Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ethical Behavior

Ethics is defined both as a set of principles of right conduct and as a theory or a system of moral values. The word is derived from the Greek word "ethikos" which relates to the character or implied good character of something. Interestingly, another source links the meaning of this word to the description of a course of action "arising from habit". This might be the ideal of what a good application of ethical behavior should become.

While ethics is generally used to refer to the principles of good conduct, the closely related term morals is most often used to describe the imputed nature (good or bad) of these rules. While ethics usually concerns itself with the rules of right conduct, morality is more concerned with the judgment of goodness and badness in human character. Ethical behavior then is seen as one that conforms to established rules of right behavior, while morality is more concerned with the philosophical consideration of why this behavior is right or wrong.

Because ethical behavior is related to rules of behavior, there must be a defined set of rules. These rules are generally referred to as a "code of ethics" or a "code of conduct". Codes of ethics or conduct are as old as human narration. One of the first of these types of codes, the code of Hammurabi, is a set of codified laws that date back to around 1790 BC. Additionally, coded rules for human behavior can be seen in every example of religious and moral writing dating back as far as the history of writing itself.

The importance of these codes of behavior is noted by both their ubiquity and the heavy reliance on them by civilized societies. Indeed, many sources affirm that civilized society would not have developed without standard codes of ethics. The characteristics that many of these codes have in common have even been used to rationalize the position that ethical principles are an integral part of the human psyche. An even stronger position is that these moral principles are a naturally recognized part of every person. Whether this is true or not is a question best left to the philosophers. What can be established from a practical standpoint, however, is that ethical principles and the codes they establish have extreme importance in stabilizing society, improving human relationships, enhancing business, and improving human character.

Ethical behavior can be found in human experience every time a followed set of rules leads to productive results. As a contrast, unethical behaviors are destructive to personal and business relationships.

  • responsible
  • respectful
  • fair
  • honest
  • moral
  • legal
  • professional
  • confidential (when required)
  • consistent
  • transparent
  • evaluative and adaptive
  • culturally appropriate
  • relationship building
  • enablers of integrity
  • respectful of personal boundaries

  • immoral acts
  • illegal acts
  • dishonesty
  • disrespectfulness
  • irresponsibility
  • unfairness
  • misrepresenting facts
  • violating confidentiality
  • working without the appropriate qualifications
  • prejudicial and discriminatory actions
  • inappropriate personal relationships
  • not following rules or procedures
  • bribery, corruption, and graft
  • inappropriate and childish behaviors
  • theft, plagiarizing, and copyright infringement
  • intimidation, harassment, and abuse
  • false or inaccurate reporting
  • inappropriate physical contact (sexual or violence)
  • sexual harassment
  • inappropriate use of authority
  • slander and gossip
  • unprofessionalism

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