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Ethics is a word that can be used generally, therefore it is significant to understand the meaning of this question by examining the meaning of personal ethics or professional ethics. To understand what personal ethics is, we may need to mention words such as honesty, integrity or accountability which are also considered to be a part of an individual’s codes of conduct. These individual qualities are informed within us from our childhood. In addition, an individual’s background and social life play a significant role in shaping these values. For example, when a child who is taught honesty by their father at an early age, the child learns, keeps, and values this quality. As the child grows, this influences his actions and behavior. This quality will also be portrayed in different contexts such as communicating with family, friends or in a business, such values naturally comes out on his behavior.
On the contrary, professional ethics can be considered as codes of conduct that are set by a committee of an organization. Professional ethics is different from personal ethics because the individual has a choice between what is right and what is wrong. But, when it comes to professional ethics, the individual has no choice. It is more important for organizations to increase a reputation of the organization. For example, it needs to be ensured that every single individual in the organization does their work as how it goes. Professional ethics’ codes guarantee that the individual is accountable for their actions. Also, this stands for a sense of responsibility as well. Thus, there are some differences between personal ethics and professional ethics.
First, as I noted above a little bit, the individual can make a decision with his values or qualities such as accountability and honesty in personal ethics. However, it is not like when it comes to professional ethics. For example, as a professional person, you have a particular right thing, therefore, you should choose the one that is always considered as right. Additionally, personal ethics has a sense of right or wrong which can be changed, but professional ethics’ right is already stated by industrial setting which can not be changed. Therefore, sometimes these two things have a clash due to the fact that when these two see a solution from different views. For example, in a real story which happened in 1971 which is known as “Stanford prison experiment”, they made an experiment on students with 15$ a day deal to act them like prisoners and guards. From just a day one, guard students, who have all power, acted seriously to prisoner students. Also, this experiment’s result begun from just first day’s night by prisoner students writing a letter and on the title one of them wrote his number of prison, not a name. During the experiment, guards were really harsh and tough to prisoner students, so prisoner students tried to escape or even did not want to take their money and wanted to cancel the experiment. But the leader of the experiment did not want them to get out of it easily. But it has gone really badly, for example, guards used their power for abusing prisoners and act with them like real prisoners. Also this experiment continuing period was 1-2 weeks, but this experiment was canceled in just 6 days because of a bad situation. After this happened, one guard student in an interview said that “When you have little or no supervision as to what you’re doing, and no one steps in and says, “Hey, you can’t do this”—things just keep escalating. You think, how can we top what we did yesterday? How do we do something even more outrageous?” (Dave Eshelman, 1971). Also, he said that he regrets about what he did in an experiment. So according to this case, when professional ethics is becoming more powerful than personal ethics, personal ethics becoming like professional ethics without realizing the recent situation. Once you are in under professional ethics too much or in an ethical blindness, it is hard to maintain or remain your personal ethics into your profession.
Second, but on the other hand, there was a guard student who did not lose his personal ethics such as morality until the end of the experiment. So far you may think that it is always good to keep personal ethics in our life, but what if you would be kind to prisoners, what could be happened. Prisoner students will be how they are or will they be more out of control. Therefore, also you need to understand that personal ethics is responsible for the individual, however, professional ethics is not just for the individual, but it also responsible for an organization as well. For example, as we discussed in a class, CFO’s dilemma (Henn, 2009) that a company of CFO after knew about a financial problem they faced. He needed to choose between personal ethics and professional ethics. In personal ethics, he wanted more money because he was going to have a baby, and wanted to have a new car. If this came true, it can be considered as a personal unethical decision. But rather than that, he chose to tell to CEO about what is going wrong, even he was at risk to lose his job. So according to this case, it was easy to just not to tell to CEO about a problem in the organization and make more money, however, professionally it is not right to be selfish. A professional person should be accountable to the organization all the time. What if he just did not tell about a problem, it could be harm to many people in the organization or even it could be impacted on the public in a bad way. Because in this case, the company was going to offer IPO (Initial Public Offer), maybe after many people purchased their shares, there will probably be a risk that their value of the company could be become lower or faced to bankruptcy. Thus, it is not for the individual, it was about shareholders and an impact on the public.
Third, personal ethics is collected from your family, friends, and also it can be developed through life altering experiences. However, professional ethics is set once you are a part of organizations. Even though your professional ethics could be set by someone who is trying to make your ethics what he wants in order to use your ethics for his benefits. For example, in Enron’s case, there many graduated students of the best universities were working there. But all of them were in a frame (context) that makes them ethical blind. It is obvious that they were all good workers even they did not realize what was really going on. Therefore, it is easier to change your professional ethics by your upper level of workers, especially, when you are under a pressure of time or situation. Even though personal ethics and professional ethics could be in an ethical blindness, personal ethics is more likely to see the situation from more perspectives than professional ethics. For example, as a worker of Enron, you will do things which are good for your company. But if you do not know, that is a problem which could be stated by top level workers which mean professional ethics is usually stated by not you. For personal ethics, it has been stated through your whole life, so it is more likely to be not changed by just someone or something. Thus, you need to balance between personal ethics and professional ethics in a right way.
To sum up, taking professional ethics has more dangerousness on others who are around of you. When during personal ethics is accountable to the individual, professional ethics is more likely to responsible for the individual and organization. Also, professional ethics is stable that stated by someone which could be harmful. So there is no right and wrong because as I noted in first two paragraphs, it usually depends on the situation we confront. Therefore, we should use our personal ethics and professional ethics to see the context for solving in a right way. They should never clash, as professional and personal ethics show your honesty and integrity. Without integrity, you have no morals, and honesty drives your ethics. There is a story about doing the right thing even when no one is looking, and it is about former president Reagan, as he allowed blind children to feel his face but blocked the media from seeing this happen. This is integrity, using a moral behavior, and ethical actions, not looking for any credit or accolades for the decision. Ethics is being lost in our society, allowing people to think that it is different in business and personal life. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
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