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Promising Practices on Ethics and Values

See additional articles on Ethics by Sandra Trice Gray.

Here we offer in-depth perspectives and resources you can use to deepen your understanding of organizational ethics and values and how to implement a plan for your organization. Topics you'll find in the following article include:

Overview ??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Values are the deeply held beliefs of individuals and groups (i.e., organizations, communities, nations, schools, etc.) that drive the choices we make. Most people are unconscious of the values that shape our lives and institutions until they are faced with a crisis that requires a choice. One of the basic values of people and institutions in the U.S. is fairness. The U.S. legal system is designed to embody that value: e.g., no one is judged guilty until proven so; every accused person is entitled to a fair trial. Education is open and available to all people, regardless of status, ability, background, etc. The Bill of Rights prohibits any abridgement to the free exercise of religion and to the right of free speech and assembly by the people. The U.S. pledge of allegiance declares the right to "liberty, justice, and freedom for all."

As leaders, people must be conscious of the values they hold for themselves and those they seek to lead. Moreover, they must make choices and decisions regarding any conflict between personal values and institutionally held values. For instance, many of today's leading corporations value diversity in all its dimensions but there are often conflicts between the corporate values and personal values, such as ones involving homosexuality or the use of cheap labor to enhance corporate profits. Arriving at personal and institutional decisions on these matters involves making an ethical choice.

According to the dictionary, ethics refers to the set of principles (values) that govern conduct. However, in practice ethics are presumed to guide people and organizations toward the betterment of society or, as the American Ethical Union specifies, guidelines for people working in community for a more humane world.
(See American Ethical Union at

CODES OF ETHICS??????????? [ Back to Top ]

The Diversity Leadership Forum (DLF)??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Professional associations often have ethical codes to clarify values, set professional responsibilities, provide a catalyst for professional accountability, and to serve as a catalyst for improving practice. The Diversity Leadership Forum (DLF), a newcomer organization for diversity practitioners, has the following code of ethics for members:

  • Respect others and honor the diversity of people and their perspectives;
  • Maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity in what I say or do, for myself, for the DLF, and for the community at large;
  • Support and contribute to the goals and objectives of DLF for developing the diversity profession;
  • Commit to personal growth and leadership in the diversity field;
  • Work to improve public knowledge and understanding of diversity;
  • Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information but whenever possible share and collaborate with others;
  • Do no harm;
  • Refrain from using my official position to secure special privileges or benefits for myself.

(See Diversity Leadership Forum at

The Diversity Training University International (DTUI)??????????? [ Back to Top ]

The Diversity Training University International (DTUI) offers another example of a code of ethics (see

  1. I pledge to pursue my profession with the highest level of ethics. I will serve my Clients with the highest possible degree of selflessness, and pledge to serve each with integrity and competence.
  2. I pledge to honor the Professional-Client Agreement Make and honor clear agreements for our work together, including compensation, timing and method of payment, schedules and methods of communication the client requested; and assurance that unused fees are returned promptly if a Client elects to stop or suspend my services.
  3. I pledge to be Respectful and Constructive: Respect my Clients needs and wishes, ensure they are honored; and, do not presume a Client's endorsement without obtaining explicit approval. I will listen carefully to what the Client says or means; promptly respond to telephone calls, faxes and electronic mail; and, be constructive and honest at all times.
  4. I pledge to Respect my Limits Train, Consult, or Coach only in my area of competence, where I am legally permitted to practice, and in matters that will provide real benefits to my Clients. I will not guarantee specific results such as the amount of cost reduction or profit increase.
  5. I pledge to Refer Clients, when necessary, to other specialists, such as a therapist, counselor, lawyer, financial planner or investment advisor.
  6. I pledge to guard against Conflicts of Interest If serving a particular class of client (e.g., a single industry), or two or more known competitors, I will disclose the fact to each Client. Assuming the affected parties give approval, I will take extraordinary precautions to avoid passing sensitive information between and amongst competing clients. When potentially competitive issues arise, I will clarify the level of confidentiality the client places on the information, and act accordingly.
  7. I pledge to Honor Confidentiality: Information entrusted me by Clients will be treated with strict confidentiality, and I will also advise any circumstances that might influence my judgment or objectivity. Clients should be aware that communications between the Trainer, Consultant, or Coach and the Client are not considered privileged under law, and court testimony may be required if a subpoena is served.
  8. I pledge to Seek and Be Open to Feedback I will always respond positively to feedback from Clients.
  9. I pledge to Be Professional: I will maintain the relationship on a professional basis. I recognize that associations that will reduce my objectivity, especially those of a romantic nature, are incompatible with a professional role and will cause me to end the Professional-Client relationship.
  10. I pledge to Maintain Professional Distance: I will not invest capital in or make loans to my Clients' businesses or projects unless both parties develop formal, written and legally supported agreements.
  11. I pledge to Maintain Clear Financial Agreements. I will identify clearly and in writing any compensation or rewards that are contingent on the client reaching certain targets and/or measurable results flowing from the coaching relationship.
  12. I pledge to Be A Model: I will conduct personal and professional affairs with high standards so as to be a model for Clients and other Professionals.
  13. I pledge to Honor the Intellectual Property Rights of Others. I will either seek the approvals and/or agree to pay the established royalties/licensing fees before using others patents and copyrights. When quoting others, I will acknowledge the fact by giving the appropriate reference.

