The terms ethics and morality are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Morality has to do with personal beliefs about right and wrong, while ethics have to do with rules and guidelines for acceptable behavior. In other words, morality is subjective while ethics are objective.
It can be helpful to think of morality as a personal code of conduct that you develop based on your own beliefs, experiences, and cultural upbringing. Ethics, on the other hand, are set forth by an external authority and typically codified into law. While you may not always agree with the ethical guidelines set forth by the government or your workplace, you are still obligated to follow them.
The Difference Between Ethics and Morality
Let’s say you’ve just been promoted at work and part of your new job responsibility includes supervising your former peers. You quickly realize that one of your employees is stealing office supplies and sell them on eBay. What do you do?
If you were to consult your personal code of conduct—or morality—you might feel inclined to report the employee to your boss since stealing is wrong. However, if you take a step back and consider the ethical implications of your actions, you might realize that reporting the employee could cost them their job and possibly damage their future career prospects. In this case, it might be more ethical to confront the employee directly and give them a chance to change their behavior rather than going to your boss.
Real-world examples, it’s easier to see how morality and ethics can differ. Consider the following scenario: You’re at a party with some friends when someone offers you a drink. You know that drinking alcohol is against your personal morals, so you decline. Your friend then tells you that she’s pregnant and offers you a sip of her drink instead. Now that you know she’s pregnant, would it be more ethical or moral for you to take a sip of her drink?
Most people would agree that it would be more ethical in this case since drinking alcohol poses a risk to the health of her unborn child. However, if you strictly adhere to your personal code of conduct—or morality—you would still decline since alcohol is against your personal beliefs.
While there may be some overlap between ethical behavior and moral behavior, they are not one in the same. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two so that you can make sound judgment calls when faced with difficult situations.
In conclusion, ethics are based on standards set forth by an external authority while morality is based on an individual’s own personal beliefs. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two so that you can make sound judgment calls when faced with difficult situations. Do you have any examples of times when ethics and morality conflicted? Let us know in the comments below!