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An overview by Mayank sharma, ECE-1(M)


The field of ethics (or moral
philosophy) involves systematizing,
defending, and recommending
concepts of right and wrong
Professional ethics encompass the personal, organizational,
and corporate standards of behavior expected of

Professionals and those working in acknowledged

professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill. How the
use of this knowledge should be governed when providing
a service to the public can be considered a moral issue and
is termed professional ethics.
Professionals are capable of making judgments,
applying their skills, and reaching informed decisions
in situations that the general public cannot because
they have not attained the necessary knowledge and
skills. One of the earliest examples of professional
ethics is the Hippocratic oath to which medical
doctors still adhere to this day.
Some people believe that the following
are the criteria for professionalism:
Professional training
A basic requirement for professionalism is that the person has appropriate
education and training to perform tasks related to the profession. Without such
training, a person will not be able to perform tasks at the high quality expected
of a professional. The requirement that the training must be through a formal
education system is generally applicable. Of course, there are examples of
professionals who have excelled in performance without any formal training.
Such cases are exceptions rather than the rule.

Being an intellectual
An intellectual is a person who has the ability to think, analyse situations,
understand the pros and cons, and act in a logical way. This ability is essential for
right decision-making, logically arriving at a conclusion, and explaining a particular
course of action. Essentially, this calls for a high level of education and training, and
the ability to use that training to think logically.
Autonomy in function
A professional, by virtue of the special training that he/she has received, is in a job
that requires professional decision-making. He/ She needs to have autonomy that
enables him/her to think professionally about a situation and take a logical decision.
Autonomy in functions is a prerequisite for a person to show professionalism. If the
professional's actions are controlled or inhibited by other considerations, especially
monetary, he/she will not be able to show professionalism.

Professional judgement
Any judgement made by a professional should be based on professional
considerations. Independence in judgement thus becomes a major
requirement for showing professionalism. A professional's ability to collect
and analyse information and make decisions purely on the merit of the case,
considering all technical or other details, is a hallmark of professionalism.
Mindset for service
All professional services produce public good. An abundant sense of service to the
public is essential in a professional's job. The mindset for producing high quality products
and services, providing the best care to clients, etc., should come from within. It should
not arise on considerations of competition and survival in the marketplace, but on
professional grounds of providing the best quality and quantum of service

Dedication to the profession is a criterion for professionalism. A professional must be
committed to his/her profession and the duties he/ she performs. Such commitment will
ensure that he/she does all tasks with devotion and integrity, resulting in a professional job
of high quality. Pride in the profession One of the criteria for professionalism in the job is to
be proud of the profession one is practising. This pride is not arrogance, but a sense of
being one with the job and feeling happy that one is practising such a profession.
In addition to meeting the criteria that we just
discussed, a professional must exhibit the
following characteristics:
Expertise in terms of knowledge and skills Professionalism can only come
from people having expertise in terms of both knowledge and skills in the
profession. This is ensured through the high level of education and special
training that a person gets before entering the profession.

General orientation toward public or community interest

All professions have a common theme of public service in their ambit. Medical
profession, legal profession, and engineering profession in a variety of public
services are examples of public utility of professions. The professional must get an
orientation towards public service during his/her education and training. Community
interest must be kept in mind in professional functions. This orientation is necessary
for professionalism.
Self-regulation in work
Professionalism calls for self-regulation by the person doing any job. He/She
does not need supervision and control in doing his/her job professionally.
Professionalism requires the professionals to regulate and control their work
themselves without being supervised.

