Professional Ethics and the Negative Impact It Has On the Workplace Environment

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ProfessionalEthics and the Negative Impact It Has On the Workplace Environment

ProfessionalEthics and the Negative Impact It Has On the Workplace Environment

Thepast few years have witnessed organizations increase their focus onwork ethics and values. Different professionals are now expected togo about their duties within a given set of guidelines. Professionalethics refers to the personal as well as corporate standards ofbehavior that members of a particular profession are required touphold. Professional ethics applies to a wide range of professions,including engineers, lawyers and accountants among others. Thehealthcare practitioners are some of the professionals required tomaintain high standards of professionalism and ethical conduct. Thetask of enforcing professional ethics involves the individualprofessionals, the organizations as well as the professional bodies.For healthcare practitioners in the U.S, The American MedicalAssociation Code of Medical Ethics is acknowledged as the main sourceof the standards of behavior expected of professionals in medicalpractice (AMA, 2016). The current paper seeks to discuss thenegative effects that inadequate professional ethics among healthcarepractitioners might have on the workplace environment and suggest thechanges that the institutions responsible for providing healthcareservices can undertake to create a better working environment throughadequate professional ethics.

WhatDoes Professional Ethics Entail?

Theavailability and proper application of professional ethics areusually linked to a positive healthcare setting within which thepractitioners perform to the best of their capabilities. Medicalprofessionals who uphold high standards of professional ethics havenot only been found to maintain good relationships with patients, butthey also maintain a good working relationship with others in thesame field, a fact that facilitates the collaboration and workingtowards common goals. However, the lack of professional ethics andfailure by some healthcare workers to abide by the standardprofessional ethics has the potential to create a negative healthcareenvironment. Such environments are characterized by constantconflicts between practitioners, poor delivery of services as well asan open disregard of professional objectives and mission.

Dehghani,Mosalanejad and Dehghan-Nayeri (2015) describe professional ethics asthe utilization of logical and consistent knowledge, communication,emotions and values in a given field of profession. On the otherhand, Naagarazan (2012) defines professional ethics as a set ofattitudes concerned with the value of work, which forms themotivational orientation. According to him, work ethics aims atpromoting the economy, health and hygiene, welfare, privacy and otheropportunities for all the people in the society withoutdiscrimination.

Professionalethics entail ethical rules and guidelines aimed at keeping in checkthe behavior of professionals or workers in a particular environment.The need for professional ethics is motivated by the fact thatethical issues arise during the provision of specialty services suchas healthcare to the public. The main assumption when applyingprofessional ethics is that, in their different capacities,professionals utilize their skills and knowledge to make judgmentsand reach informed conclusions. Professional ethics incorporates ahost of components, including transparency, integrity and honesty,obedience to the law, confidentiality as well as objectivity. Formedical practitioners in the U.S, professional ethics is implementedthrough the AMA code of medical ethics as well as the ethicalguidelines established by individual healthcare institutions. Thecodes of ethics clearly outline the professional body’sexpectations of the practitioners’ behavior as well as the limitswithin which they should operate. Apart from being instrumental indefining an organization’s and profession’s ethics, a code ofethics also comes in handy as a reference point for organizationaland professional decision-making. Besides that, a code of ethics canalso be utilized as a basis for discipline within a particularprofession or organization.

Codesof ethics form the most important component of professional ethics.As opposed to being a rigid system of rules, the medical code ofethics is principle-based. It is meant to provide healthcareprofessionals with the guidance on which principles to apply whenmaking judgment and decisions when going about their tasks. Thethemes incorporated in the AMA code of medical ethics includeintegrity, professional competence, objectivity as well asconfidentiality. Professional ethics usually seek to address theissue of conflict of interest. The conflict of interests amongprofessionals normally involves deciding between upholdingprofessional duties and personal interests. For most professionals,acting ethically means putting the interests of others andprofessional duties before one’s personal interests. Ethicaldilemma is another important issue that professional ethics usuallyseeks to address. Professional ethics establishes a framework thatmakes members aware of the ethical dilemma issues to expect in theirline of duty and the necessary steps to take when faced with suchsituations. As such, well-formulated and properly implementedprofessional ethics does not only have a positive impact on aparticular profession, but also contributes to the growth andperformance of individual professionals. Healthcare professionals whouphold high ethical standards tend to be more loyal, respectful, lawabiding, honest, objective and accountable, and these traits arefundamental to the creation of a good working environment.


