Have you taken the time to analyze your personal ethical standards and the implications of these standards as a professional in your field? The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote for school and a methodology you may find helpful.
Ethics are what helps you choose between right and wrong behaviors, or right and right behaviors, based on your own beliefs and values. Rothwell and Sullivan (2005) recommend you take the time to define your personal ethics and align them with professional standards. In order to complete this exercise, you need to have a high degree of self-awareness and self-development. Taking the time to identify personal and professional ethical frameworks is not a onetime activity. You must regularly take time to reflect and contemplate on your experiences. This will help you discover and maintain a high sense of personal and professional standards throughout your career.
Once you search for and identify your desired personal and professional ethical standards, Matousek (2012) found you will be able to re-wire your ethical behaviors through neuroplasticity and practice. The goal is to strive to do the best thing, not just do what is right. It is searching beyond behaviors to seek wise ethical choices that lead to satisfying personal and professional relationships and life.
When creating personal and professional ethical standards, the Josephson Institute of Ethics (1999) encourages you to find and use courage, honor, humility, and forgiveness. Striving to live up to these values over the years will help you create positive relationships, a strong reputation, and a solid support system and with good returns, some refer to this as karma.
Personal ethical standards can be a few sentences or many pages. The key is they should inspire deep thought, reflection, and identify unique temptations to your life. Once personal ethics and standards are defined, Williams and Anderson (2006) encourages you to work through the below ethical checklist to verify for practicality, focus, and logic ensuring the decision will promote respect, authenticity, and responsibility.
Ethical Checklist (Williams & Anderson, 2006)
- The legality of policy test – does my decision break the law or corporate policy?
- The newspaper, light-of-the day, or family test – would I mind sharing my decision publicly?
- Respect all – have I encouraged people of other cultures to express themselves in their uniqueness, regardless of the prevailing corporate culture?
- Involvement test – Have I involved others in the decision?
- Walk the talk, pursue authenticity – Does the client perceive me as motivational and able to retain highly capable people?
- Personal responsibility – Do I accept personally the consequences of my actions?
- Relevant information – Does the organization practice glass-wall management, in which people openly communicate their actions and objectives as they relate to organizational initiatives?
- Fairness test – How do I interpret fairness?
Being consistent by matching intention with ethical behaviors and actions will help you build a strong reputation.
Howard and Korver (2008) warn not to blindly adopt the ethics of others. It is vital to draw thoughts and feelings from within. Take time, using the below ‘Area of Contemplation’ list, to examine, identify, and embrace your personal and professional ethics and standards. This will help you prepare for challenges and uncertainties when they arise, even if they are between right and right (Kidder, 1995).
|Area of Contemplation||Ethics and Standards|
|Field of _______.||·|
|What purpose brought you to the field of ____? How does that purpose relate to the work you take on?||·|
|Whom do you serve? Is the focus a single client, the organization, the employees, a higher power, myself, society as a whole, or something else?||·|
|Reflect on the principles and values that guide your work. What are they?||·|
|How have your principles and values guided the type of work you accept and how you do your work?||·|
|How have your principles and values been challenged in your work?||·|
|How have you resolved those challenges?||·|
Source: Wheatly, Tannenbaum, Yardely-Griffin, and Quade (2003).
Howard, R. & Korver, C. (2008). Ethics for the real world: Creating a personal code to guide decisions in work and life. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.
Josephson Institute of Ethics. (1999). Five steps of principled reasoning. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://ethicsalarms.com/rule-book/ethical-decision-making-tools/.
Kidder, R. (1995). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. New York, NY: Harper.
Matousek, M. (2012). Ethical Wisdom. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
McDowell, B. (2000). Ethics and excuses: The crisis in professional responsibility.
Rothwell, W., & Sullivan, R. (2005). Practicing organization development: A guide for consultants (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Williams, P., & Anderson, S. (2006). Law and ethics in coaching: How to resolve and avoid difficult problems in your practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.