The American Counseling Association??????????? [ Back to Top ]

In contrast with these two codes of ethics, the American Counseling Association has a very detailed code of ethics that is categorized into 8 major areas:

  1. The Counseling Relationship
  2. Confidentiality
  3. Professional Responsibility
  4. Relationships With Other Professionals
  5. Evaluation, Assessment, and Interpretation
  6. Teaching, Training, and Supervision
  7. Research and Publication
  8. Resolving Ethical Issues

(See American Counseling Association,

The Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Another model of a detailed code of ethics is the Standards for Excellence developed by the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations. It includes the following components:

  • Preamble
  • Guiding Principles
  • Mission and Program
  • Governing Body
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Human Resources
  • Financial and Legal
  • Openness
  • Fundraising
  • Public Affairs and Public Policy

To read these standards, visit the web site at:?

Values and Organizational Culture??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Institutions particularly espouse values that ideally make up their code of ethics. However, there is often a wide chasm between what is espoused and what is practiced. In the previous example, the code presented by the American Counseling Association (ACA) reflects the real practice of the profession, addressing the myriad of roles of practitioners and setting forth guidelines for ideal ethical conduct in those roles. Such detail indicates that the professional culture of counselors is well understood.

Understanding organizational or professional culture is essential to the development and use of ethical codes of conduct. Leadership Values is a web-based program that addresses this matter as follows:

"Understanding and assessing your organization's culture can mean the difference between success and failure in today's fast changing business environment. On the other hand, senior management, particularly the CEO, often has a view of the organization's culture that is based more on hope than a view grounded in objective fact."

To examine how organizational culture relates to institutional values, see the paper by Richard Hagberg, President of Hagberg Consulting Group, titled "Corporate Culture and Organizational Culture." (See Value Systems under

Another view of this approach is given by management consultant and researcher Jim Collins in his essay "Aligning Action and Values." Dr. Collins notes that every organization and institution has a set of shared values. This set of values can not be dictated but must be discovered and, if the discovered values differ from the espoused values, the organization must make adjustments. (See

To view the process of discovering shared values in process, see the University of Michigan web site for the World Value Surveys (WVS). This project seeks to investigate sociocultural and political change worldwide. It has been carried out over a decade in three stages and has collected representative national surveys of the basic values and beliefs of publics in more than 65 societies on all six inhabited continents, containing almost 80 percent of the world's population. To see the set of common values and the evolving change globally, visit the WVS website at

Additional Resources ??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Institute for Global Ethics
Ethics and Accountability in Judging, a document of the Ice Skaters Union
Josephson Institute of Ethics
Values, Ethics and Accountability: Increasing the Value of Competitive Success, prepared by the New Economics Foundation
Dismantling Privilege: An Ethics of Accountability by Mary Elizabeth Hobgood
U.S. Congressional Accountability Project

Acknowledgments ??????????? [ Back to Top ]

Special thanks to Sharon Parker for providing an in-depth perspective and resources to deepen our understanding of "Ethics and Values"; as well as how-to recommendations.


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