Who tells you what to do?

People working in Information Technology (IT) must be trusted with many things so we look for people who are ethical. But who defines what is ethical or not?

If you take an ethical action, you should not feel that someone is telling you what to do. Ethics is all about deciding for yourself what the right thing is to do. Conversely, if you believe an action is ethical, then you should take it regardless of what others tell you to do. For example, the people who ran the underground railroad to help slaves escape believed this action was the only ethical thing to do even though their culture and even the laws of their country said otherwise. So how is this different that just doing whatever you want?

The Jesuits explain that ethics is about having a FRAMEWORK to help you decide the right actions. You will note they say it is NOT about religion (although that may motivate you to be ethical). You must think about how to decide which action is right.  Is it the action that will help the most people? Or if it does great good for a few people with minimal harm to anyone is that better? And then you want to have standards about obligations and fairness, virtues like honesty and rights like privacy. There must be reasoning to support it all.

Most of us do not spend the time to develop our own framework. We look at what others have come up with and if makes sense to us we use it. They are not telling us what to do, we are choosing their work as meaningful to us. In the IT industry the CIPS Code of Ethics has given us a good start. If you agree with it, CIPS can certify you as knowing their explanation of ethics.

But having a framework is not enough. Ethics also asks us to continue to question our standards and what they imply about what our actions should be. The University of Manitoba knows this and have set up a Center for Professional and Applied Ethics.  The Jesuits have delved into several focus areas including business ethics and the internet .

In IT we know that our industry is much more than the internet. So it may be time for us to take our framework to the next level and see where we should focus.


Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Donna Lindskog
Donna Lindskoghttp://www.cips.ca
Donna Lindskog is an Information Systems Professional (retired) and has her Masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Regina. She has worked in the IT industry since 1978. Most of those years were at SaskTel where she progressed from Programmer, to Business Analyst, to Manager. At one point she had over 48 IT positions reporting to her and she has experience outside of IT managing Engineers. As a Relationship Manager, Donna worked with executive to define the IT Principles so departmental roles were defined. As the Resource Manager in the Corporate Program/Project Management Office, she introduced processes to get resources for corporate priorities. In 2003 she was given the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Technology.

Featured Download

IT World Canada in your inbox

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Latest Blogs

Senior Contributor Spotlight