Ethics and Professionalism

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The term "moral behavior" is applied in evaluating the personal conduct of a citizen and is judged in comparison to society's norms. The term "ethical behavior" is applied to that citizen's conduct in professional matters and is judged in comparison to the standards of the profession, which are formally expressed in statements called codes of ethics .

Distinguishing between moral and ethical behavior is necessary because people have a wider array of value obligations when functioning as professionals than when resolving value dilemmas in their personal lives. A professional has specialized knowledge that must be applied to serve four entities: the employer, the client of the employer, the profession, and, most importantly, society. A professional also has legitimate moral obligations. In addition to the application of technical knowledge and the proper consideration of economic factors, the professional must properly balance the value obligations to each of the four entities. For example, the employee should be loyal to the employer, honest with the client, respectful of the profession, and sensitive to the health and safety of the public. Values such as loyalty, honesty, respect, and sensitivity to public safety are emphasized in professional codes of ethics.

The Challenge of Ethical Decision-Making

Rational ethical judgment by professional water managers is important because of the significant implications of their decisions to society. They make decisions that affect the environment , allocate water resources, influence public health and safety, distribute public monies, and affect the lives of future generations.

Ethical conduct, or professional decision-making, is a necessary requisite to being called a professional. A professional must be able to properly balance competing values in making decisions that affect both society and the client, especially where personal, societal, and cultural values conflict. The value issues must be properly...
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