<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

Yet, the very essence of professional responsibility is to address the difficult and unavoidable ethical tensions between public and private interest—the priest who hears the confession of a disturbed and homicidal parishioner intent on killing yet again; the lawyer who discovers that a client has misrepresented the facts of his case, and is asking for a plea to the court based in lies and distortions; the doctor who is asked to prescribe extraordinarily expensive treatments to a patient too ill, or old to have any reasonable chance of curative benefit; or the engineer who is told that she is bound by a confidentiality agreement, in spite of her certain conviction that a plane, bridge, or space shuttle is likely to fail and potentially cause extensive loss of life. These are not plot summaries for Hollywood; in an infinite variety, they are the stuff of professional life in the complex world of the twenty-first century.

It is by design, and not by accident, that professionals are thrust continually into such Hobson choice predicaments. The professional’s public pledge is an acceptance of ethical burdens not incumbent on the rest of society. It is an acknowledgment of the reality of human existence where things do not come out even, where real ethical insight must be exercised and where benign outcomes are far from assured. Someone must live in the land between the rock and the hard place, and those who do so are designated “professional”.

I think of professionals as the value bearers for society, those particularly burdened and practiced to address the most difficult and sensitive human ethical dilemmas. I do not mean to imply that a business person, lawyer, doctor, psychiatrist, or teacher is better in some moral sense than anyone else. Instead, that they have agreed to assume a unique ethical burden, to work at the transaction point where issues of significant human value are on the line. The professional is sworn not to desert this post, to be there to counsel, reflect and bear with the human condition in the midst of transition and crisis. This is, to me, the essence of professional practice—the practice of raising the value content of human decisions and choices. That is the professional’s sworn burden, it is the very nature of the ethic that defines who the professional is.

All this said, it astounds me that anyone would want the title of professional. But to make sure this point is underlined, let us consider the “Paradox of pay”, perhaps the most complexing of all to the business professional.

The paradox of pay

I am watching a sports show on the evening news. A local sportscaster is interviewing a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, who are in town for a game. The interview goes something like this:

Sports Guy: Al, I was surprised you never turned pro.
Al: What do you mean? I am a pro, I get paid pretty good for playing ball.
Sports Guy: Well yeah? But I meant you never tried out for the NBA.
Al: Oh, well I like playing for the Globetrotters better ...

Almost everyone assumes that being professional means getting paid (and paid well) for one's work. There are professionals and there are amateurs, the former get paid, while the amateurs do it for the love of it. Well, no. Originally, the professions were too important to receive wages in the usual sense. Professionals were not paid for their work; instead, professionals received an honorarium, a gratuity from the community intended both to honor and disassociate the vocation from the necessities of the market, to free the vocation for the selfless task of caring for others.

Three days before my heart surgery I happened to watch a Sixty Minutes piece on a cardiology group in California which was prescribing and performing unnecessary bypass surgery in order to increase their practice’s revenues. It was chilling. I thought of a case we use in business school about how Sears some years ago pressured employees in their auto servicing division to increase revenues by pushing unneeded air filters, mufflers, and break re-linings, etc. But, heart surgeons re-aligning ethical responsibility due to market dependency? I think the Medieval notion of honoraria for professionals may make a lot of sense in this time of triumphant capitalism. There are some values the market is not designed to dictate.

I love to tease business students about the matter of pay and the power of money. I ask, “Considering the ‘oldest profession’ what had you rather be known for: doing it for money, or doing it for love?” In the realm of love making, most us prefer to have non market forces determine the dimensions of our intimate lives. Let us hear it for true amateurs!

In a real sense, professionals indeed do it for love. It is difficult to imagine bearing the burden of a physician, lawyer, counselor, or a professor without having a deep and effusive passion for what one does. Professionals cannot leave their work at the office, because what they do is who they are. As I have discovered, teaching is the most rewarding thing I can think of doing. I do not just teach; I am a teacher. I am glad I am paid for my work, but truth be known I would do it for free. I walk away from a class where the students and I have really “lit it up”, and I do not even have words to say how good it feels. I can describe historically and intellectually what a professional should be, but even better, I also know what it feels like. No amount of money can compensate for that feeling.

Consider the burdens of true professionalism that skill alone is not sufficient to qualify: one is publicly pledged to work on the unrelenting tension between the welfare of the client and the good of the society; and that is not the criteria by which success will be judged—why would one choose to “turn pro?” I have only one answer: professions are rightly designated as vocations. We become priests, lawyers, physicians, professors because we cannot do anything else; who we are cannot be achieved outside the realm of what we are impelled to do.

Questions & Answers

what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
A canal is more of a need then a cavity
Commander Reply
what is electronic banking
Segun Reply
what does it mean business eco system?
Mohammed Reply
what is business
Abdul Reply
how can i know my business best resources, cheap and good quality
cabdi Reply
vikash rawat
jagvir Reply
entrepreneurial mobility
Manish Reply

Get the best Business fundamentals course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Business fundamentals. OpenStax CNX. Oct 08, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11227/1.4
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Business fundamentals' conversation and receive update notifications?