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Ethics, Professionalism, and IT

By RknRlKid ·
In the "Software Pirates in the Workplace" thread I wrote:

"Its a sad day when you cannot expect enforcement of laws that are there to protect you because businesses/employees are so morally bankrupt that the honest person is the social deviant, not the
criminal.

We should start another thread (on a different board, of course) about the lack of ethics in American business."

So I am starting that thread, but limiting it to IT workers because business overall would be too broad of a subject. This thread overlaps with some others, too, such as certifications and career.

The hallmark of an occupation calling itself "professional" is a shared set of values, a shared set of standards, and shared expectations.

Anyone can call themselves a mechanic; only those with ASE are professional. If you are a lawyer, licensed psychologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, physician, and a host of other
occupations, you are required to abide by the regulations and ethics codes of the profession. Standards are high for professionals. Failure to abide by the ethics and professional codes of the profession can result in loss of license and removal from the profession. A true professional does what is ethical, and has high standards for his or her self.

Based on the threads I've seen here, the IT field overall is not professional. Its members have low ethical standards, and low expectations. Proof?

- in the thread on "Lost Windows 98 Key" roughly half suggested violating the license agreement and the copyright laws, by using a product key from another computer, from off the internet, or by providing theirs!

- in almost every thread to novices trying to enter the field, about 1/3 of the counsel is to NOT get a college degree, and to NOT get certifications, even though advanced education and certifications are required as evidence for professional competence almost universally.

- violation of copyright laws and licensing agreements are basically ignored provided that a) no one is caught, b) business is good, and c)
it screws over Microsoft.

- check this out: http://tinyplanet.ca/projects/professionalism.html

If I was a CEO and knew absolutely nothing about IT workers, and one day read what was on these boards, I would have to conclude that IT workers are for the most part poorly trained (or completely incompetent), greedy, and criminal. I could expect: that they would not know what was happening on my server system because apparently no one keeps documentation; that my company was running illegal software,and that I would be liable for a lawsuit as soon as one of my spoiled IT workers copped an attitude; that my IT department expects high wages and continued employment even though they make no effort to
improve themselves through education or by becoming certified in what they do; and that my IT department really believes that the purpose of
my business is to support them, not for them to be an integral part of my team and help me to have a successful business.

Granted, posters on these boards are not truly representative of the IT field as a whole. But we can do better folks. There are those that
want an IT workers union. That probably would be a good idea, but there is one flaw in the concept. In order to be a true union, it is
based on a profession, not just a gaggle of people who happen to hold a job. IT can be a professional occupation. But based on what appears to be coming form the field, it isn't now.

The TipsForSucces.org web site has this interesting analogy:

"A professional learns every aspect of the job. An amateur skips the learning process whenever possible.

A professional carefully discovers what is needed and wanted. An amateur assumes what others need and want.

A professional looks, speaks and dresses like a professional. An amateur is sloppy in appearance and speech.

A professional keeps his or her work area clean and orderly. An amateur has a messy, confused or dirty work area.

A professional is focused and clear-headed. An amateur is confused and distracted.

A professional does not let mistakes slide by. An amateur ignores or hides mistakes.

A professional jumps into difficult assignments. An amateur tries to get out of difficult work.

A professional completes projects as soon as possible. An amateur is surrounded by unfinished work piled on unfinished work.

A professional remains level-headed and optimistic. An amateur gets upset and assumes the worst.

A professional handles money and accounts very carefully. An amateur is sloppy with money or accounts.

A professional faces up to other people?s upsets and problems. An amateur avoids others? problems.

A professional uses higher emotional tones: Enthusiasm, cheerfulness, interest, contentment. An amateur uses lower emotional tones: anger,
hostility, resentment, fear, victim.

A professional persists until the objective is achieved. An amateur gives up at the first opportunity.

A professional produces more than expected. An amateur produces just enough to get by.

A professional produces a high-quality product or service. An amateur produces medium-to-low quality product or service.

A professional earns high pay. An amateur earns low pay and feels it?s unfair.

A professional has a promising future. An amateur has an uncertain future.

The first step to making yourself a professional is to decide you ARE a professional.

Are you a professional?"

from http://www.tipsforsuccess.org/professionalism.htm
Copyright ? 2004 TipsForSuccess.org. All rights reserved. Grateful acknowledgment is made to L. Ron Hubbard Library for permission to reproduce selections from the copyrighted works of L. Ron Hubbard.

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Interesting that the definition of "professional" has shifted

by DC_GUY In reply to Ethics, Professionalism, ...

It used to mean simply, "engaging in an activity for pay." That once was all that needed to be said, for becoming a member of the business world implied everything else in your posting. If you expected to stay in "business," you had to have adequate ethics, training, competence, and people skills. The very least that would happen to a person who didn't meet those standards would be to not have any customers, and choose between another line of work or relocating to a community with lower standards, such as the frontier. The worst would be the wrath of angry customers: having one's shop and tools of the trade destroyed, being tarred and feathered, even lynched.