Theworkplace environment refers to the surroundings within which workersgo about their daily activities in an organization. It encompassesthe different things that make part of the workers’ involvementwith their tasks and includes the organizational culture,relationship with other members of the organization as well asemployee freedom and autonomy. The work environment can either bepositive or negative. Farrell and Schlesinger (2013) argue that apositive workplace environment makes employees more motivated andwilling to work for the organization for a longer period movingforward. On the other hand, a negative workplace environment leads todeterioration of employee morale and motivation, a factor thateventually leads to lower levels of employee productivity. Given theimportant influence that the workplace environment has on theproductivity of healthcare professionals, many hospitals and relatedinstitutions in the healthcare sector strive to create a positiveworkplace environment.

Apositive working environment for healthcare practitioners is onewhere courtesy, respect, civility and consideration are encouraged.One of the characteristics of a positive work environment istransparent and open communication as it allows professionals toraise issues that affect them without any fear. Open and transparentcommunication also promotes urgency in addressing the differentwork-related issues, allowing employees to acknowledge that they areimportant members of the organization. A positive workplaceenvironment is also characterized by a proper work-life balance,which relates to the level of work employees are assigned and thetime they spent on their jobs. Giving employees adequate time to workout their personal lives improves job satisfaction because it makesthem feel that the employer is not overlooking the personal aspectsof their lives. An environment within which exemplary performance isrecognized and acknowledged is another aspect of a positive workplaceenvironment. By acknowledging and rewarding best performingemployees, an organization reinforces hard work and commitment amongits team members.

Graham(2007) suggests that a negative workplace environment creates moreopportunities for poor employee performance. Consequently, thisaffects the employees’ attitude about committing fraud against thefirm. Perceived inequality within the organization is one of thefactors that contribute to a negative workplace environment. Inadequate compensation, lack of clear organizationalresponsibilities as well as poor communication practices are otherfactors that contribute to a negative workplace environment.

Linkbetween Professional Ethics and the Workplace Environment

Healthcareorganizations with a strong ethical culture play an important role inpromoting professional ethics. Over the years, it has becomemandatory for all healthcare professionals to be familiar with thecode of ethics that guide the profession and for healthcareinstitutions to ensure that the codes are strictly followed. Theproper implementation of the codes has proved to be beneficial tohealthcare organizations in many different ways one of them isimproving productivity and teamwork within the organization. Properethical guidelines play an integral role in aligning theinstitutional values with that of the individual healthcarepractitioners. Practitioners who feel a strong alignment betweentheir values and those promoted by the organization are bound to workeven harder. A stronger alignment also brings professionals withsimilar values and goals closer, a fact that fosters strongerteamwork. Upholding high standards of professional ethics also playsa significant role in promoting an organization’s public image.

Arobust code of ethics is one way through which organizations as wellas professional associations can enable professionals to be keenabout professional ethics. Having a code of ethics is not enough initself, but practitioners also need to show that they are committedto it (Ghuman, 2010). Besides openly disclosing the way anorganization seeks to operate, having a code of ethics also plays acentral role in the creation of a positive public image for theorganization. A properly formulated code of ethics makes clear thevalues, mission and principles of an organization. It provides astrong link between the employees in a given organization and thestandards of professional conduct. Since the code of conductclarifies the value an organization seeks to promote among employeesand even leaders, then it provides a benchmark against which theorganizational and individual performance of employees can bemeasured.