High level of ethics

A professional can be left to do his/her job professionally because of the
high level of ethics possessed by the person. Ethical functioning is a basic
requirement of professionalism. As professional functions are performed
with freedom and self-regulation, ethics becomes a regulatory factor in true
professional functioning.
High level of rewards We have mentioned earlier that a professional
commands a greater pay package and perks because of the high
level of education and special training undergone. It is not only the
remuneration that is high; he /she also has a high status in the
society. More than this, professionalism requires that professional
functions be performed with commitment and integrity irrespective of
the monetary rewards. That is the spirit in which a true professional
The responsibilities of a professional
can be explained as follows:
Advancement of knowledge
A professional must be involved in the advancement of knowledge in
the profession. Innovation must be a hallmark of a professional's
functions. Whatever one may be doing, attempts for improvement must
be made. One may not always be involved in research activities. A
person working in the shop floor is far removed from research, but
he/she has a role to improve whatever function is being done. Such
innovations through action research are not uncommon and a
professional is required to do them.
Publication of information
One should not only attempt to advance one's knowledge domain in
the profession but also publicize and inform others about such
developments. This is also a responsibility of a professional.
Maintenance of associations of professionals to advance the goals of
the profession is a basic requirement of professional activities. A
professional should necessarily become a member of professional
bodies and contribute to their objectives.
Promotion of well-being of co-professionals
Professionals, individually or through their associations, must
ensure the well-being of the members of their profession. It
is essentially done through the membership of the
professional association. These associations are duty-bound
to protect the interests of the members.
Development and maintenance of standards
In a profession and its practice, one should abide by the code
of conduct developed by professional bodies. In addition,
professionalism requires that a professional sets his/her own
standards for his/her functions and adheres to those standards.
They may be ethical or other standards. Professionalism comes
only through adherence to such codes and standards.
Control of access to the profession
Controlling access to the profession is the responsibility of the
professional bodies comprising professionals. This is done
through registration and conducting examinations to evaluate
the individuals seeking entry to the profession.
Maintenance of a clean image of the profession
Again, individuals and professional bodies are responsible for this. The
image of the profession is very important as it is mostly related to public
service in some way. Professionals and professional bodies need to
control professional practices for the promotion of their profession and
professionals. Many professional associations exist such as the
Institution of Engineers (India) (MI) for engineers, the Indian Medical
Association (IMA) for doctors, and the All India Bar Association (MBA) for
The objectives of professional associations can, in general, he
formulated as follows:
• Promote and advance the profession by bringing together
professionals practising the profession under one umbrella
• Promote advancement of knowledge in the profession by providing
funds and encouraging research in various areas of the profession
• Provide a forum for exchange of information and views on various
aspects affecting the practise of the profession
• Develop a code of conduct for professionals practising the profession
to maintain the dignity and honour of the profession
• Prevent unethical conduct by professionals by enforcing the code of
conduct and providing suitable penalties
• Publicize the aspects of the profession by informing the public about
what is and highlighting the services rendered to the society the
• Take care of the profession and professionals by advancing the
cause of the profession through various medias to achieve the
• Publish journals and organize seminars and conferences
• Develop criteria and conduct examinations to control new entrants
• Arrange funds for promoting activities related to the profession
• Discuss ethical dilemmas that crop up in the practise of the
profession and find acceptable solutions to the issues.
Accountability is a concept used in ethics to denote an
organisation's or individual's liability to shoulder the
responsibility of their actions, explain the reason or
justification for their actions, and take the blame in case
something goes wrong. The word accountable can be
defined as being responsible for one's own decisions or
actions and being able to justify them when asked
This section discusses the various roles played by a
professional. Let us see how the roles of a professional can
be categorised.
Personal Role
Professionals are also human beings and have personal lives. They play many roles in their
personal lives, such as son, daughter, husband, wife, and father just like other people. We
are looking at whether professional spirit and professionalism influence their personal lives
also. Professionals can improve the quality of their and others' lives by being conscious of
the professional spirit in their personal life. They can bring in an aura of enrichment by
following professionalism in their personal lives. The personal role is also important for their
professional image. The expectations from the two roles may he different but the underlying
spirit in playing those roles should he the same. Their personal lives are controlled by
factors such as religion, social controls, and constitutional edicts. In addition, they have to
set their own moral and ethical standards to be followed. Their high level of education and
professionalism should help them in setting the right standards to adhere to. It is important
for professionals to set goals in life to guide their personal and professional expectations
from life.
Professional Role
Professional role is what we will be detailing in this book. They could be in terms of one's
responsibilities as a professional or in terms of the different roles one plays in the practise of
one's profession, such as a leader, a colleague, a subordinate, and many others.

Social Role
A professional is not only a member of his/her professional association but also lives in a community
and hence is also a member of a society and community. The professional must play his/her role as
a member of the community. Social roles include interacting with other members of the community,
contributing to the welfare of the community in which he/she lives, and also solving the problems of
the community if they are related to his/her chosen profession. His/Her knowledge, skills, and special
training will enable him/her to play a useful social role.
Ethical Role
Many ethical issues not related to the profession arise in everyday life. A professional must promote ethical
behaviour among the people or community in which he/she lives. He/She has a greater responsibility as he/she
enjoys a higher status in society due to his/her education, special training, and higher rewards earned. He/She
thus has a responsibility to play a mentor's role in ethical matters.

