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Definition of Professional Values

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According to Chrissy Scivicque, senior content manager at Office Arrow, "Professional values are the principles that guide your decisions and actions in your career." Although some values are considered more important than others in certain professions, there are some universal values that should be, and usually are, held and practiced in all of them. These universal values are: "first, do no harm; keep it simple; honesty is the best policy; we're all in this together; and stay balanced." While these values may seem intuitive, failure to adhere to these five principles is at the root of much of the economic and social damage that brought the entire world's economy nearly to its knees in 2008.

First, Do No Harm

This guiding principle of the medical profession was originally expressed by Hippocrates in "Epidemics." Think carefully before taking any action. Investigate whether it could have any negative effects. If so, determine whether the negative effects of taking no action at all outweigh the effects of the action you are considering. If they are equal, or if doing nothing will have fewer negative effects, do not take the action.

People who do not use this maxim as a guiding principle are often very well-meaning. Their outlook is based on acceptable risk rather than on doing no harm. They roll the dice and hope for the best, sometimes in the face of clear logic. A good example of this is the foreclosure crisis. Companies made loans based on a flawed assumption that home values would continue to rise indefinitely, and that people would repay their loans before any reverse in this trend occurred. In itself, this would not have caused so much economic devastation, but a second professional value was also overlooked: keep it simple.

Keep It Simple

Transparency and openness are vital in every profession. This means keeping things simple. If you, as a member of your profession, do not understand the processes that dictate the actions you take, the processes should be simplified or the actions should not be taken. If there is duplication of effort, examine how those efforts can be combined.

Provide clear explanations of decisions and actions. Describe what is being done and why it needs to be done. Detail what the benefits of a given action are and to whom those benefits will flow. Discuss in detail what potential harm could arise, what the effects of that harm might be, and how the benefits of an action outweigh any potential harm. These explanations should be written in plain language and be understandable to the average citizen.

Companies that do not keep things simple sometimes do so intentionally. Some companies keep their inner workings as complicated as possible to conceal hidden motives, accomplish corporate goals that are in conflict with the well-being of society as a whole, and to expand or maintain market share. Since truth will eventually shine through, these companies would be better off using openness and honesty.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

If you tell customers your product will solve all their problems, your are clearly lying. No one thing is a solution to everything. If, however, you tell your customers using your product will make their lives better, it is much harder to be sure whether you are telling the truth. If you say nothing at all, but include substances in your product to make it easier or cheaper to produce, store and transport, you are not lying outright, but you could be lying by omission.

Products that originated as waste byproducts of particular manufacturing processes are now routinely added to food, water, medications and personal hygiene products. Meat byproducts and other offal are ground, dried and used in pet food or turned into fertilizer. Cities all over the world add fluoride to their water. Tobacco companies add more than 400 substances to every cigarette they produce, many of which are known carcinogens. Other companies shop around for favorable test results for products whose quality is questionable at best and outright harmful at worst, putting profits before principles.

Do not allow your marketing to become institutionalized lying. If your product has known negative effects, your company should be leading the charge to alleviate or eliminate them. Engage in sustainable business models, and balance profit with responsible resource management. Instead of working to beat the system, work with the system. Instead of test-result shopping, return to your manufacturing process to discover the source of the problem. Above all, do not release products you know or suspect to be harmful.

We're All in This Together

The state of the world economy after the 2008 recession is a perfect example of how interconnected everything has become. There is no industry anywhere in the world that does not depend on some other industry to provide raw and manufactured materials, labor sources, management and oversight. Unrest in a country leads to a drop in tourism, which, in turn, causes even more unrest due to a further flattening of an already threatened economy.

Efforts to alleviate poverty, disease and malnutrition are in vain if they do not include efforts to provide reliable means of earning a living. Companies which move operations overseas must invest in local quality of life. Your business must be able to answer the question, "How do we make the world a better place?" If not, there may eventually be no world.


Balance work and home. Give yourself time to recharge. Take time to enjoy the fruits of your labors, not in a weekend flurry of frenetic activity, but in a lifestyle of daily moments of reflection, short bouts of physical activity, and face to face time with professional peers, friends, neighbors and family. Get off the consumerist treadmill. Simplify your life and restructure your wants.

Think about why you are working. You might answer, "I have bills to pay." While this is true, examine why you have those bills. We are conditioned to believe that we should live in a house with more space than the typical one to four-person family actually needs. Our houses are not homes as much as they are storage units for the various status symbols we have been conditioned to believe are necessities, including big-screen televisions, the latest electronic gear and the most up-to-date fashions and accessories.

Redirect your income to things that advance or improve your life and health, rather than those which anesthetize you or encourage you to accept a life of constant struggle just to have another thing to store. Invest in your community, not only with your money, but with your time and your presence.


Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.

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