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How to Balance Personal & Professional Ethics

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The term “ethics” is a complicated word to define but the appropriate definition is both a code to follow and a thinking process. Professional ethics are a set code that professionals in a variety of fields follow to meet certain industry standards. Personal ethics are based on thinking processes that determine right from wrong according to a personal standard or morality. Balancing the two types of ethics is usually not challenging, as most personal ethics will follow similar professional codes. However, some personal and professional ethics might clash, resulting in conflicts at the workplace.

Find the area of conflict between personal and professional ethics. This differs depending on the specific job. For example, a social worker's problem might arise when she sets boundaries for clients she meets outside of work. For a business professional, the problems may occur when personal morals conflict with the needs of the company.

Look for options to solve the problem without involving others if possible. In some situations, the problems might be easily solved, such as avoiding a group meeting that a client attends. In other situations, reorganizing or reevaluating personal ethics might be necessary and require personal changes. For example, professional ethics requires diversity in the workplace, but some individual’s personal ethics might make him uncomfortable with disabled individuals or minority groups. In this situation, adapting or changing personal ethics is a necessity.

Focus on duties and responsibilities. In the professional world, an individual's focus is on the duties and responsibilities she must follow. Put the focus on responsibilities rather than personal opinions.

Get others involved. Sometimes, balancing professional and personal ethics requires getting others involved in the situation. For example, a business professional might ask an employer to rearrange job duties when her personal ethics conflict with the business code of ethics in a particular situation. Other professionals, such as social workers or psychologists, might need to make arrangements with clients, schools or other groups when personal and professional lives collide.


Helen Jain has been writing online articles since December 2009 for various websites. She has studied English and psychology and hopes to get a Ph.D. in English in the future.