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Professional Ethics

An Overview of Ethics

What does ethics means to you?

• Is it about your feelings?

• Is it about your religion?
• Is it about the law?
• Is it about “whatever society accepts”?
What is Ethics?
• Ethics refers to well-founded standards of right
and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to
do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits
to society, fairness, or specific virtues.

• It also refers to the study and development of

one's ethical standards.
Fundamental principles of ethics
• We have an obligation to respect the autonomy of other persons,
which is to respect the decisions made by other people
concerning their own lives.

• This is also called the principle of human dignity.

• E.g. Honesty in our dealings with others & obligation to keep

Fundamental principles of ethics

• We have an obligation to bring about good in all

our actions.

• E.g. We must take positive steps to prevent

Fundamental principles of ethics
• The Principle of Least Harm
• A person should choose to do the least harm
possible and to do harm to the fewest people.

• E.g. A person has a larger responsibility to

simply walk past a person rather than to punch
a person as they walk past with no justified
Fundamental principles of ethics


• We have an obligation to provide others with
whatever they are owed or deserve. In public
life, we have an obligation to treat all people
equally, fairly, and impartially.
• This means that a person will follow his/her
obligations to another individual or society
because upholding one’s duty is what is
considered ethically correct.

• A deontologist will always keep his promises to

a friend and will follow the law.

• It is founded on the ability to predict the
consequences of an action.

• To a utilitarian, the choice that yields the

greatest benefit to the most people is the choice
that is ethically correct.
• The rights set forth by a society are protected and
given the highest priority.
• Rights are considered correct since a large or ruling
population endorses them.
• E.g. A person may say that her friend will borrow her
car in the afternoon. The friend who was the ability to
borrow the car has the “right” to the car.

• The virtue ethical theory judges a person by his
character rather by an action that may deviate
from his normal behavior.
• It takes the person’s morals, reputation and
motivation into account when rating an unusual
and irregular behavior.
Morals vs. Ethics

Morals are one’s personal beliefs about right

and wrong, while the term ethics describes
standards or codes of behavior expected of an
individual by a group (nation, organization,
profession) to which an individual belongs.
• Law is a system of rules that tells us what we can and
cannot do. These are enforced by a set of institutions.
• Legal act – act that conform to the law.
• Moral act - conform with what an individual believes to
be the right thing to do.
• Laws can proclaim an act as legal, although many people
may consider the act immoral.
• Ethics has risen to the top of the business agenda
because the risks associated with inappropriate
behavior have increased and in their potential
negative impact.
• Clearly, unethical behavior has led to serious
negative consequences that have had a major
global impact.
• Several trends have increased the likelihood
of unethical behavior.

• First, for many organizations, greater globalization has

created much more complex work environment.
• Second, in today’s recessionary economic climate,
organizations are extremely challenged to maintain
revenue and profits. Some organizations are sorely
tempted to resort to unethical behavior to maintain
• Employees, shareholders, and regulatory agencies
are increasingly sensitive to violations of
accounting standards, failures to disclose
substantial changes in business conditions,
nonconformance with required health and safety
practices, and production of unsafe pr substandard
Why Fostering a Good Business Ethics is

• Organizations have at least five good reasons for promoting

a work environment in which employees are encouraged to
act ethically when making business decisions:
1. Gaining the good will of the community
2. Creating an organization that operates consistently
3. Fostering good business practices
4. Protecting the organization and its employees from legal
5. Avoiding unfavorable publicity
Gaining The Good Will of the community
• Although organizations exist primarily to earn
profits or provide services to customers, they also
have some fundamental responsibilities to
society. Often they declare these responsibilities
in a formal statement of their company’s
principles or beliefs.
• Philanthropy allows a company to demonstrate
its values in action and present a human face to
its stakeholders.
Microsoft’s statement of Values
Creating an organization that operates

• Organizations develop and abide by values to

create an organizational culture and to define a
consistent approach for dealing with the needs of
their stakeholders—shareholders, employees,
customers, suppliers, and the community.
• Operate with honesty and integrity, staying true to
organizational principles
• Operate according to standards of ethical conduct, in
words and action
• Treat colleagues, customers, and consumers with respect
• Strive to be the best at what matters most to the
• Value diversity
• Make decisions based on facts and principles
Fostering Good Business Practices
• In many cases, good ethics can mean good
business and improved profits.
• On the other hand, bad ethics can lead to bad
business results.
• Likewise, bad ethics can have a negative impact
on employees, many of whom can develop
negative attitudes if they perceive a difference
between their own values and those stated or
implied by an organization’s actions.
Protecting the organization and its
employees from legal action
• In a 1909 ruling (United States v. New York
Central & Hudson River Railroad Co.), the U.S.
Supreme Court established that an employer can
be held responsible for the acts of its employees
even if the employees act in a manner contrary to
corporate policy and their employer’s directions.
• The principle established is called respondeat
superior, or “let the master answer.”
Avoiding Unfavorable Publicity
• The public reputation of a company strongly
influences the value of its stock, how consumers
regard its products and services, the degree of
oversight it receives from government agencies,
and the amount of support and cooperation it
receives from government agencies, and the
amount of support and cooperation it receives
from its business partners.