Traditionally, business and personal ethics plays an important part in the life of people and their interpersonal relationships. At the same time, personal and business ethics, being closely intertwined with each other, are still different because business ethics refers to the professional sphere of human life, whereas personal ethics refers to the personal sphere of human life. Personal ethics influences consistently business ethics because business ethics borrows basic concepts from personal ethics but, on the other hand, business ethics has its specificities that make it distinct from personal ethics.
1. Analysis of similarities between personal and business ethics
On analyzing personal and business ethics, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that both types of ethics represent moral rules. Both personal and business ethics are grounded on a set of moral rules that define behavior of individuals in their interaction. Individuals attempt to follow these moral rules in their personal and professional life to meet norms of personal and business ethics respectively.
Furthermore, both types of ethics relate to public duty and describe one’s interaction with the society. In fact, neither personal ethics nor business ethics can be internally directed. In stark contrast, they are externally directed aiming at the development of the moral framework, within which an individual acts and builds up his/her interpersonal, social relations.
In addition, dilemmas in both types of ethics are related to the conflicts of interest. If an individual faces a conflict of interest, he/she has to make moral, ethical choices. Such dilemmas are often hard to solve and individuals use their moral rules, often borrowing moral rules from their personal ethics to extrapolate them on business ethics and to apply them in their workplace or business environment.
2. Analysis of differences between personal and business ethics
In spite of seeming similarities between personal and business ethics, it is possible to trace substantial differences between them, especially when business and personal ethics come into conflict. In fact, specialists (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2004, p.10) argue that certain activities which are deemed as ethically with regard to business ethics, may not be viewed as ethical with regard to personal ethics (e.g. whistleblowing). Hence, what is moral and right in terms of business ethics may be immoral and wrong in terms of personal ethics and vice versa.
Furthermore, personal ethics is based on the individual system of values, while business ethics represents a more generic approach with rules taking into account ethical consequences for all stakeholders. In fact, each individual has his/her own set of values that shape his/her personal ethics. However, as an individual joins an organization he/she should apply norms of business ethics in his/her professional life. Each individual has his/her own cultural background that defines his/her personal ethics but the different cultural background may widen the gap between moral norms an individual has developed in terms of personal ethics and moral norms the individual has to accept in terms of business ethics as the individual has to work within an organization that has its own moral rules and its own business ethics.
In fact, business ethics relates to actions of individuals within an organization (business environment), while personal ethics applies for all domains of life. These are two different domains, which may intersect with each other but they do not form the common ethical ground. Individuals use different moral norms in business or workplace environment and in their family, for instance.
3. Role of both types of ethics for business environment
Personal and business ethics are closely intertwined. As a rule, business ethics derives from personal ethics because organizations and business accept moral rules that are acceptable in the society. Business ethics just adapts these rules to specificities of the business environment to make these moral norms working.
At the same time, good conduct of personal ethics is the basis for making ethical business decisions. Individuals use their personal ethics as the basis for choices and decisions in business ethics. Business ethics should match fundamental moral norms and rules of personal ethics, although business ethics admits deviation from insignificant personal moral norms, if they are harmful for business and organizations.
The combination of good personal and business ethics helps to reduce business risks and to increase long-term business effectiveness. In fact, individuals will feel comfortable, if their personal ethics does not come into clashes with business ethics. They may be frustrated, if they have to use different set of moral values at work and at home. Instead, close integration of business and personal ethics helps people work effectively and feel comfortable.
Thus, business and personal ethics are closely intertwined, although they are different. They help individuals to interact with each other and set moral rules people attempt to follow. However, they should attempt to integrate their business and personal ethics to feel good and to work effectively.
Ferrell, O.C., Fraedrich, J., Ferrell. (2004). South West College Pub.
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