What Is the Difference Between Professional Values and Ethics?

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Professional ethics are formal guidelines set by a company or association while professional values are personalized and subjective. For example, one value for many professionals is arriving five minutes early for meetings, but being five minutes early is not an ethical standard.

Professional values stem from a person’s observations and experiences. A person who has constantly had to wait for others to show up to meetings may value being early, while a person who has had better luck with meetings beginning on time may place lesser value on punctuality.

Professional ethics are formalized rules set by businesses, organizations, associations and the like. All people in a business or organization are expected to follow these principles and may be reprimanded for violations. On the other hand, people who violate another person’s professional values likely will not meet official consequences because values are so subjective.

Values and ethics do not always line up. For example, a person may value complete transparency, but the company ethics may forbid that individual from being completely open with family about what he or she did at work that day. Professional values are ideals each person has for himself or herself. They may not even have consciously been thought about or analyzed. Professional ethics are much more formal and bring more consequences.