Why your Client’s Ethics Matter for your Business & Career

Do you ever wonder what you need to know or don’t know when it comes to working with clients outside of your own profession?

Well, here’s a good rule of thumb: When you have the FIRST meeting with a potential client, ask them whether they have a code of ethics or a set of rules of responsibility of professionalism that they must abide by.

Maybe you’re thinking, “But why? What’s the big deal?”

When you’re working with a client outside of your profession, you have to acknowledge that their code of ethics exists and you have to respect it. In some cases, you even have to follow it by law.

That’s right, you might actually be responsible for following rules outside of your own professional rules. 

For example, let’s say you’re a marketer hired to help out a lawyer. Well, guess what? You need to know that there are pages and pages of VERY specific rules about advertising. 

And not being familiar with those rules (aka professional ethics) can literally cost you the job, project, and any additional prospective clients in that profession. It might also cost you a lot of money if your limitation of liability clause isn’t shored up in your contract.

In other words, ethics are more than just a basic sense of right and wrong, good or bad.

They can give guidance to life, both personally and professionally. 

Ultimately, doing interdisciplinary work with others helps you become as holistic a service provider as possible, and it’s a great way to see how all of these rules, ideas about expectations, issues of control, wellness, health and power teams are really interconnected.

So, if you find yourself in an ethical dilemma, here’s an easy way to reframe and shore up:

  • Understand that ethics is a broad term. 
  • Personal ethics are ethics that a person identifies with in respect to people in daily situations. Like morals or a code of conduct.
  • Professional ethics are about the rules of ethics a person must follow when it comes to interactions, business dealings and professional life, or in order to keep their license or certification. 
  • Professional ethics are about the values and principles of the profession at large.
  • Professional ethics are usually introduced in a professional organization or association, especially ones that are mandatory for their job and especially when it’s based on a voluntary membership.

Remember, if your client is licensed or certified, it doesn’t matter what your personal ethics or opinions are. You must follow their professional rules.

Extra Credit

As you go about your day, think about these questions:

  1. How do we align our personal ethics, codes and standards with our professional ethics? What do we do when they’re misaligned?
    • Get clear about what matters to you and what rules you need to live by.
      1. Keep in mind that others may not know or understand that. 
      2. Some may even fear asking you to explain it.
    • Ask them about their code of ethics upfront
      1. Make these questions apart of your intake process
      2. Include as part of the process of learning about a person who may or may not be working with you.
    • Be as unambiguous as possible.
      1. Do not use jargon. 
      2. Never assume someone knows something if you do not know for a fact that they do.

Next Steps

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