Professional Code of Ethics

Organizations often experience challenging ethical situations. Since organizations bring together individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and with varying personalities, disagreements and conflicts will always ensue within the workplace. Various professions also carry with them unique ethical dilemmas and contradicting situations as individual career needs come into conflict with overall organizational needs. For this reason, each organization or profession requires a professional code of ethics to guide people’s behaviors and decisions.

What is a professional code of ethics?

A code of ethics refers to a set of ethical principles that have been identified and documented to guide professionals and help them behave with dignity and integrity. Professional codes of ethics are composed of ethical values and the mission of a business, organization, an association or a professional body. The code guides how the professionals conduct themselves in official matters pertaining their business or profession.

A professional code of ethics also provides a benchmark upon which professionals should base their decisions when solving problems or choosing a course of action.

Organizations create a code of ethics to help them spell out the core values and standards that demonstrates best practices for employees such as honesty, integrity and responsibility.

Examples of Ethical Codes

Professional codes of ethics cover various functional areas and professions. Some of the examples of professional codes of conduct include the following:

1) Lawyers: E.g. the American Bar Association Code of Ethics which suggests that lawyers should provide competent representation to clients.

2) Physicians: The American Medical Association has a code of conduct which suggests that physicians should uphold high standards of professionalism, honesty, and moral character.

3) Accountants: professional accountants may have a professional code of ethics which requires them to be honest, transparent, and accountable in their practices.

4) Teachers: Teachers may also adopt professional codes of conduct to guide their behaviors and relationships with students, including the values of impartiality, integrity and equity.

5) Business Code of Ethics: they spell out the ethical principles that guide managers and employees in their actions, including confidentiality and caring about the needs of customers.

Examples of Ethical Principles

Professional Code of Ethics can have any of the following ethical principles and values:

1) Honesty: being truthful and avoiding deceit or misrepresentation of information.

2) Trustworthiness: ability to build relationships based on trust

3) Loyalty: remaining loyal to your organization

4) Respect: you should respect the rights, views and dignity of other people

5) Doing good and avoiding harm to other people at all times

6) Accountability: being responsible and providing the right information

7) Justice and Fairness: you should be fair and impartial in all your dealings

8) Law abiding: respect the law in everything you do.

9) Responsibility: performing your duties as expected of you

10) Discipline – follow the rules and uphold high moral character.

The Advantages of Professional Code of Ethics

Professional codes of ethics are not always necessary, but companies voluntarily choose to adopt them in order to give themselves an identity and create values that best represent their business practices. Every organization creates a unique code of ethics that focuses on their areas of interest depending on their industry and position in the market.

There are several benefits of professional codes of conduct, including:

1) Enhancing compliance with legal and best business practices

2) Boosting sales through increased customer satisfaction. Customers often value organizations that have good ethics.

3) It promotes organizational culture by spelling out core values and beliefs of the organization

4) Creates a clear vision and mission for the organization

5) Builds good reputation and public image for the organization

6) Promotes cooperation and good working relationships among employees in the workplace

7) Enhances loyalty and commitment of employees and managers to the organization

8) It builds positive relations, moral behaviors and environment of trust

9) Attracts the most talented and qualified employees

10) Enhances professional growth and development of employees

Differences between a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct

A professional code of ethics and a code of conduct are always viewed and used interchangeably; rightly so because they both guide behavior among a group of professionals. However, there are specific details that differentiate a code of ethics from a code of conduct.

Generally, professional codes of ethics have a wider scope than codes of conduct. The former covers broader areas of business practice, while the latter focuses on narrow and small business areas.

A code of ethics guides behavior by providing a set of principles and values; but the code of conduct identifies the specific actions that are acceptable in given situations.

For example, a professional code of ethics may specify that employees should be honest in their dealings with employees. A professional code of conduct will suggest that employees should not provide misleading information about the products they are selling when communicating with customers.

How to develop an effective professional Code of Ethics

Developing a professional code of ethics requires a well thought-out plan and procedure. You don’t just list several ethical principles or values arbitrarily to come up with a code of ethics. It is important to know the goals and objectives of your organization as well as the expectations of key stakeholders.

Here are a few steps you should take in order to create an effective professional code of ethics:

1) Set your priorities and identify your goals

2) Collect feedback from employees and other stakeholders

3) Select a Code of Ethics Committee to develop and implement the code of ethics

4) Integrate your code of ethics in all departments and communicate effectively to all employees.

5) Implement training programs for everyone to learn the code.

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