What Is the Difference Between Professional Values and Ethics?

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Values are subjective guidelines that people use to decide which things are good and which are bad. Something that lives up to a value is considered good while anything that fails to live up to that value is considered bad. Ethics, on the other hand, are guidelines for conduct. A group of professions will generally agree on a formal or informal set of ethical guidelines and take breaches of these guidelines very seriously.

Sources

  • Values and ethics come from different sources. A person's values come from his own experiences and reflections, whereas a person's ethics come from whatever group he belongs to. If John dislikes the fact that he had to wait 30 minutes at a restaurant for a meal, then the service at the restaurant did not live up to his value of speedy service. If John has to wait 30 minutes for a meal at a restaurant called "Andy's 15 minute service restaurant" and did not receive some compensation, then the restaurant staff or management violated the ethical principle of honesty.

Judgment

  • Values and ethics are judged differently. A professional does not typically reprimand another professional for failing to adhere to a set of values. Ethics, on the other hand, are binding on everyone. Violations of an ethical code will not usually be tolerated in a professional working environment. A person who commits an ethical violation may be reprimanded or penalized.

Formality

  • Values are informal, whereas ethics may be formalized. A professional may write and even publish her values, but such a document would be of zero force outside of the professional's mind. An ethical code, on the other hand, may serve as a kind of "internal law" for a company, a document that prescribes rules, regulations and procedures that are binding on all employees.

Consistency

  • Values are ideals, whereas ethics are practices. A professional's values are consistent when he is free from internal contradictions while a professional's ethics are consistent when he does not contradict his morals. For example, a person who claims to value honesty and deception at the same time has inconsistent values. On the other hand, employees of a business that has an ethical code prescribing complete honesty within the business but not with competing businesses are ethical as long as they are honest with colleagues.

References

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