Consider the Importance of Ethical Professionalism for Career Progression

Ethical professionalism is vital to career progression and development, but how often do you stop and think about it? Written by Letícia Miranda.

Ethics in Professional Life« Back to Articles

Ever heard anyone repeat the phrase “everyone does it”, “it won't hurt anyone”, “this is politics”, “nobody will know”, “just this time” or “it's just business”?

With the world feeling more divided than ever before, politically, emotionally and professionally, it is time we stop to analyse our behaviours on an ethical level. On a personal level, ethics are vitally important, but they play an equally important role in our professional worlds and having a strong ethical approach can significantly contribute to career progression and professional development.

Ethics, having its roots in the Greek word "ethos", meaning customs, conduct or character, refers to the types of values and morals that an individual, or society, considers desirable and/or appropriate. Furthermore, ethics involves the virtuosity of individuals and their motives. In the context of leadership, ethics is about what leaders do and who leaders are. It refers to the nature of a leader's behaviour and virtuosity. In any situation involving decision-making, ethical issues are implicitly or explicitly involved. The choices that leaders make, and how they respond, in any given circumstances, are guided and driven by their ethics.

We’ll admit, it is not easy to be consistently ‘ethical’ to the highest of standards – particularly now we’re placed on globally judged platforms where different cultures, customs and characteristics are praised or punished. Most people refer to good education, culture and upbringing, in forming principles that will guide us throughout life. Yes, all of this helps, but it is not enough to solve the issues of our everyday life, be it professional or personal. We are certain you could find several well educated, cultured and seemingly well brought up adults who have little to no ethical compass! We know we can think of some examples.

From a business perspective, the issue of ethics can seem simple. At the end of most codes of ethics or conduct, questions like “Does this decision or action sit comfortably with you?” or “Would you like me to do that to you?” and, if we answer that yes, then everything is seemingly okay. Yet businesses, every day, are forced to make difficult decisions which aren’t always aligned with comfortability.

The fact that we often miss ethical issues and consideration, mean that we miss out on analysing and acting upon them. If we ‘saw’ ethical issues, we’d use the tools that could eventually help us resolve them.

One of the reasons why we don't always ‘see’ or consider ethical issues is because each and everyone, in some way, a limited perception of reality. It is what we observe that makes us act in a certain way, and that view is sometimes opposed to that of the person with whom we are speaking, regardless of how well intentioned we are.

How can a mentor help us to see things in a different light?

The situations we come up against professional are frequently new. Having a mentor can be a real help in navigating these previously unexperienced situations and challenges. A mentor’s guidance and experience can be a real advantage.

A mentor can also challenge behaviours and ethics, helping us to consider different viewpoints, perspectives and outputs of our decisions. A mentor may well have experience in tackling difficult conversations and professional objectives, where ethics come into play. Both modesty and humility are necessary for ethical conduct: the awareness or acceptance that our point of view is not the only one and that, in fact, we do not know everything, nor does our gaze encompass all possible views on a subject. We have to be cautious and use mentoring as a way to help us.

The formation of an ethical and moral conscience in society does not involve only the professional and the company, but each person who is involved in that society, and especially those professionals who are assigned the greatest responsibilities. We must all assume our role by contributing to a common objective, which is to irradicate networks of corruption and immorality.

To be an ethical professional we must maintain a high-standard and level of professionalism, even in the most complex of moments. Whilst ethics are far more complicated than a checklist of behaviours, we’ve listed some that are vital. Any decision that is made must be in accordance with values such as:

Honesty - Be honest in any situation, even when you have the opportunity not to be.

Tolerance and Flexibility – Do not judge in advance. Things change very quickly. Transformation in companies and even in society are a constant. Adapting to these changes will make you a more valued professional.

Integrity - To act according to our principles and to have clear codes of conduct. A person of integrity does not sell themselves short.

Courage - It takes courage to be consistently ethical. Even when it feels like there is a world of immorality, having a strong ethical compass is important.

Humility – You needs to be humble enough to understand that you are not the owner of the truth, and accepting opinions and being able to listen to others are valuable qualities.

Ethical attitudes can create value for you, your organisation and your customers. These are the attitudes that give you pride and motivation every day to create more innovative solutions; attitudes that awaken creativity and improve people's lives. They are focused on the generation of new solutions. Do not accept negative arguments. Question inconsistent attitudes. It will lead to the growth of all involved, not just you.

Ethics must be cultivated every day and behaviours should be challenged. It is through this that we can be more honest, responsible and effective citizens and professionals, in the search of solutions to resolve a lot of the world's problems. The choice of whether to be an ethical person is often difficult. It belongs to each of us because ethics only exist in freedom.

Make good choices, find a mentor to support you and go further.
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