Virtue Ethics: Integrating Your Private and Professional Lives

By John Iekel • October 19, 2015 • 0 Comments

“Ethics is in our daily life,” says Michael P. Coyne, President of Waldheger Coyne, at “Professionalism and Ethics Case Studies: Going Beyond Circular 230,” a workshop session he presented at the 2015 ASPPA Annual Conference Oct. 19.

Coyne observed that Circular 230 is central to government requirements regarding ethical behavior, but that it has weaknesses — and that among them is that it causes ethics to be viewed almost as if it were a regulatory burden. 

Coyne argued that engaging in ethical behavior and practices should be a positive and natural action, not one that is grudgingly undertaken merely to meet regulatory and legal obligations. “It’s a sad thing that the way we present ethics makes it a burden,” he said. 

Coyne noted that people like working with ethical people and doing things for others, and reinforced that with input from the audience and attendees from past ASPPA Annual Conferences. “We are generally virtuous in our professional pursuits,” he said. 

One of the approaches Coyne suggests to pursue and follow ethical practices is to engage in virtue ethics — a tool for integrating private and professional lives in a positive way. This approach is centered on the notions that professional ethics should be driven by our own virtue and character, and that personal and professional life really are not separate. Under this mindset, ethics isn’t driven by what you do, but by who you are as an individual. 

Coyne offered some tips regarding how to conduct yourself in an ethical way: 

  • communicate;
  • build relationships;
  • communicate expectations at the office;
  • consider how you interact with others in the profession;
  • consider your relationship with competitors;
  • ask yourself how you speak about competitors; and
  • consider how involved you are in professional organizations.

“The key to practicing virtue ethics,” Coyne said, “is to think about, and act, on the ethical aspects of everyday decisions.” And he encouraged attendees to be consistent in the effort, saying that being ethical “requires constant attention — without it, ethics can fall apart.” 

You'll find our other coverage of the 2015 ASPPA Annual Conference in the Conferences "station" on ASPPA Net.