Acode of ethics also promotes the discussion of compliance and ethicsamong professionals. Through such discussions, practitioners createbetter relationships with each other, a factor that contributes to abetter workplace environment (Ghuman, 2010). For profit-orientedorganizations, the code serves additional external purposes, namelyrisk mitigation, marketing and compliance. In terms of compliance,different jurisdictions have laws requiring companies, especiallypublic entities, to have and implement codes of ethics, and thefailure to do so usually require a clear explanation. Regarding riskmitigation, having a code of ethics and following it helpsorganizations reduce financial risks associated with fines that mightbe incurred through ethical misconduct, and this can be achieved bythe organization showing that it has engaged in a &quotgood faitheffort&quot to avoid unethical practices by its employees andleadership. Ghuman (2010) posits that to highlight the importance ofa code of ethics, an organization needs to take strict disciplinaryaction consistently against those who do not follow the code.

Tocarry out their tasks in an effective and ethical manner, medicalprofessionals require an environment that upholds proper ethicalpractices and where the leaders are committed to high professionalstandards as well as the delivery of the best services(Mika,2012). A positive work environment can only be attained if theprinciples and values of the practitioners and their leaders aremutually reinforcing in alignment with each other. Properlyimplemented professional ethics makes it possible for members of anorganization to have a full understanding of what is expected ofthem, to respect leaders and co-workers in the organization and showmore commitment towards the implementation of professional values(Mika,2012).

Theimplementation of professional ethics through codes of ethics isaimed at creating an ethical workplace environment. Hazinski (2013)argues that an ethical workplace environment facilitates earlyidentification of ethical dilemma and makes available the resourcesfor ethical decision-making. Apart from that, an ethical workplaceenvironment promotes open communication among organizational teammembers. The lack of a supportive ethical environment is likely tomake an organization contribute to more distress in the society asopposed to more solutions. Rezaee (2009) argues that manyorganizations currently seek to create an ethical work environment asevidenced by the considerable amount of attention that workplaceethics is receiving. He argues that the failure to create an ethicalwork environment strongly correlates with financial consequences anddimensions. Rezaee (2009) further mentions a recent research thatfound out that there is a strong relationship between work ethics andwork-life balance. He points out that the findings from the studyindicate that an ethical workplace culture and environment can befostered through the provision of a flexible work schedule, whichconsequently provides incentives and opportunities for jobsatisfaction. Additionally, the study identified a number of factorsthat play a central role in fostering an ethical workplaceenvironment, and they include positive reinforcement of ethicalbehavior, behavior management, compensation and behavior of peers.

Theleaders of healthcare institutions play a significant role in thecreation of an ethical workplace environment. They are responsiblefor the implementation and enforcing of ethical guidelines within theorganization. Besides that, they are under the obligation to lead byexample, which entails promoting organization values and engaging inethical practices. Meinert (2014) posits that a recent survey showsthat organizational leaders are responsible for approximately 60% ofworkplace misconduct. He points out that such a trend is worrying,given the modeling impact that leaders have on the other levels ofemployees. Organizations led by managers who do not seriously abideby professional and work guidelines are likely to influence theirsubordinates into doing the same, which means that the creation of anethical workplace environment largely depends on how committed theleaders are. The leadership needs to set a tone that emphasizesethics and integrity for an ethical workplace environment to beachieved. The failure to create an ethical workplace environment hasdire implications for both individual professionals and theorganizations they work for. An unethical workplace environmentencourages the misappropriation of organizational resources, whichmay lead to the collapse of an organization eventually. Besides that,an unethical workplace environment encourages conflict amongpractitioners and even with clients. Consequently, this creates a badreputation for the profession as well as the organization.