It's sad that this is now definition #2 in the dictionary. Defintion #1 is yours. We can no longer assume that anyone who engages in an activity for pay, and has been successful enough to survive until the day that we enter his shop, has the qualities that were once taken for granted.

And this shift has taken a huge toll on our civilization. Rich, powerful "business" people are routinely found to be lacking in "professionalism." We've had to establish gigantic, expensive, intrusive, clumsy branches of government to oversee the "business" world and the "professions." In addition to the taxes that support these value-subtractors, malpractice insurance companies and attorneys siphon off a huge portion of our GDP. In addition, the quasi-governmental bureaucracies such as HMOs who second-guess and delay every decision made by the true "professionals" reduce the quality and effectiveness and increase the cost and risk of the very services they (perhaps sincerely if naively and ineptly) claim to oversee.

And don't get me started on the advertising "profession." One of the fattest, most entrenched, and consumer-immune parasites, it takes a big cut off the top of our economy without providing a shred of the information we most desperately need about the providers of the goods and services it touts: their professionalism.

Work has gotten so complex that it's difficult for customers (whether internal or arm's-length) to judge whether it's any good. Communities have gotten so large and people have gotten so mobile that almost every time we need a service, we have to seek out a new provider whom we don't know and can't even find a reference for.

Civilization, our most glorious creation, has outgrown us. Instead of shaping it, we're being dragged along by it.

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I agree

by RknRlKid In reply to Interesting that the defi ...

I agree with what you are saying. But the problem as I see it is that we collectively created it by previous lack of professionalism by my original definition.

Case in point: doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and many other "helping" professions have in their ethics codes that practictioners WILL NOT have sex with clients. To me, that is rather "common sense," because that is not what you are in the job for. But the rule is required in the ethics codes (and laws) because some HAVE done it and exploited their power over patients. So the government or other regulatory body has to step in and stop the madness.

Example #2: it is in the ethics code of accountants to not cook the books. But then we have the ENRON scandal. So the government "has" to create something to regulate an industry that supposedly was regulating itself.

So we are in the mess we are in now. Other than everyone suddenly deciding to do the right thing, I don't have a pat solution. But we do have to start talking about it, and being aware that the more we as a collective do what is wrong rather than what is right, we all suffer.

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I just liked the bit about

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Interesting that the defi ...

Having a tidy work place. Under that definition alone I'm an amateur as the very idea of a flat surface not being covered by product info is unknown to me.

Now just why an I paying all that insurance, money to MS for technical help and associated things as well as always attempting to offer the best possible service to my customers?

Where I think there are problems is that we are now expected to enforce the copyright of the major software houses and instantly report any breaches.

Now I'm personally unwilling to breach any License Agreement but I do not see it as my responsibility to report any that I run across particularly when I've seen things done by the big hardware makers that would land me in a world of hurt if I tried them.

Personally I think it is the responsibility of the owners of the copyright to enforce their License Agreements as if I was to report every instance of pirated software that I ran across I would in a very short time have no customers. I should add here that even "Legal" Software from a different country is considered as Pirate here if it is used for anything else than on an LT by a temp visitor. If they are staying in this country they are supposed to buy new software.

Col

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I don't like the messy desk thing either...

by RknRlKid In reply to I just liked the bit abou ...

and I agree with you that software licenses are for the most part absurd. (As I agree with you other post on software piracy.) When you buy a book, its YOURS. You don't have to worry about the author calling you for it back, or refusing your use of the book after a revision (or producing a mind-numbing amount of revisions, for that matter).

My original point in the other thread was that reporting a BUSINESS using illegal software should not blacklist the reporter. A business that uses all pirated software isn't like a casual user. That company in question is intentionally breaking the law. Which is different. To blacklist a whistle-blower because of getting CAUGHT in a crime means that the values of the organization favors unethical, not ethical, behavior.

The list of stuff was so there was a comparison of concepts. In some cases, a clean desk really is a sign that no work is being done at all.

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I agree as well on that point

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to I don't like the messy d ...

Particularly when money is being made off the software as to me this is the worst form of Piracy. Or the other side where someone installs Pirate Software and OS on Upgrades repairs and doesn't charge for them or maybe a nominal fee. It makes it that much harder for those of us who are doing the right thing and is often the difference between getting the job and not.

But then again a few weeks ago I got in a computer loaded with Win 98 SE that needed reloading as a game had corrupted the HDD to such an extent it was unrecoverable. Well it was an old unit that was originally loaded with 95 then upgraded to 98 and then 98 SE. The owner brought in all the install Cd's and I had 3 just for the OS now to do the right thing from MS prospective I should have loaded each OS individually about 3 hours work instead I just installed a copy of 98 SE and used the customers Product Code. While wrong the person in question did have the right to use the final copy and received no advantage from the install other than being less expensive in my labor and it saved me a lot of time that would otherwise have been a wasted effort.

