotheses about the internal processes of decision making. Hare suggested that people generally make moral judgments at an intuitive level but can reason more analytically when there is sufficient time, training, or need (Hare, 1981). Intuitions thus seem to correspond to heuristics, which can be followed to produce a decision quickly and easily, but which sometimes require additional analytic examination. In Hare’s view, critical analytic thinking is particularly useful for deriving general moral principles, which can then be applied to specific situations. Kohlberg (1969, 1983) similarly suggested that general moral principles arise from rational  processes, and that everyday moral reasoning is a conscious, rational, verbal act. Rest, Bebeau, Bebeau, Narvaez, and Thoma (1999) suggest a somewhat different model, suggesting that moral  judgments are schema-based. By contrast, in the view of Turiel, Killen, & Helwig (1987), children make moral judgments by imagining the consequences of actions and performing counterfactual reasoning. Most social psychology research has focused on the decision itself and choices made by the subject, not on the procedure used by the subject. For a more thorough examination of possible decision strategies, it is useful to turn to the judgment and decision making research tradition. Goldstein and Weber (1995) identify four general and non-exclusive categories of decision strategies: nondeliberative (determined by factors such as habit or chance, or made according to category-specific heuristics or episodes); associative deliberation (determined after experiencing
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