HowInadequate Professional Ethics Negatively Affects the WorkplaceEnvironment

Aspointed out earlier, the workplace environment constitutesessentially everything that employees interact with when undertakingtheir daily tasks for an organization. The main aim of professionalethics is to govern the behavior and conduct of the professionals.The fact that professional ethics come into play when an individualis carrying out their professional duties means that it plays aninfluential role in the workplace environment. Well-formulated andimplemented professional ethics often result in the creation of apositive workplace environment. On the other hand, very restrictiveprofessional ethics in which practitioners are subjected to tightscrutiny often results in a negative workplace environment in whichfreedom and autonomy are restricted. Organization’s whose codes ofethics are too restrictive compared to the general industry standardsoften attract less medical practitioners because very few people arewilling to work in an environment characterized by too manyrestrictions. Such codes of ethics contribute to the creation of anegative workplace environment by discouraging professionals frompracticing their freedom such as interacting with certain groups ofpeople both within and out of the organization. Such workplace ethicsmake healthcare practitioners to perceive the leadership of aninstitution as being autocratic rather than participative.

Anotherway that professional ethics may contribute to the creation of anegative healthcare environment is if the professional bodies as wellas individual healthcare institutions apply the code of ethicsselectively. Adequate professional ethics are those that apply to alllevels of employees and professionals regardless of theirsocioeconomic status as well as relations with those tasked withenforcing the professional and workplace ethical standards. Theselective application of professional ethics often arises when anorganization fails to take disciplinary action against someemployees, but enforce disciplinary action on others who breachedsimilar ethical guidelines. In many organizations, those holdingleadership positions are less likely to face disciplinary actionafter they act contrary to the professional guidelines of ethicalconduct and an organization’s code of ethics compared to the otherlevels of employees. The selective disciplinary measures affect thework environment negatively by making professionals perceiveinequalities within the organization. The unfair application of thecodes of ethics in such a manner often results in a rift betweenpractitioners and their leaders. Therefore, attaining organizationalsuccess under such an environment is nearly impossible.

Professionalethics can also affect the workplace environment negatively iforganizational leaders are not committed. The implementation ofworkplace ethics largely depends on the extent to which the leadersare committed to creating an ethical workplace environment. Leaderswho are committed to attaining high standards of professional ethicslead by example by abiding by the organizational and professionalvalues as well as engaging in ethical behaviors. Committed leadersestablish the necessary frameworks required to implement the codes ofethics fully. On the other hand, uncommitted leaders act in utterdisregard of the code of ethics. Employees tend to act and behave inthe same way as their leaders, and this means that, for organizationswhose leaders do not act professionally and as per the guidelinesstipulated in the professional code of ethics, the other employeesare likely to act in a similar fashion. Consequently, the behaviorusually results in a negative workplace environment characterized byhabits such as lack of respect among practitioners, misuse oforganizational resources, unnecessary absenteeism as well as a poorworking relationship among professionals.

Thelegal issues that may arise as a result of inadequate work ethics orfailure of the organization to uphold high ethical standards mayindirectly contribute to a negative workplace environment. The recentpast has witnessed a significant number of organizations such asVolkswagen suffer huge financial losses due to the failure of itsleadership and employees to abide by certain professional andindustry guidelines. Such losses often force organizations to lay offsome of its workforce or withdraw some benefits, which are allactions that have a negative impact on the employee morale. Theimproper implementation of codes of ethics might also create anegative workplace environment by straining the relationship amongemployees. In organizations where employees do not place emphasis onthe ethical guidelines, resentment of those who insist on followingthe ethical standards might arise. Such resentment often has anegative impact on trust among the employees. The tension and lack oftrust among employees can be very disastrous for organizations orprofessions depending on collaboration and teamwork to attain optimumsuccess.

HowI Would Ensure That Firms Can Utilize Professional Ethics to Create APositive and Ethical Work Environment

Firstly,to create a positive and ethical work environment in the healthcaresetting, I would call for the implementation of specific programs andinitiatives that should be consistent with the management strategies.The implementation of a proper code of ethics and ethics programs isone way through which healthcare organizations have been able tocontribute to a positive working environment. A positive workplaceenvironment can be attained by empowering practitioners and givingthem an opportunity to contribute to the organization’s values aswell as code of conduct. Additionally, healthcare professionalsshould be allowed to provide input to the development and updating ofan organization’s code of ethics and ensure it is clear, adequateand fair.

