Difference between Personal and Professional Ethics

Basically, ethics are your sense of right and wrong. Your morals and values that define how you are as a person are your personal ethics. On the contrary, how you behave and conform to the rules in a professional setting are your professional ethics. Still, the two types of ethics are not limited to how they are defined. A professional environment may always demand some personal ethics too.


Personal ethics refer to a person’s personal or self-created values and codes of conduct. From the very beginning, these ethics are instilled in an individual, with a large part having been played by their parents, friends, and family. Common examples may include honesty, openness, commitment, unbiased behavior, and sense of responsibility. What a person develops regarding fairness or learns during childhood remains with him all through his life and is reflected by his actions and words. No matter if he is talking to a friend or his relatives or an elderly, his ethics would be clear from what he says and how he says it. A person’s personal ethics are revealed in a professional situation through his behavior.

Personal vs Professional Ethics

Professional ethics are those values and principles that are introduced to an individual in a professional organization. Each employee is meant to strictly follow these principles. They do not have a choice. Also, this approach is imperative in professional settings as it brings a sense of discipline in people as well as helps maintain decorum in offices. Some examples may include confidentiality, fairness, transparency and proficiency. These ethics make employees responsible.

Personal vs Professional Ethics

What’s the difference between personal and professional ethics?

The ethics that you adhere to in your personal life and those that you comply with in your professional life are different in certain aspects. Without certain ethics, human beings would be incomplete and shallow. Thus, they have different systems of ethics in different places.

The biggest difference between personal and professional codes of conduct is perhaps the strictness with which people conform to them. The values that you define for yourself are up to you to be followed or not to be followed. However, those defined in a company or by a profession must be followed by you, since breach of these principles or rules may harm your reputation and status. But if you do not adhere to your personal ethics, it might hardly make a difference, depending on the circumstances. Even then, you must keep in mind that violation of your own rules may harm others around you.

Comparison Chart

Personal Ethics Professional Ethics
Includes your personal values and moral qualities. Rules imposed on an employee in a company, or as member of a profession, e.g. doctor or lawyer.
Incorporated by family, friends and surroundings since your childhood. Learnt when you are a part of a professional setting or when you are being trained or educated for working there.
Examples: honesty, care, and sincerity. Examples: no gossiping, time management, punctuality, confidentiality, transparency.
Not conforming to these may harm or hurt others. Not adhering to these may harm your professional reputation.
Your personal needs are satisfied by following these. Your professional needs are satisfied by following these.