Model Human Role

In order to effectively play the aforementioned roles, a professional has to play the role of a model
human being. Professionals are not icons or heroes. Very few, such as a world class surgeon, a
brilliant lawyer, or a renowned engineer, get to be in the limelight. Still, in the small world surrounding
oneself, one must behave with impeccable standards that will showcase him/her as a model human
Ethics and Profession
An individual becomes a true professional only when he/she adheres to the ethical standards of
the profession. Ethical behaviour is a cardinal tenet of professionalism. One becomes a true
professional only when one adheres to, and practices, ethical standards in all the professional
functions. There should be no compromise on ethical norms while practising one's profession.

Here are some steps that you may take to achieve this:
• Make your own value system and understand it well. The important point about values is that
you have found it out yourself and you own it and follow it. The ideas, constructs, or beliefs
that you hold dear to your heart must be well organized in your mind.
• Develop a positive attitude. Neither failures nor setbacks in life should destabilize you. Learn
from mistakes, and firmly believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
• Develop a high emotional intelligence score. This will help you understand others better and
work together with peers, superiors, and subordinates.
Image of a Profession
A professional should take pride in being a part of the profession and should
work to enhance the image of the profession in the public view. Professionals
are not in the limelight in the ordinary course of things. Misconduct by
professionals gets highlighted. In the ordinary course of things, what one does
very ethically and in true professional spirit remains unnoticed. A true
professional will not mind this apparent neglect for good work done. The
image of the profession is very important to a professional for many other
reasons. A clean image will enhance the recognition by those in authority and
also bring rewards and financial support to the profession. Hence, it is
important for the professionals to continuously strive for the betterment of
their profession.
Technology and society
Technology and society refers to cyclical co-dependence, co-
influence, and co-production of technology and society upon
the other (technology upon culture, and vice versa). This
synergistic relationship occurred from the dawn of humankind,
with the invention of simple tools and continues into modern
technologies such as the printing press and computers.
Technology often enables organizational and bureaucratic group structures that
otherwise and heretofore were simply not possible. Examples of this might
• The rise of very large organizations: e.g., governments, the military, health and
social welfare institutions, supranational corporations.
• The commercialization of leisure: sports events, products, etc. (McGinn)
• The almost instantaneous dispersal of information (especially news) and
entertainment around the world.

Technology enables greater knowledge of international issues, values, and

cultures. Due mostly to mass transportation and mass media, the world seems to
be a much smaller place, due to the following:
• Globalization of ideas
• Embeddedness of values
• Population growth and control
Roles of Engineers
As indicated earlier, most engineers who are employed are involved in hard
core engineering jobs such as design, shop floor practice, and quality control,
at least in the beginning of their career. Many of them may end up as
managers and leaders early in their career. We are not talking about these
engineers but are discussing engineers who become managers later in their
career. We try to look at the different roles that an engineer may play while
performing his/her professional functions.
Engineers as Managers - Engineers becoming managers is a common sight. With a few years of
experience in hard core engineering, the organization may find it fit to elevate an engineer to a managerial
position. An engineer does not have any formal training in management, except that nowadays, most engineers
study a management course as part of their engineering course (such as a civil engineering student studying
construction management). An engineer has to rely on his/her experience and intuition to fit into his new role as a
manager. Many people do feel. and they are probably right, that it is easier to give lessons in management to an
engineer than to give lessons in engineering to a manager. An engineer with intensive training in engineering may
not find it difficult to play his/her role as a manager.

