What Is the Meaning of Professional Ethics?

Professional ethics refers to the personal code of conduct that one is expected to uphold in a workplace, as well as the ethics of the organization and industry that he or she works for.

Professional ethics is an ancient concept that dates back to the days of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Professional ethics and codes of conduct first appeared in the Hippocratic Oath, which established a series of laws, or professional ethics, for people working in the field of medicine. Many other distinguished fields also have a code of ethics for professionals, including law and finance. Professional ethics are designed to establish a basic manner in which affected individuals are expected to associate and interact with one another. This establishes a base level of acceptable behavior that is designed to make human interactions go smoothly.

Professional Ethics and Duties There are a number of professional obligations that each individual must adhere to in order to ensure that his or her behavior is considered appropriate and acceptable in the workplace. Honesty, respect for others (whether it’s supervisors, subordinates, patients or clients), hard work (in other words, carrying one’s weight in a corporate or business setting to be part of a team) and confidentiality are considered to be the pillars of professional ethics. Confidentiality is important in all lines of work, but it is particularly critical in the fields of medicine and science. Additionally, in many situations, professionals are expected to abide by the simple motto of “do no harm.” This applies to all work situations, and it holds true for people regardless of how long they’ve been working and whether or not they enjoy their jobs. The principle behind this value is that, through their work, people have a duty to help make the world a better place. Doctors, for instance, have a professional ethical obligation to help people recover from an illness or injury. Lawyers can help clients win legal battles and settle disputes in their families, communities and places of work.

Corporate Ethics Codes and Violations In addition to broad philosophical and industry guidelines and standards for ethical performance, many individual companies and corporations have their own set of ethics codes for employees of all levels to follow. These codes establish ethical behavior that is intended to make the workplace a happier, healthier and more productive place. Ethic codes are based on the same principles of valuing others’ opinions, treating others in the workforce with kindness and respect and abiding by personal ethics of honesty, integrity and hard work. Company ethics are also intended to bestow certain responsibilities on individuals to ensure that they are carrying their weight in the workplace. Corporate ethics, like industry ethics, also have consequences for those who do not abide by the code of ethics. The ramifications for violating an ethical code can be minor, such as just a verbal warning, or more severe, such as the loss of a job or even punishment, such as jail time or a fine. Examples of violating or not abiding by an ethical code are gross negligence, which is failing to deliver a minimally acceptable level of standard care, and deliberate wrongdoing, which is when a professional intentionally causes harm to a patient or coworker.