I haven't really run across any business who is using all pirate software ever and since that is my primary work I probably see more small business than the average person but what does make it hard is when they buy from elsewhere and get pirate software or I get a job when they change their IT people I sometimes find illegal copies of some software installed but most often it is a case of the company being unwilling to properly track their software so it may end up getting installed twice or more and another copy/s remains unused provided that they have the correct licenses I do not worry about things like this as it would be a nightmare attempting to track down exactly where the software should be installed.

I've occasionally run across pirate copies of Windows and Office installed on workstations and in every case they have been on machines that where brought second hand so I try to avoid working on these and simply refuse to work on any that have blatant "cracked copies" of Windows and the like.

While not the perfect answer this is one area that has far too many "Shades of Grey" for my liking and I try to avoid them where possible.

The ones that I get worked up about are Techs that install pirate copies of Windows XP and only charge a nominal fee. While I do refuse to work on these units as they have always been "Home" units in my experience I do recommend that the person contact MS and file a formal complaint I also have a leaflet printed up showing people how to spot the difference between real and pirate copies and furnish these to all my potential customers as well as having contact points and a copy of a MS EULA on my web page.

Actually the last bit was a bit of a nightmare as well because MS got upset by me using their actual EULA on the Web even though it had direct e-mail links and phone numbers to MS to report any offending software. Eventually when I made direct contact with a person high enough up the food chain at MS it was OK'd but what was scary was that junior people where willing to take me to court rather than ask for me to remove the material and links. So from my limited experience with the Anti Piracy side of MS I will not go out of my way to help them as they have continually made complaints to me about making public their contact points and using the same material as they hand me as handouts to potential customers. Incidental before I constructed that part of the page I did get approval to use the material but six months latter someone at MS took offense to the fact that I was using the very same material in an attempt to help their Anti Piracy Side of the business.

With mixed messages like that life becomes very difficult.

Col

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problem is relative

by chief125 In reply to I agree as well on that p ...

when you find major outbreaks of lack of ethics, you will usually find a major problem with the provider of the product or service. either the cost is unreasonable for the value received or most likely the provider enjoys a monopolistic advantage (eg microsoft) and there is a significant lessening in the likelyhood that unethical behavior will be deemed as unethical behavior. while ethics should be axiomatic, it is relative to the circumstances of the situation.
in other words, if we have to steal to survive, we will. i like to think that i am an ethical person but where microsoft and walmart and their ilk reside, i say a pox on all of them and they deserve any comeuppance they receive.

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often caught in the middle

by heinsj In reply to I don't like the messy d ...

All too often we are caught in the middle when it comes to software licensing. Most of us can report to our managers all day long about the lack of software licensing, it's costs and it's penalties, but when backed against the wall... jobs are pretty scarce, so if the COO of the company wants to "borrow" the Office CD for the weekend, he gets it.

Unfortunately, companies like Microsoft don't see this internal conflict. Should the BSA come goose-stepping to the door and find unlicensed software, we're the ones facing loosing our certs and never making a living again; but the company facing large fines, declares bankrupcy, closes shop and from the ashes a new company will eventually appear.

I believe that you are pointing the finger at the wrong people for lack of software compliance, it's a business decision made at the top. And it keeps people like me, from joining professional institutions like ACM, because I would need to adhere to their code of ethics.

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Not essential to the definition

by DC_GUY In reply to I just liked the bit abou ...

Surely we've all been to a professional repair shop that looked like Fibber McGee's closet (oops, giving away my age). People have different ways of organizing, all that matters is that they can find something easily when they need to. A professional's inner sanctum has traditionally been off limits to esthetic criticism by laymen.

The point is that we don't really need this type of rule. All that needs to be enforced is ethics. Everything else derives from that. If you're in a profession whose elders have determined that a formal education or license is required, then practicing without one is a breach of ethics and that's the only misdeed that has to be adjudicated. Ethics covers overcharging, cheating, lying, slacking off, disrespectful treatment of clients, slovenly dress and grooming.

It all comes down to ethics.

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Never trust a guy with a clean desk

by robertmi In reply to Not essential to the defi ...

Either he hasn't enough to do or can only do one thing at a time, or he is an **** retentive. I have always been able to chop back and forth between projects, keeping tabs on subordinates, looking at new stuff and doing some forward planning without a qualm about the sae of files on my desk. Where I work is my space and I know it well. Over many years I have churned out high quality work and now in semi retirement I can say that having a tidy desk was never a worthwhile priority for me. Sure, at the end of a project the bumf all had to be cleared away, but there was always plenty more to take its place. Nowadays as a part time consultant I can easily relate to a messy desk, but am on my guard against a shiny spotless desktop. Clutter is often a sign of intelligence at work. Results count appearances don't.

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Can be bothered

by Chaz Chance# In reply to Never trust a guy with a ...

I see top engineers with multiple projects whose desks get messey. I also see them take the time to clear them, at least once a week.

I also see non-achievers who tell me they are too busy to tidy their desk, ever.

Funny how the people who manage to find the time to clear their desks occasionally are the ones who most often make it to the top. I recommend everyone take a look at their bosses desk, and use that to make a judgement about what it takes to get on in the company that they work for.

For crying out load, how hard can it be to tidy up once a week? Call yourselves professional?

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