I am not a great moralist or philosopher, so don’t expect much intelligence here. But here are some musings on how I cope with professional existence and morality. These thoughts I have pondered on over the last five or so years and continue to wonder if I have gotten it right.
So I did some research but ended up with Wikipedia to get some definitions.
Definition: Ethics – encompassing right conduct and good life.
Definition: Morality means a code of conduct held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are created by and define society, philosophy, religion, or individual conscience.
At first, ethics and morals look like the same thing. They are certainly very closely related, and in a perfect world, they might even be same. After some thought, I have come to the view that morals is a code of conduct that comes from outside yourself. Thus, Paganism, Islam, Christianity or Buddhism((insert your choice here if not listed)) offers a moral code that you adopt, for yourself, to guide your actions. In this context, organised religions offer a communally enlightened, consensual code that offers sound premises for ‘right living’. Of course, organised religions are not the only codes for ‘right living’, many people instinctively understand the right thing and are morally strong enough to assert themselves, are recognised as ‘good people’ by their peers.
I define ethics as what you actually do, the deliverable, the action. Thus a moral code that says ‘love your neighbour’ does not give you much practical advice on how to turn that into a deliverable. Ethics is how you choose to act in a given situation using the moral code of your choice.
Examples of ethical actions might be:
- to choose to buy fair trade goods to support your fellow man instead of the cheapest goods which are likely to made by exploited people.
- To support charity with time and money to help other people
- To be respectful of other people means not calling someone an idiot in a meeting.
- Support your manager, even though you may not agree with their approach or point of view because that is the best action for the entire team.
and so on.
Enough Personal Stuff, where the Network angle
I try hard to be an ethical person, and to do the right thing. I judge the right thing by my standards.
As a freelance network engineer, I have to work for Business. When working in business, it has its own moral code and I am expected to accept and honour that code. Therefore I act by the code ((at least, as I understand the code, it does vary from company to company)) and thus get the job done.
Therefore, being part of a change process or project ((like installing a new computer system that is faster)) that will make hundreds of people redundant and have a huge impact on their lives is a difficult ethical problem for me personally, but perfectly acceptable by business morals. Indeed, if the company doesn’t do it, other companies will and perhaps my company would fail and no one would have a job. But enough with the philosophical dilemmas.
Now the problem here, is that the moral code can change according to where I am working. But my personal ethical code doesn’t really change much.
I have no morals, but I am ethical
So when I say to you that: “Professionally, I have no morals, but I am very ethical” here is what I mean:
I adopt the morals of the operational environment around me. That means if the company says “use Juniper NetScreen” I go, “no problem”. If they say thou shalt love the Foundry switches, I choke a bit and say “if you really want me to”. If the Corporate process requires me to wait ten weeks for a purchase order to be processed and waste substantial amounts of money, then I bow my head and wait.
However, if I am ever asked to perform an action that is fundamentally wrong, am I willing to speak out ? Yes I am. I have done and will do so again.
Have you taken the time to think about your ethical choices as a professional ?