The difference between personal and professional ethics is that they should have a completely different orientation. When we make moral judgments, decisions, and act as a person, our personal ethics guide our own behavior and show what kind of behavior we expect in return from other people. Our own personal ethic could be anything, even “Everyone in the world should always do only what’s best for me.”
On the other hand, although there’s no strict definition of a profession, nobody should be expected to pay us for doing only what’s best for our self. We are getting paid as a professional for acting ‘In their interest, not ours.’ In the case of the higher-end professions, they are granted the exclusive right to practice in their domain on condition that they act in the interests of those that they serve.
Personal Ethics refer to a person’s personal or self-created values and codes of conduct. From the very beginning, these ethics are instilled in an individual, with a large part having been played by their parents, friends, and family. Common examples may include honesty, openness, commitment, unbiased behavior, and sense of responsibility. What a person develops regarding fairness or learns during childhood remains with him all through his life and is reflected by his actions and words. No matter if he is talking to a friend or his relatives or an elderly, his ethics would be clear from what he says and how he says it. A person’s personal ethics are revealed in a professional situation through his behavior.
Personal Ethics –
- These involve our morals and values.
- They are instilled generally, during childhood, by our parents, family, and friends.
- They relate to our deep-rooted principles, and how religiously we follow them determines the kind of person we are.
- The nature of our personal ethics depend on whether our principles have an optimistic effect on the people surrounding us, i.e., our strict adherence to our principles must not spoil someone else’s life; a negative impact on society due to our principles violates the very reason we are following them.
- I will always speak the truth. This is something that we would have been taught by our parents and teachers since the time we first began to understand the world. By the time we grow up, this thought would have been ingrained in our system. Following this principle will make we feel satisfied and happy, and in case we face a dilemma wherein we need to compromise on our honesty, the result might make us feel sick and remorseful.
- I will respect all those who are elder to me. Following this will invariably make us a patient and dutiful human being; yet, we might have to compromise on it if someone is taking advantage of our sincerity and humility.
- I will never hurt anyone purposely. This will help hone the way we speak and behave with our family and friends. We will think twice before unnecessarily hurting someone with either our words or actions. If we do so, we will not hesitate to apologize thereafter. Following this principle will make us humble, which is an essential quality that we need in our lives.
- I will maintain a caring attitude toward everyone. This will evoke our compassion. It might sometimes be difficult to care for people who have been rude to us in the past, but if we start reacting in the same way, just to be vengeful, what is the use of we laying down this principle for our self? Thus, this ethic is a stringent test of our patience. Our caring attitude even towards our opponents will win them over one day.
Professional Ethics are those values and principles that are introduced to an individual in a professional organization. Each employee is meant to strictly follow these principles. They do not have a choice. Also, this approach is imperative in professional settings as it brings a sense of discipline in people as well as helps maintain decorum in offices. Some examples may include confidentiality, fairness, transparency, and proficiency. These ethics make the employees responsible.
Professional Ethics –
- These involve a strict code of conduct laid down at the workplace.
- Our ethics here involve adherence to rules and regulations.
- Non-compliance to such rules may risk our reputation, as our behavior will immediately be reported as brash and unprofessional.
- Our personal views and concerns about any topic will not be of much help in a corporate setting, how well we follow the protocol of the company is what will matter here.
Since this is something the organization will layout, the principles vary from one another. Some generalized examples can be essayed as follows:
- Punctuality – No company will tolerate employees who aren’t punctual as regards to arriving at work, submitting our work, meeting deadlines, etc. We cannot enter and leave as we wish, we need to comply to the rules. This is one quality that can be included as a personal ethic too, and people who follow this in their personal lives will find it convenient to follow at the workplace too.
- Time Management – Do not whine if we are assigned extra work, time management is crucial for rising up the corporate ladder. Learn the art of managing work in less time, and we will be a shining example for your colleagues. Our capability will be determined by the quality of work, not the quantity. Before calling it a day, plan for the next day. Learn efficient time management techniques.
- No Gossip – This is an important rule that all must follow. Our workplace is not a place (they too have rules against gossiping, by the way) to gossip, especially about our boss or colleagues or even ex-colleagues. If we are caught doing the same, it will reflect very badly on our personality. None of our past goodwill will be taken into account, we will immediately be branded as a gossip-monger or a maverick who can’t keep his/her mouth shut. Learn to communicate appropriately and effectively, one small mistake can take us down the drain, and if we work in a highly regulated organization, we might as well be cleaning out our desk.
- Safeguard Company Privacy – Some companies even ask their prospective employees to sign a legal document preventing them from discussing work outside the company premises. So, preferably, maintain this policy, do not discuss our projects or contracts (unless we are meant to discuss them at meetings or social gatherings) outside the office, and if we do, make sure we have prior permission and do not reveal too much in any case. This rule is even more stringent with lawyers and psychiatrists since they are not supposed to discuss or divulge any details about their clients.
The biggest difference between personal and professional codes of conduct is perhaps the strictness with which people conform to them. The values that we define for our self are up to us to be followed or not to be followed. However, those defined in a company or by a profession must be followed by us, since the breach of these principles or rules may harm our reputation and status. But if we do not adhere to our personal ethics, it might hardly make a difference, depending on the circumstances. Even then, we must keep in mind that violation of our own rules may harm others around us.
Now when our personal ethic and our professional ethic are in harmony we might want to say there’s no difference between them. But when our personal ethic differs from the ethics of our chosen profession, that’s when things start to get interesting. Some difference is helpful to both, as everyone sharpens their moral perception. Professional codes of ethics and judgments in discipline cases are not written in stone. But in the case of the more fundamental types of difference where we feel personally that we have no choice but to disagree, we have to remember that our profession was a choice. If we are a pacifist we shouldn’t choose a military career. If we find some things unforgivable we shouldn’t choose to be a priest. Nor should we choose to be a lawyer if we can’t set our personal beliefs aside to defend people who’ve committed horrible crimes. Or a doctor if we don’t want to treat people whose moral beliefs, religion, gender, race or behavior differ from our own. So to sum up, there’s not just one kind of difference between personal and professional ethics, but two kinds, one that is helpful, and another that is not. But in the end, they should have a completely different orientation. The personal ethic is all about us, and the professional ethic is supposed to be only about those our profession serves.