Most often, people use terminologies or phrases like professionalism, ethical behaviour (or unethical behaviour) etc., at home, in schools, at workplaces and professional settings or forums. But what do we mean by ethics and professionalism, in general? What comes to our mind when these terms are mentioned?
Many of us will agree that ethics generally refer to the way or ways we conduct ourselves in accordance with an accepted set of principles or guidelines which are used to distinctively identify right and wrong conducts.
In this writeup, Momodou S. Fatty, a young professional accountant and blogger highlight some ethical challenges young people might face in their early career and ways to overcome these challenges.
1. Organizational Culture
You may pick a job in an institution with a poor organizational culture. For instance, on the first day at work, the existing staff would poison their minds that “this is how we do things here” concerning bad practice. As a growing professional, such remarks from an employee is a key indicator of the existence of the breach of ethical behaviour. What this tells us is that the organizational culture encourages work ethics which might not in line with the regulations, laws and ethical standards. If you see yourself in such an environment, you could remedy this by being an ambassador of change. Design innovative ways of changing the mentalities of the existing staff by explaining the dangers of doing things in the wrong way and the harm it could have on your career growth. Convince them to do things in an improved and more efficient approach.
You will face resistance and be prepared for it as cultural changes are always challenging. It can be even more difficult if you are the junior staff. However, nothing is impossible.
2. Peer Influence
As you begin to spend days, weeks and months in your new workplace, you will start to make new friends amongst your colleagues. In some cases, you are influenced to join an informal peer group well known for flawing institution’s rules and policies. Joining such a group may lead you to develop unprofessional behaviour and often a times lead to stagnant career growth or even job loss. There is nothing wrong in making friends at your workplace, but it’s wrong to choose friends that could lead you to an unknown destination. Peer groups that disregard rules and act unprofessionally should not influence you. As a growing professional, you may regularly offer counselling and sensitization programs and lectures to the particular peer group. The risk can also be averted by conducting regular training on work ethics.
3. Unethical Supervisor
Unethical workplace supervisor can sometimes harm the subordinates career too. Most at times, subordinates learn things from their bosses by the way they conduct their functions. For a supervisor who acts professionally, his or her subordinates will always adopt such practices. For example, from personal experience during my time as a banker, I met with a supervisor who responds to call, which are purely job-related during working hours. It taught me a lesson that receiving calls during working hours for non-office matters will only promote inefficiency, especially if those calls are prolonged.
If you work with an unethical supervisor, politely and professionally remind them of the impact of such acts on their career, the business and economy.
4. Inadequate Training
In our twelve years of primary and secondary education, we learn a few lessons on ethics as part of our academic curriculum.
Therefore, many young people grow as professionals with very little or no induction to professional ethics in our childhood days. Young aspiring professionals must always look for mentors who will educate them on work ethics, its merits and demerits. By so doing, one could build on a strength which will help in career progression with the highest altitude of professionalism. Additionally, employers should consider introducing a short-term induction scheme on ethics to all its new intakes. This approach could be ground-breaking in building a staff force with ethical awareness.
5. Inadequate Personal Development
It is noted that most young professionals behave unethically due to limited experience or knowledge of how to manage an ethical dilemma. Although in some cases, highly qualified professionals also behave unethically, in such instance, they acted for personal financial gains or professional recognition. However, those professionals who have limited capacity could venture into professional courses that can boost their knowledge and understanding of ethics.
In conclusion, young professionals can improve their understanding of work ethics the five solutions highlighted in this article. Ethical behaviours should be everyone’s business. Employees should be responsible in executing their duties by having ethical awareness. Employers should also be supportive in providing all the necessary training and mechanisms needed in promoting acceptable ethical behaviours. The society should also be willing to commend people who are behaving ethically and condemn those unethical practitioners.
The strive for an ethical society is a collective responsibility.
Written By: Momodou S. Fatty, An accountant, blogger and banker.