Secondly,coming up with an appropriate code of ethics is just but the firststep to ensuring that a positive work environment is created andinstitutionalizing a code of ethics in itself is not enough.Therefore, for full success to be attained, I suggest thatprofessional bodies as well as organizations need to communicate thecode of ethics regularly, albeit in a proper manner because it helpsreinforce the importance of the ethical guidelines in the minds ofpractitioners. Clear communication allows for a better understandingof the ethical principles that the organizations seek to reinforce.Therefore, professionals navigate easily through the differentethical issues and dilemmas they may encounter in the course of theirwork. Consistently communicating the code of ethics contributes to abetter workplace environment by allowing the professionals to avoidconflict of interests, which may strain the relationships they sharewith each other as well as with the leaders of the organization.

Anotherway I would ensure that professional ethics contributes to thecreation of a positive workplace environment is by ensuring that theinstitution engages in proper hiring and recruitment practices.Organizations can easily tell whether their prospective employees areready to uphold high ethical and professional standards or not duringthe hiring and recruitment stage. Those who show great enthusiasm andwillingness to promote organizational culture and values often end upbeing better ambassadors of professional ethics compared to those notexcited about the prospects of working at the organization. It willalso be necessary to ensure the portfolios of the board of membersinclude integrity and wisdom. Therefore, the healthcare facility willbe able to reap more benefits from a strong board of leadership.

Beingtransparent about all organizational practices and reporting,especially finances, is another way that a positive workplaceenvironment can be realized. Strong bookkeeping facilitates easydetection of misuse of organization resources. Therefore, it wouldencourage members of the organization to be more accountable. Thecreation of an environment within which workers feel free to presenttruthful information to the management is also an alternative waythat I would ensure professional ethics are promoted for a betterworkplace. Such an environment ensures that employees are morewilling to report others’ misconduct without the fear of a backlashfrom the management as well as colleagues. Previous studies indicatethat many employees who note misconduct do not report the same due tothe strong belief that the management will not take any action. Consequently, this has the potential of creating a risky and anunhealthy work environment.

Additionally,I would ensure that strict disciplinary action is taken against thosewho break the professional as well as organization code of ethics toensure that professional ethics make a positive contribution to theworkplace environment. It is important to ensure such disciplinaryaction is taken on a consistent basis and against all who violate theprofessional and organizational codes of conduct. Besides that, thosewho go against the code of ethics should be openly reprimandedbecause this will serve as a warning to other practitioners, whowould then be more careful when it comes to the interpretation andworking as per the requirements of the codes. There are a number ofactions that organizational leaders can undertake to ensure thatprofessional ethics are communicated and reinforced properly. Thefirst action is that leaders should make it a must for allpractitioners to sign a code of ethics. Apart from that, ethicsshould be included as a criterion is designing the professional rolesand responsibilities. Lastly, taking the time to publicize andencourage ethical behavior among medical professionals is another wayleaders can contribute to the creation of an ethical workingenvironment in the healthcare sector.


Theincreased focus on professional and workplace ethics over the recentpast is an indicator that ethics is one of the important componentsof professional and organizational success. The healthcare professionis one of the sectors where practitioners are expected to displayhigh ethical standards. Professional ethics among healthcarepractitioners entails ethical rules and guidelines aimed at keepingin check the behavior of the professionals. The need for professionalethics is motivated by the fact that ethical issues arise during theprovision of specialty services to the public. The nature and themanner in which professional ethics is implemented make a significantcontribution to the workplace environment and often leads to thecreation of either a negative or positive workplace environment. Theworkplace environment refers to the surroundings within which theprofessionals go about their work-related activities. It encompassesthe different things that make part of the workers’ involvementwith their tasks and includes the organizational culture,relationship with other members of the organization as well asemployee freedom and autonomy. All organizations desire a positivework environment. However, inadequate professional ethics mightresult in the creation of a negative workplace environment. Veryrestrictive and harsh codes of ethics, selective and discriminatoryapplication of the codes of ethics as well as the failure oforganizational leaders to enact the codes properly are some of theways that professional ethics may affect a workplace environmentnegatively.


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