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Personal and Professional Ethics: 4 Points of Difference Explained

Difference Between Personal and Professional Ethics
There is a thin differentiating line between following ethics in your private life and following them at your workplace. This SocialMettle article explains the difference between personal and professional ethics with examples.
Buzzle Staff
Last Updated: Jan 13, 2018
"Without ethics, man has no future. This is to say, mankind without them cannot be itself. Ethics determine choices and actions and suggest difficult priorities."
― John Berger

How true the above statement is. Ethics and values are what make us human beings. In order to lead a meaningful life (even though it is practically impossible to achieve that perfection, among the erosion of values, morals, and integrity), some code of conduct must be laid down and followed honestly. People often mistake ethics to be entirely related to the decisions revolving around your conscience; however, it is not so.
Ethics followed at the workplace are related to how religiously you follow the protocol laid down by the company. There might be situations where the two may coincide, yet most of the time, they are different, and this must be clearly understood. The personal vs. professional ethics comparison outlined below will explain to you the difference between the two.
Personal Ethics
  • These involve your morals and values.
  • They are instilled generally, during childhood, by your parents, family, and friends.
  • They relate to your deep-rooted principles, and how religiously you follow them determines the kind of person you are.
  • The nature of your personal ethics depend on whether your principles have an optimistic effect on the people surrounding you, i.e., your strict adherence to your principles must not spoil someone else's life; a negative impact on society due to your principles violates the very reason you are following them.

  1. I will always speak the truth.
    This is something that you would have been taught by your parents and teachers since the time you first began to understand the world. By the time you grow up, this thought would have been ingrained in your system. Following this principle will make you feel satisfied and happy, and in case you face a dilemma wherein you need to compromise on your honesty, the result might make you feel sick and remorseful.
  2. I will respect all those who are elder to me.
    Following this will invariably make you a patient and dutiful human being, yet, you might have to compromise on it if someone is taking advantage of your sincerity and humility.
  3. I will never hurt anyone purposely.
    This will help hone the way you speak and behave with you family and friends. You will think twice before unnecessarily hurting someone with either your words or actions. If you do so, you will not hesitate to apologize thereafter. Following this principle will make you humble, which is an essential quality that we need in our lives.
  4. I will maintain a caring attitude towards everyone.
    This will evoke your compassion. It might sometimes be difficult to care for people who have been rude to you in the past, but if you start reacting in the same way, just to be vengeful, what is the use of you laying down this principle for your self? Thus, this ethic is a stringent test of your patience. Your caring attitude even towards your opponents will win them over one day.

Professional Ethics
  • These involve a strict code of conduct laid down at the workplace.
  • Your ethics here involve adherence to rules and regulations.
  • Non-compliance to such rules may risk your reputation, as your behavior will immediately be reported as brash and unprofessional.
  • Your personal views and concerns about any topic will not be of much help in a corporate setting, how well you follow the protocol of the company is what will matter here.

Since this is something the organization will lay out, the principles vary from one another. Some generalized examples can be essayed as follows:
  1. Punctuality
    No company will tolerate employees who aren't punctual―as regards to arriving at work, submitting your work, meeting deadlines, etc. You cannot enter and leave as you wish, you need to comply to the rules. This is one quality that can be included as a personal ethic too, and people who follow this in their personal lives will find it convenient to follow at the workplace too.
  2. Time Management
    Do not whine if you are assigned extra work, time management is crucial for rising up the corporate ladder. Learn the art of managing work in less time, and you will be a shining example for your colleagues. Your capability will be determined by the quality of work, not the quantity. Before calling it a day, plan for the next day. Learn efficient time management techniques.
  3. No Gossip
    This is an important rule that all must follow. Your workplace is not a place (they too have rules against gossiping, by the way) to gossip, especially about your boss or colleagues or even ex-colleagues. If you are caught doing the same, it will reflect very badly on your personality. None of your past goodwill will be taken into account, you will immediately be branded as a gossip-monger or a maverick who can't keep his/her mouth shut. Learn to communicate appropriately and effectively, one small mistake can take you down the drain, and if you work in a highly regulated organization, you might as well be cleaning out your desk.
  4. Safeguard Company Privacy
    Some companies even ask their prospective employees sign a legal document preventing them from discussing work outside the company premises. So, preferably, maintain this policy, do not discuss your projects or contracts (unless you are meant to discuss them at meetings or social gatherings) outside the office, and if you do, make sure you have prior permission, and do not reveal too much in any case. This rule is even more stringent with lawyers and psychiatrists, since they are not supposed to discuss or divulge any details about their clients.
Points of Difference
Personal Ethics Professional Ethics 
Grooming  They are developed over a period of time. They can be instilled during your childhood by your parents and people close to you, they can be developed through life-altering experiences, or even meeting certain people in life and exchanging ideas with them. Some values can also be inherited, or can be developed after a spiritual experience. They are also shaped over time, but depend a great deal on the company or organization that you work for. They can be developed as you undergo experiences related to business, education, law, politics, or any other professional setting. They can be developed through corporate deals, contracts, workshops, etc. 
Satisfaction  They satisfy your personal needs; they only influence your behavior with people you know personally. They define who you are and help you take decisions, and hence, control your attitude towards the people you care about. Whenever you take any decision keeping these values in mind, you invariable think of how it is going to affect you, your behavior, or your family and friends.  They satisfy your corporate needs. Your professional career is influenced by these rules, and the more stringently you follow them, the better professional you will be. These values help satisfy the need to feel capable of making fair decisions regarding your position in your workplace. 
Results   Following these ethics result in a clear conscience, positive attitude, and a contented spirit. This is because you are following them for yourself and your loved ones. If you fail to follow these principles that you yourself have laid out, you will end up feeling guilty, remorseful, with a sense of failure, and lack self-esteem. These consequences may vary from individual to individual.  The results are more predictable, common, and obvious in this scenario. Following these ethics may result in you being honored as a diligent employee and sincere worker. Not following them may result in being blacklisted in the organization, attract legal issues, loss of money and reputation, etc. These are followed more for the sake of your colleagues, bosses, and society. 
Reliability  They rely only on the individual. They are designed by the person himself, to make his life more orderly and disciplined, and he depends on them to define his life.  They rely on the organization. They are formulated and laid down by the organization, and they need to be upheld by whoever works there, irrespective of his designation or salary. The same rules need not be applied outside the workplace, they are confined within the company, and they need to followed with utmost decorum. 
The above difference can be better understood if you have been through certain experiences yourself. This subject is highly perceptive, since every individual has a different perspective. However, what is more important is that you learn to follow these ethics in your personal as well as professional life. You cannot state that one is better than the other, or one can be followed and the other need not be. Following both is essential, for this is what makes us a better human being―for ourselves as well as the society.
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