What does it mean to be an ‘ethical professional’?
Ethical behaviour and professionalism are even more important in this increasingly digital age. Highly complex financial systems can lead to higher risks, it’s therefore key for accountants to adhere to the five fundamental principles for professional accounting – integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behaviour.
In fact, ethical behaviour and professionalism are so important, ACCA’s Ethics and Professional Skills module is a core component to becoming an ACCA member. Not only will it give you real world insight and experience in understanding ethics and professionalism, but it’s also a key requirement among employers and will greatly improve your employability.
Integrity revolves around qualities like honesty and respect for others, as well as respect for systems and policies, be they company specific or stretching to a country’s laws. These are important qualities for accountants, who deal with a person’s, company’s or public body’s finances. Integrity is a quality respected by others; it’s key if you’re working as part of a team or dealing with clients. Integrity essentially means knowing what the right thing to do is in any given situation, having a strong moral and professional compass. Wear your integrity as a badge of honour.
Respect for others
Sounds so simple, but this is a cornerstone to acting professionally and working ethically. Fundamentally, respecting others is a cornerstone to a peaceful and prosperous society. Without respect, poor relationships are founded on weak communication and misunderstanding. This can all too easily lead to acrimony, poor decision making and bad choices. Furthermore, If you do not show respect for people, whether they’re senior or junior to you, your chances of being a good team player are reduced. Being professional also means showing respect to people you may not like, setting aside differences for a common goal.
Not to overuse the word ‘cornerstone’, but accountability is another one, particularly for accountants, who will come across this early in their professional learning. Accountants must be prepared to take responsibility for their actions. That can be as simple as being punctual and working hard to being prepared to hold your hand up if you make a mistake that could impact a company’s ability to satisfy laws or make a profit. Being accountable means being honest when something goes wrong and, almost as importantly, working toward a resolution.
Objectivity and knowing when to challenge
Doing the right thing at all times – if you keep this in mind, then you’re on the right track. But what if you’re not immediately sure of what the right thing to do is in a professional, business environment? Know to take a step back and assess a situation. Think objectively, detach yourself where necessary, and seek the experience of others. This can help you to make the right decision, especially if you’re in a situation in which you feel uneasy or unsure.
Five key unethical behaviours...
- Deliberate deception
- Violation of conscience
- Failure to honour commitments
- Unlawful conduct
- Disregard of company policy
Ethics and Professional Skills module
If you’re planning on taking any Strategic Professional exams in 2018, we’d encourage you to complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module to support your success in these exams.
This article was first published in Student Accountant