In the accounting field, especially in audit, the necessity to have professional ethics is essential. Indeed, beyond the audit techniques and methods, the issue of auditor behavior has emerged. It has proved timely to ask how the ethics of the auditor interact with the quality of the audit. The auditor cannot isolate their personal values from the practice of their profession. Therefore, they interpret audit situations according to their own sensitivity Etymologically the word “ethics” comes from the Greek word synonym to “moral“.
Nowadays, ethics has a connotation less pejorative than “moral” While morality represents a set of universal rules or laws, ethics attaches itself to values relative to time and space. The concept of ethics seeks to evaluate human behavior in relation to a system of standards and the requirements of respect and promotion of humanity. ethics possesses a subjective dimension and deals with singular and concrete situations, carried by a history and its meaning at a given moment, in a specific context.
That is the reason why in ethics there is never a pre-established answer. As individuals, if we regard ethics as the set of moral conceptions that dictate our actions, we should always include these ideas in our personal and professional lives.
If we want to succeed professionally and personally, strong ethical values are necessary. Even though most societies regulate on unethical behavior, society might not prohibit unethical behavior. Thus, we will ask ourselves in the name of what principles will we decide that the act or decision taken in each situation is ethical.
Also, why is it essential to act ethically even though the unethical behavior or decision does not violate the law. The ethical theories developed by the philosophers can lead us to deepen our analysis on the subject and help us apply this concept in our decision-making process. In this analysis, we will explain the importance of acting in an ethical manner and share our general philosophy on the subject, then, based on our ethical philosophy we will define the notion of ethical dilemma and give our perspective on the subject, finally we will evaluate the ethical behavior of individuals in general and in the business field.
Ethical philosophy and importance of ethics Ethics is one of the most important concepts that affect our professional and personal lives. Ethics codes represent a set of guidelines helping us strive for excellence in everything that we try to accomplish. Ethics help us identify what is right or wrong to do. If a society does not possess ethical codes, the individual behavior will be similar to the animal behavior. As far as I am concerned, being ethical mean respecting the law and following the values of behavior that our society accepts. In my opinion, ethics promotes universal values; altruism, prudence, courage, temperance, and justice. In a professional setting, having an established ethics can attest to the credibility of any structure or individual, and confirm its image and positioning. If we take for example the audit profession, the ethics codes developed by the AICPA provides to the auditors a vision they strive to reach as well as providing a framework to accomplish their roles.
By following the ethics guidelines of their profession, auditors enhance public confidence in the services they provide. The ethical approach follows philosophical arguments, public consultation or scientific studies. At first, I was following the principle of utilitarianism when making decisions. Utilitarianism emphasizes the idea that the wellbeing of all is beneficial for all men. Also, it rejects duty as a primary notion and assesses the moral quality of an action with the consequences we can except it. Utilitarianism ignores what is good or bad and establish “usefulness “as the primary principle of action. As a former believer of this theory, I would have considered that what is useful is good and that rationality determines utility. Nevertheless, in this theory, it often seems that the end justifies the means and doing the right thing has no greater value. Now, deontology is my general ethical philosophy. this theory articulates that both the actions and results must follow the ethical concept.
So even though the outcome will not serve the greater good, as a believer of this theory, I will choose the most ethical decision. The notion of ethical dilemma According to the principles of auditing & other assurance services, ethical dilemmas involve “a mental conflict between differing moral requirements “. An ethical dilemma represents a situation in which we must decide if we should pursue an action considered beneficial but that is unethical or violates the law of the society. Based on my ethical philosophy, faced an ethical dilemma I will always try to make the right decision, meaning the one with respect to the concept of fairness, equity and the fundamental rights of human beings. In the past, I have been confronted with several situations where making the right choice was challenging. Indeed, I used to work for Panda express as a cashier and sales associate, and employees could receive one free meal per workday. However, the assistant manager would have three free meals and not pay for the two extra meals.
As a cashier, I was responsible to enter all employees’ meals in the restaurant’s operating system. So, I was involved in a mental conflict to either report it to my manager or not say a word, and let the assistant manager take advantage of the company’s resources. After several months, I decided to make the right choice by explaining the situation to my manager. I knew that reporting him will bring tensions and conflict to our professional environment, or even cost me my job as it was my responsibility to make sure that all employees regarding their position would only have one meal per day. Eventually, my decision to follow the ethical values of the company was rewarded. I had the feeling to be dishonest with my manager and unworthy of the trust placed in my person. Thus, because of my personal values, I had to tell the truth and do the right thing. Can we teach ethics? Ethics represents a branch of philosophy rationalizing the concept of right and wrong manner in our society. I consider that ethics is not innate as ethical codes come to restrain the brutal instincts of the human nature and make life possible in a peaceful society.
Even though ethics appears as a concept specifically human, it normalizes the natural behavior of man. As individuals, we need to develop enough intellectual capacities to repress the impulses of nature. We are not born with the ability to behave ethically since ethics rely on values and notions that we learn over time. For instance, at the time of my birth, I did not know the difference between right and wrong, these concepts were unfamiliar for me. My education and life experiences gave me the ability to adopt an ethical approach to a decision-making process. Unlike many courses, we take in college (business law, accounting, finance), the learning of ethics contrasts. Indeed, in the school of business of Georges Mason, a specific ethics course to learn the principles of professional ethics in the business world does not exist. However, in most of the courses of the school of business, we study cases that call upon our judgment and develop our ability to behave ethically in society. Moreover, in the most professional, workers follow ethical training to help them recognize ethical issues and apply integrity, honesty in their decision-making process.
Nevertheless, in the economics and business field, it is often said that individuals act in their own self-interest and will adopt an unethical behavior if beneficial for them. For example, a person applying for a job in a company can decide to embellish his resume to get more chances to earn. The embellishment consists of lying on their educational background and previous experiences. Probably, the human resource department of this company will not discover the truth and the person who acted unethically will continue to adopt the same behavior. I believe that when an unethical behavior does not violate the law most individuals will make a benefit-cost analysis and make the choice that benefits them. Sometimes following the ethical culture of a company can have serious consequences on our own interest. In most whistleblowing cases, the company will not protect and reward the ethical behavior.
In fact, the whistle-blower faces reprisal for exposing the wrongdoing of their company. Even though workers are responsible to conduct business operations with keeping in mind the ethical culture of their company, they will consider the unethical choice if it is not illegal and benefit them. In conclusion, ethics codes regulate our behavior in society. We need ethics to succeed in our personal and professional lives. When we act ethically, we follow the principles that we consider “right in a decision-making process.
Ethical values deal with integrity, honesty, and respect of the basic human rights. Ethics is a discipline that encompasses different philosophical thinking, we can apply to our everyday lives and professional experiences. When confronted with an ethical dilemma, we are undecided between an ethical and unethical decision. Sometimes, acting ethically seems problematic for our own interest and I believe that most individual will choose the option they view as beneficial for them.