Engineers as Consultants
A consulting engineer differs from a professional engineer in some aspects: These are as follows:
• A consulting engineer is a freelancer and is not an employee of any corporate entity unlike an engineer.
• A consulting engineer has to earn his remuneration by doing a job as and when he gets an assignment,
whereas an engineer gets a salary paid by the company as per his/her job contract.
• An engineer performs tasks assigned to him/her by the company and does not have much freedom to choose
his/her tasks. A consulting engineer, on the other hand, can choose the assignment that he/she wants to work
on and gets paid according to the job done.
• From an ethical point of view, a consulting engineer has more freedom to be ethical than a professional
Engineers as Leaders
Managers are essentially transactional leaders. The manager, as a leader has specific objectives, a plan of action,
and a time frame to realize goals most efficiently and bring profits to the organization. A manager's function is to
see that the plan is put into action, the objectives are achieved, to to find solutions to any possible problems.
He/She also leads a group of executives and workers for the achievement of the objectives. The manager
obviously has the authority to get the plan executed and derives his/ her leadership mainly from such authority. An
engineer, on the other hand, can be a transformational leader. Here, he/she does not work on specific objectives
and plans of action to achieve something in a given time frame. A transformational leader generates visions to
transform a group of people to do something more innovative and creative. He/She is creative enough to generate
new ideas, to plan and generate innovations, and motivate groups of people to be creative and innovative. Such a
leader is able to inspire a group of people to find new vistas for the company, generate ideas for diversification,
and plan new products and services.
Ethical obligations of engineers
Fundamental Canons
Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall:
• Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
• Perform services only in areas of their competence.
• Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
• Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
• Avoid deceptive acts.
• Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the
honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.
Professional Obligations
• Engineers shall be guided in all their relations by the highest standards of honesty and integrity.
• Engineers shall acknowledge their errors and shall not distort or alter the facts.
• Engineers shall advise their clients or employers when they believe a project will not be successful.
• Engineers shall not accept outside employment to the detriment of their regular work or interest. Before
accepting any outside engineering employment, they will notify their employers.
• Engineers shall not attempt to attract an engineer from another employer by false or misleading
• Engineers shall not promote their own interest at the expense of the dignity and integrity of the
• Engineers shall at all times strive to serve the public interest.
• Engineers are encouraged to participate in civic affairs; career guidance for youths; and work for the
advancement of the safety, health, and well-being of their community.
• Engineers shall not complete, sign, or seal plans and/or specifications that are not in conformity with
applicable engineering standards. If the client or employer insists on such unprofessional conduct, they
shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project.
• Engineers are encouraged to extend public knowledge and appreciation of engineering and its
• Engineers are encouraged to adhere to the principles of sustainable development1 in order to protect the
environment for future generations.
• Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice that deceives the public.
• Engineers shall avoid the use of statements containing a material misrepresentation of fact or omitting a
material fact.
• Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may advertise for recruitment of personnel.
• Consistent with the foregoing, engineers may prepare articles for the lay or technical press, but such
articles shall not imply credit to the author for work performed by others.
• Engineers shall not disclose, without consent, confidential information concerning the business affairs or
technical processes of any present or former client or employer, or public body on which they serve.
Professional responsibility
Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the
duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid
conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own
interests. Professional responsibility
Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of
attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest,
and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests.
The term collegiality is not listed in the dictionary. The term comes from the word 'college', which denotes a
group of people with a common purpose, for example, electoral college. All professionals thus have certain
common goals to promote ethical practices in the profession, to work towards advancement in the
profession, to promote professional groups for common causes, etc. Collegiality, from this point of view, can
be considered as an appreciation of professional expertise, commitment to the profession, and shared vision.

The Oxford Advanced Learner's' Dictionary defines loyalty as 'the quality of being faithful in support of
somebody or something' or 'a strong feeling that you want to be loyal to somebody or something.' What is
the professional engineer loyal to the - fundamental canon of engineering, the public good; the profession;
or the employer? Perhaps, each one of these concepts deserves the loyalty of the professional. Loyalty to
public good means loyalty to a cause. As we consider engineering as social experimentation, the loyalty to
the major expectation of that experiment is important. This loyalty will give a direction and outlook to the
professional to perform the experiment keeping the public good in focus.
When a professional is employed in any organization, he/she is privy to a lot of
information that may be treated confidential for various reasons. Keeping such
information confidential is one of the responsibilities of a professional. Someone
may also come across any information, during the course of his/her work that
he/she is not supposed to know. Both by contractual obligations and moral
obligations, the employee is to keep such information confidential.
The recent events discussed earlier show that corruption is a very deep rooted malaise afflicting the very essence
of democracy in India. It has become so rampant and widespread that corruption-related cases are reported
almost everyday now. Today, people can easily buy their degrees and have no compunction about giving bribes to
get things done. Whistle-blowing came into focus in the case of Satyendra Dubey, an engineer working with the
golden quadrilateral corridor project. He blew the whistle on the corruption and the poor quality of work in the
project by writing directly to the Prime Minister. The fact that he paid for it with his life outraged the public across
the country and \ led to a lot of thinking on the subject and finally led to a bill for the protection of whistle-blowers.
The term whistle-blowing comes from the field of sports where a blown when a player commits a foul. In ethics, a
whistle is blown when something bad or unethical has happened. Whistle blowing, thus in general refers to the
phenomenon when someone comes out with the that something unethical has happened or is happening.