Our society can only function productively if its members learn how to co-exist harmoniously. This harmonious existence can only come about if everyone follows certain values that guide and inform their choices and actions. These normally well-established norms are known as ethics and they normally determine the purpose and course of lives for all society members. Ethics are unique from normal rules and regulations since they have a moral dimension to them and their effectiveness comes from having a person willing to fully follow them as opposed to imposing the norms on the person.
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My ethical identity has been informed by my understanding that ethics are the foundation on which a productive and well functional society is built. It has been instrumental in my decision-making process since I am obligated to look at the impact that my actions and decisions have not only on me but also on the people I interact with. In this essay, I will illustrate how I have come to develop my ethical identity in the course of my professional life in the past 10 years. As I discuss the developments I underwent in the course of my professional life, I will also highlight the various ethical principles that make up my identity.
Developing My Ethical Identity
I can trace the beginning of my ethical identity back to my childhood years where my parents instilled in me sound moral values. These values were augmented by my community and schooling experiences which added in me values such as; honesty, integrity, benevolence, dependability, respect, and selflessness among others. My work experience proved to be a pivotal point in the creation of my ethical identity. I had to confront the question of what personal ethics I would keep as I entered into my professional life and the ones that I would have to let go of. This is because as a newcomer into the professional field, I was faced with a new culture since the Information Systems sector of the company had its way of operating and being in the world.
A major tenet in my ethical identity is that I must always try to act in a way that is beneficial to the largest number of people. I must admit that this part of my ethical identity was first developed by my parents who are the biggest moral influence in my life. I am a Chinese man and my oriental culture is collectivist. While growing up, my parents always insisted that I should be considerate of others and act in a manner that benefited the other family members.
I was therefore socialized to think of the interests of my parents and siblings in all the actions that I carried out. This part of my ethical identity was further developed in my early years in the IT department of the organization I was working for. Being the person in charge of the acquisition of new software for the finance department, I met several prospective vendors who tried to sell their software to the organization. I was impressed by a particular vendor whose software had all the key functionalities and also cost half of what the other vendors were selling. This software would have been the best option for me since I would gain approval from my superiors for getting the software at a low cost.
However, the users of the software would suffer since I had discovered from my research that the software was not easy to use. It is possible that the clients of our organization would suffer from a reduction in efficiency by the company’s staff due to the difficulty in using the software. A fellow workmate advised me that the best choice would be the one that benefited the greatest number of people. He also suggested that the collective welfare of my fellow workers should take precedence over my individual needs. This view is by Utilitarianism which maintains that the collective welfare of people should be the basis of an individual’s actions. I followed his advice and since then, I am keen to ensure that the actions I engage in and the decisions I make benefit the greatest number of people.
Another component that has been added to my ethical identity due to my work life is that I should always obey the laws and rules put in place. Before I joined a professional workforce, I was not very keen on strictly observing laws and rules since the people I interacted with were lenient and they did not always emphasize accountability. Things were significantly different in my workplace where the rules and regulations dictated that every person should be accountable for their actions. If a mistake occurred during my shift, I was the one held accountable and I had to take responsibility and face any consequences which followed.
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I have therefore become conditioned to abide by set rules and the authority at all times. This perspective is supported by Kant’s Categorical Imperative theory which reveals that actions by individuals are deemed moral only if they are in accordance to set rules. According to Kant, rules are the only way through which harmony can be preserved in society since rules can be relied upon to remain constant. If we were to rely on our rationale, things could easily go out of control since people sometimes act in impulsive and irrational ways.
Owning my own company has caused some significant changes in my ethical identity. Since I was in college, it was always my dream to start up my consultancy firm. I was able to achieve this ambition three years ago and I now own a medium-sized consultancy company which has a significant number of clients and employees, 25 full-time employees.
The most significant addition to my ethical identity that has resulted from owning my own company is that I should always do the right thing. Before I had my company, I thought that the outcome of my actions should be the basis on which people judge the rightness of my actions. I, therefore, found myself justifying actions that I knew were wrong by pointing to the outcome. The fault in such reasoning was brought to my attention while dealing with a client who had brought a major project to my company. As it turned out, the client was an illegal trader and a little background information brought it to my attention that he might be using my company to launder his money.
While I should have refused to do business with this client, I pictured that the result of increased profits for my company justified serving this client. My company completed his project on time and the client was very impressed. However, a few months later, I was required to go to court as a potential accomplice in money laundering. While I was able to resolve this matter favorably, the experience made me realize that always doing the right thing is the best philosophy.
From that experience, I always consider the “rightness” of my actions and do not look at the result to justify the action. Such a rationale is by Kant’s theory of Categorical Imperative where duty is the basis of all moral actions. My ethical identity, therefore, dictates that I should do the right thing at all times.
High integrity has also come to be one of the components of my ethical identity. This attribute dictates that I should follow my ethical principles regardless of the personal consequences that may come about. Exercising integrity can come at some cost for example; losing clients who insist on deviations from principles, missing an opportunity to engage in profitable opportunities through corruption, and incurring high costs by following the legitimate channels in all business transactions. However, in my experiences, I have come to realize that people value integrity in others and they are more willing to trust and engage in business with people who are committed to moral principles.
My World View
From my professional experience, I have come to develop a well-informed world view. The first view is that I should place great significance on my moral identity as a central feature of myself. By doing this, I rely more on moral concepts to guide my everyday life. I no longer rely on feelings when making decisions and this is very helpful since feelings are not steady or reliable and they can be misleading at times.
Another view that I have come to hold is that I can only find the humanity in me and grow to develop a deep respect for myself by honoring the humanity in others and also respecting them. My core assumptions have been challenged by the various experiences I have had and my conduct today is guided by the experiences I have had which are based on sound ethical principles. I have discovered that by adhering to ethical theories, I can solve problems in the most proficient manner.
My moral identity has been influenced by my culture as well as environmental factors such as the schools I have attended and the companies I have worked for. With this understanding, I am more willing to accept other people’s point of view since I appreciate the fact that their personalities are shaped by their unique cultures as well as the environment they live in.
My young family which is made up of my wife and son is of great importance to me and they are a major priority in my life. My parents were hard-working and always strived to provide me with the best life that they could. I also feel obliged to do the same for my family and they are a major motivation for me. I would like my son to grow up to be a morally responsible person and the best way to ensure this is by being morally responsible so that he can have a role model in me.
Another significant priority is to ensure that my employees enjoy favorable work conditions and can adhere to high moral standards. This priority has emerged since I recognize that as the company owner, I am responsible for the success of my organization and the welfare of the workers is my duty. It is also important to me that I be concerned about doing right and having clear values and convictions. These attributes are important to me since they have enabled me to achieve the successes that I have up to date. In addition to this, having these attributes make it possible for me to demand the same of the people around me.
In this paper, I set out to describe my future ethical identity. The training I have acquired at school and during my work life has been a major influence on my ethical identity. My acquisition of knowledge about ethical principles and increasing familiarity with ethical guidelines and standards have helped me to develop an ethical identity. I have illustrated how several significant experiences in my professional life led to the development of my ethical identity. From this paper, I have explained how my moral identity has provided the standards for self-regulating and has acted as an important source of moral motivation in my professional life.
This ethical identity has been instrumental in my decision-making process since I am obligated to look at the impact that my actions and decisions have not only on me but also on the people I work with. I have become a professional who not only understands and appreciates the importance of ethical conduct but who is committed to practicing ethical codes in all my decision making efforts. From my experiences, I can claim that professionals who live up to their ethical responsibilities also ensure that their relationships with their clients and workers continue to thrive.