Research Library

Employed Professionals

Employed professionals should deliver high professional standards to the organisational employers who employ them.


Author(s): Charles Sampford and Hugh Breakey

Employed professionals have ethical responsibilities. This includes those professionals employed by large organisations, whether in the private or public sectors. Such salaried professionals retain their professional obligations to the public, to the client and to their profession. Yet they also must shoulder new responsibilities directed to their employer’s organisational goals, and its legitimate authority. These two distinct types of ethical responsibility, to the professional code and to the employer, can sometimes pull employed professionals in opposing directions.

How such ethical tensions should be resolved can seem unclear. Historically, professional ethics, such as for longstanding professions of medicine and law, were developed in the context of sole-providers and small partnerships. These arrangements shaped professionals’ understanding of their role, and of the types of ethical challenges they needed to consider and resolve. This traditional employment situation is changing. Long-established professionals in law, accounting and medicine increasingly work in large organisations, as do many of the newer professions, including engineering, nursing, teaching and journalism.

In light of these shifts, this article considers:

  • What kinds of ethical tensions are likely to occur when professionals are employed by large organisations?
  • How can these tensions be resolved?
  • What structures, policies and institutions can protect employed professionals in these cases?


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