Derived from the Ancient Greek word Ethos, ethics is difficult to describe in a single go. There is no fixed definition to this word as it is one of the most subjective topics to discuss. But the closest synonym could be morals. As much as ethics depend on the inner scruples of a person, ethics can also be the set of rules developed by the society, industry or the organization to differentiate between the right and wrong. Generally, the code of ethics is developed to control the norms of conduct, ideally to protect the interest of an organization or certain beliefs. It is rather a bunch of philosophy to categorise between acceptable and unacceptable, the concept of which primarily depends on the culture of that particular place, industry, organization or society. A norm of conduct followed by one society can be offensive to another and thus there is no fixed code of ethics which is universal. Basically, any rule developed to withhold fraud, manipulation, exploitation and irrational behaviour is known as the code of ethics.
Broadly, the ethical code is developed after a study of universal values such as equality, human and natural rights, law of the land, and health and safety for all, including the natural environment. But there had been incidents of several disagreements and debates in the past over ethical beliefs because the way people interpret, apply, and balance ethics is different and vary based on society, religion, culture, education, experience, politics, country and personal opinion. Deeper analysis can divide the philosophy of ethics into three categories:
Normative Ethics: It is the ability of a person to decide how to behave and take the right decision in a given situation. It clearly focuses on the moral judgment of an individual which depends on upbringing an education.
Applied Ethics: This is the pre-defined code of conduct developed by a society to control an individual’s behaviour, to which one needs to abide by. This again is pretty debatable because it is not always true that whatever the society decides is ethical.
Meta-Ethics: It looks at the origin and fundamental meaning of the ethical principles. This is more of a logical analysis on why a certain behaviour is considered as right or wrong.
Since the code of ethics is developed keeping in mind the harmony of the organization or the society, it should be followed to maintain decorum and also for personal growth. It is very important to abide by the professional ethics at the workplace. Every organization determines its set of ethical values for employees to maintain the code of conduct. Some of the generic ethical codes are, to be honest, and to maintain the privacy of the company’s valued information, to treat employees legitimately and respect them.
Equally important is to maintain personal ethics. Even though our minds are conditioned since birth about the right and wrong of personal behaviour, but with age, humans tend to modify their personal ethics based on their likes and dislikes. Thought one has the right to express their opinion, one cannot and should not do anything that might hurt the belief of an individual or the society or break the laws. This is very important to maintain the peace of the society.
But ethics should not be confused with the law because some ethical disregard is punishable by law, but not always. Generally, a lot of ethical norms are curated depending on religion, culture and emotion which have no importance in terms of law and depend completely on how the society accepts it. Moreover, there are certain laws followed in certain sections of the world which are measured in terms of humanity, is actually unethical. Also, being ethical not always mean what is acceptable to the society, because in certain cases the entire society can get ethically corrupt and at such a situation, correct moral instinct and humanity are what should be valued more.
The code of ethics is what we can fall back on when in conflict to decide what is good and bad or vice and virtue, which gets embedded in people for the smooth functioning of the society. But ideally, the set of ethical code needs to get modified and redefined with evolution. Globalization, modernization and industrialization are some of the reasons that have changed the mentality and perspective of every society and individual. And with this progress, ethics got reformed. The society that chose not to change their norms of conduct is bound to undergo several conflicts.