Ethical and Professional Standards
Ethical and Professional Standards
Hi, and welcome to this video on ethical and professional standards! Today, we’ll be looking at several different ethical principles, seeing how they relate to different scenarios and the professional workplace as a whole. Let’s get started!
Would you consider yourself to be honest? Do you try to do what’s right? When it comes to your professional and personal practices, how well do you show your loyalty and commitment? Let’s put you to the test. Consider the case of an HR Manager who has been informed that she must terminate an employee. This is nothing unusual, since a part of an HR Manager’s position is to administer terminations. What makes this case unique is that the close relationship the HR Manager has with the employee may also come to an end. Both have worked at the company for several years, and in that time, they have become good friends. The HR Manager is suddenly overcome with dread as she anticipates how the meeting will play out. She fears her relationship with the terminated employee will end. She also knows that if she breaches confidentiality, she too could lose her job.
This case includes an ethical agent, who is being faced with an ethical dilemma. We will cover these, and other ethical components in today’s video, including Transparency, Confidentiality, Anonymity, Conflicts of Interest, Privacy Principles, and Code of Conduct.
Let’s first familiarize ourselves with the meaning of ethics: Ethics are considered to be morals that govern your conduct as a human. Overall, it’s how a person deciphers what’s right from what’s wrong. These principles can be interchangeable from personal to professional settings and can drive how we manage certain situations. Let’s look at personal ethics.
These usually include a person’s values and how the proper display of those values can positively affect another person’s experience. In other words, your personal code of conduct. These can differ from one person to another. Some examples would be showing compassion, being respectful to others, or being trustworthy. Someone who may struggle with personal ethics may be lacking in integrity.
Often directly associated with ethics, integrity is maintaining honesty as part of your moral principles. It is also best described as “doing what is right, even when no one is looking.” If you go to the ATM and money is hanging out of the machine because the person who made the transaction before you unintentionally left it behind, your integrity will show in the way you handle that situation.
In Business Ethics, as a representative for an organization, you are expected to comply with the professional standards that are listed in the business’ code of conduct policy. In doing so, you are upholding the professional ethics as part of the workgroup without having to share the same values as your colleagues. We will talk more about code of ethics a little later.
Now, just a minute ago, I mentioned the term “ethical agent”. Ethical agents are entrusted by a business to act appropriately and ethically when carrying out their duties. It’s not an appointed assignment. It’s an expectation of all employees within the business. For example, a CEO who reports questionable financial practices to the Board of Directors is acting as an ethical agent. Executives and first-line managers are commonly considered to be ethical agents; however, non-supervisory employees could also act as ethical agents. Another example would be an employee reporting that he’s received a phone call from someone claiming to be in IT who was asking for his username and password. Both the CEO and the employee knew of information and potential breaches that could damage the integrity of the business, and both made decisions that prevented either from taking place. This leads us to a related topic, an ethical dilemma.
An ethical dilemma occurs when you have an unfavorable situation that regardless of the final decision that’s made, the problem will not be resolved nor will it be well-accepted. If you recall the case of the HR Manager and her colleague friend who is facing termination, that is a prime example of an ethical dilemma. The situation is both negative and awkward. If the HR Manager bends the rules and tells her friend to expect to be out of a job soon, she herself stands the risk of being terminated. If she follows through with the termination, she may lose the friendship altogether.
A somewhat similar situation that you want to avoid if at all possible is a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest in the workplace can occur when an employee has inwardly-competing agendas which could later clash. This occurs when both personal and professional interests cause a conflict and influence a person’s actions. Going back to our original scenario, the conflict of interest lies in her inability to issue this termination because the employee she is terminating is also her friend. The HR Manager’s judgment could be distorted by bias.
Another form of business ethics is transparency. Transparency, as defined in the workplace, is providing open and honest communication and actions to employees, clients, and the general public. Transparency is practiced so that trust can be built, which grows relationships and improves business operations as a whole. One example of transparency is a business sharing its financial performance to its employees. Another example of transparency would be a detailed job description that includes an idea of a typical day carrying out your duties, the location of the position, hours of the position, the person to whom the position reports, salary, and travel requirements. It is very helpful for a candidate to have an idea of all these important elements before applying for the position, so they know the job expectations on the front end.
On the other end of the information-sharing spectrum is confidentiality. As I touched on before, confidentiality is the act of keeping sensitive information private. In business, this could apply to data systems, employee information, and even certain business operations. The privacy of employees and the business are to be protected with appropriate procedures in place for releasing certain information. In Human Resources, personal employee information, such as salary details, bank information, and dependent information, are commonly accessed. It is critical that HR Professionals protect this information by ensuring their computers are secure and free from access from others. Other information that is not electronically stored should be kept in a secure location that is locked at all times.
Like confidentiality, anonymity protects individuals by the retention of information, in this case, who they are. Many companies rely heavily on employee engagement surveys to gain information about the employees’ experiences. Some surveys provide the option for employees to leave their names once the survey is complete, but it’s not required. These surveys are equally effective even if employees choose to remain anonymous. Another example would be an employee who wants to report an ethics violation. He decides to call a third-party ethics hotline that is designated by the company to report corruption in sales procedures. Once he submits his claim, he does not have to provide his name, and therefore remains anonymous. Even better, his claim will not be discredited because he chose anonymity.
On the subject of privacy, privacy principles are guidelines businesses establish to protect customer and employee information. Privacy principles are essential to businesses and help to assure employees and customers that proper actions are in place to protect privacy. They provide transparency in clearly defining the measures the company will take to ensure that information is properly collected, handled, and stored. Some social media companies have statements in their privacy principles stating that they will make every effort to protect the personal data of all their users by implementing security technologies. They also claim to never sell users’ information, and be transparent about what information they collect and why.
Finally, let’s discuss code of conduct. As I mentioned before, a code of conduct describes the company’s expectations of its employees. This “code” is created to safeguard the business’ values by reinforcing a standard for behavior. Business codes of conduct vary from business to business; however, many businesses share some of the same codes of conduct, which cover several standard ethical practices like respect and accountability. They also list consequences in disciplinary action, should any of the codes be violated, as well as the appropriate parties to which an employee should report violations. Business codes of conduct should always be clear in their descriptions while also providing examples of acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior.
Your personal code of conduct is your own philosophy or set of rules for yourself in which you strongly believe. You may have several codes of conduct from which you never deviate, such as being on time, avoiding gossip, or being humble. As mentioned before, you are adopting practices that would positively impact others’ experiences.
As you can see, setting ethical standards in the workplace is a very important practice. They create a more professional environment, and ensure that the company and its employees are satisfied and protected.
I hope this review was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!