As we mentioned on the last page, regulated professions have codes of conduct to protect the public's overall well-being from unscrupulous people. Codes of conduct can also bolster a profession's image in the eyes of the public. When a certain occupation adheres to strict quality standards, it establishes a level of trust between the professional and the client.
Each company with a code of conduct has a specific set of rules that relate to the job in question. However, most codes have general, overarching rules that are rather similar, and any professional would do well to abide by these general guidelines.
One item typically found in a code of conduct is gross negligence or gross incompetence. Gross negligence means willingly misleading a client or failing to look out for the client's best interest. When someone doesn't have the basic ability to do what's required of the job, on the other hand, he or she may be committing gross incompetence. Many codes of conduct look for patterns of negligence and incompetence to determine whether the case should be considered at a gross level.
Most people also have to take licensing exams to prove that they understand all aspects of their job. However, earning a license doesn't necessarily mean a person is free to practice. State licensing guidelines often require that a professional renew her license on a regular basis. The guidelines for renewal vary by state and occupation, but they frequently require continuing education to keep the person up-to-date with industry changes.
Confidentiality is another standard stipulation in professional codes, particularly in the medical and legal professions. Confidentiality guidelines are included in codes of conduct to allow a patient or client to freely disclose information without the fear of recrimination.
Other aspects of professional codes include stipulations about substance abuse and discrimination by race, gender or culture. Many codes also acknowledge the possibility that someone might have a criminal past. Although some places do allow prior criminals to practice a given profession, they must maintain high moral codes in order to do so.
Now that we've talked about what's in a professional code of conduct, let's learn how to follow it.