Reference: Professional Ethics

The lecture addressed the nature of ethics within a professional work environment.

An important point which I believe that the lecturer raised, came from a quote from Aristotle, which said (paraphrased): "Some things can be precise, and should be answered with precision. But some things, however, cannot be precise and should not be dealt with the same lens lens of precision".
Often the reality is that there is no clear black-and-white distinction in real-world problems and dilemmas, but rather the issue is always dabbled with splashes of "grey areas" everywhere. There will be an infinite number of ways to separate the portions of grey, and such there will be an infinite number of ways to argue for and against the decision.

Aristotle instead tells us to handle the 'grey area issues' with a lesser level of specificity and articulation, and more in a sense of broad understanding and conclusion - leaving the intricacies of the situation to the individual's foresight.

In the workplace, most people try to do the right thing as a global citizen to act ethically - however often the human brain tends to collude information such that it bests suits the perception of the individual. As a result, possible 'unethical' actions may be overlooked and considered ethical. These can be broken into six categories

  • Partisanship - Being over-supportive of the party's interests, rather than advising well
  • Rationalisation - Backing your actions with reasons that suit your interests
  • Implicit/Unconscious Bias - Overconfidence/narrow scoped as a result of substituting real knowledge for preconceived ideas
  • Ethical Blindness / Illiteracy - Failure to recognise an issue as unethical/ethical
  • False Equivalency Reasoning - If it's not illegal, it's fine to do
  • Ethical Scripting - Using a 'thought template' that is incompatible with the situation

An example of ethical scripting was given about the Ford Pinto case, where the safety of the vehicle was not prioritised in favour of cost and turnover time. The oversight as a result of ethical scripting arose from performing a cost-benefit analysis of the required remedy; without considering the cost of reputation.

The difference between (and need for both) a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct were that a Code of Ethics instigated an individual's responsibility, whereas a Code of Conduct instigated an individual's accountability.

Accountability is reactive to the situation, and revolves around directives and liability, which is important in the fulfillment of tasks. However it also needs to be paired with individual responsibility - which is a proactive duty in making judgments. As such, there cannot be one without other, rather there needs to be a balance between the two