When you work with a professional, you expect a level of competence. Unfortunately, sometimes the worst-case scenario happens. You have an operation, only to find out that the surgeon operated on you under the influence and worked on the wrong part of your body. A lawyer breaches the code of confidentiality, causing you to lose your case. A teacher physically abuses your child in the classroom. An engineer puts his stamp of approval on the plans for your new home, even though he knows it's structurally unsound. Many of these horrific situations can be avoided if the professional in question abides by his or her industry's rules of professional conduct.
Codes of professional conduct are typically found in licensed occupations. Many states license hundreds of occupations in order to protect the public. These positions include medical professionals, lawyers, veterinarian, engineers, architects, teachers, real estate brokers, certified public accountants and barbers. To be licensed, a person has to register with the state he or she practices in and meet the state standards for that profession.
These codes of conduct are rooted in ethics. The philosophy of ethics deals with broad values around actions, namely looking at a person's motive and the end result of that person's action and applying standards of right and wrong. A code of professional conduct spells out rules for professionals to abide by in order to uphold the standards and respect given to the occupation.
Although professional misconduct codes are specific to regulated professions, many companies who don't employ licensed workers often have codes of conduct or ethics that they require their workers to abide by.
Now that you know a little bit more about professional misconduct, let's take a deeper look at some of the typical items in a professional code of conduct.