Philosophy 318: Professional Ethics
Theodore Gracyk

Outline of Andre Essay

When professionals provide services, clients often pose problems:

  • Some clients reduce our professional standing
  • Some clients waste our time
  • Some clients resist our control of what society expects us to control

Basically, clients will adopt strategies to pursue their individual goals and these strategies will sometimes conflict with professionals' reaching their goals.


What is professional success? Because professionals are responsible for allocating goods within limits dictated by society, success must be measured by one's performance in allocating these goods.

However, professionals serve society by serving individuals. Therefore we must expect and anticipate that the goals of clients will sometimes differ from those of the profession.

THEREFORE, clients can be "enemies" of professionals. Dealing with a client can reduce the professional's success. Client are not necessarily doing anything wrong when this happens.

ONE SOLUTION: Assuming that the client is rational and can choose autonomously,  professionals must "lower" their "sights," or change them. We cannot impose values on clients. We must accept that they are free to choose differently. THEIR LIVES ARE THEIR OWN.

A major problem with modern professionalism is the increased use of standardized measures, where the profession imposes the goals instead of recognizing that each client may have distinct goals. (E.g., graduation rates as a measure of educational success, even if the students do not regard graduation as their goal.)

Therefore, attempts to improve professionals through "accountability" measures will usually have the opposite result.

We must recognize that almost all professional relationships are ultimately ADVISORY, not paternalistic. 

  • At best, when they face an "enemy" client, professionals can help those clients to evaluate their goals. (All professionals are, to some degree, counselors.)
  •  Individual professionals should have the right to refuse service.

Because TIME is an important resource, more should be done to protect the time that professionals have for their areas of expertise. But this resource is drained by professional structuring, not just by clients.

Example: Hospitals would actually get better performance by eliminating or reducing the current practice of long shifts. U.S. colleges might get better results by letting teachers teach, without expecting them to also evaluate each of their students on a frequent basis.

PART OF THE PROBLEM is assigning multiple goals to some professions. When college is BOTH a means of education AND a "hurdle" to getting certain jobs, a student's pursuit of the latter may be unrelated to the former.


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            Last updated March 17, 2008