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Freeman Cebu Business

Professional propriety

BURP - Chris Malazarte - The Freeman

One of the most difficult decisions a professional can face is when one is faced with the issue of propriety. Professional propriety is not just merely compliant with government regulations.

There are situations when you have to choose between compassion or profit. Of course, it is easy to be compassionate but as to how far you can stretch your compassion, is something very challenging or if not, an ethical dilemma altogether.  

I spoke to an orthopedic doctor lately whose clinic is always flooded with patients with all sorts of injuries and maladies. As one of his patients, I waited like the rest for my turn to come. I did not expect that I was going to be the last to be entertained as I already made an appointment days ahead. Albeit in a mildly irate tone, I asked the staff why I have to be the last on the list. She said, “I’m sorry, sir, but that was what he said.” I could not believe my ears that they were playing favorites in that clinic and so I decided to leave. On my way out, the same staff rang me saying that the doctor really wanted me stay on because he wants to thoroughly check my results and some tests and questions to ask. And so I went back and waited up like for another hour.

When my turn came, the doctor was apologetic and told me that he knew me through a friend and that I don’t have to pay anything (It was so kind of him that I felt I owed him a lot and I feel like not going back to his clinic anymore.). Anyway, we actually spoke about many things. He was the kind of doctor who probably does not need money not because he is rich, but because he just felt that he does not need it. But he told me that he is as confused as anyone else if to enrich himself as a doctor is morally acceptable. I joked back, “Find me a verse in the Bible that says ‘Thou shall not enrich yourself with your profession.” Any doctor or a professional for that matter will probably think of him as gullible or silly. His question seems like a piece of cake. But if you think deeply, the question demands more than just a religious perspective.

Sure, you also have to make a living. Besides, and to begin with, you are not a charitable institution. Thus, it is alright to make some money or even more money for as long as you do it legit. But business/professional propriety is something else. It is how you respond to certain situations where your business or profession can be of help without minding what you can get for a profit without losing your business at the same time. Like this friend doctor of mine, he believes that for as long as he can make a living, he will do everything in his capacity to be available to those who badly need his expertise for free. “I do not mind if I am not as rich as my colleagues. Maybe because I feel responsible for those who cannot afford.”

Our code of ethics as professionals can only go so far when we invoke professional standards. They make us aware that we have to use every good approach to treat a sick client if you’re a doctor, design a building that is safe and convenient for users if you’re an engineer, or perhaps find every legal basis to pin down a murderer if you’re a lawyer.

But our profession is also tied with our motive to prosper that we think most often of how much we can get than how much we can give. Thus, we apply the standard tariffs to all our clients even if we know that there are those who cannot afford even half of it. And there are many of us who just want to service the elite — more money and less hassle. 

Being good with what you do to solve a client’s problem is just one part of being proper. Professional propriety is an appeal to our conscience or moral obligation. How we view our expertise will shape the way we offer our service to the people who need it. If we think of our profession to make a lot of money, then we will always be motivated to charge high or have the tendency to discriminate clients. 

And it is just so unfortunate that our parents and educators always tell us that we have to become like this or that so we will become rich or famous in the future instead of telling us to be of value to others. Just thinking, if all professionals had the mind and a spirit of a missionary, perhaps our society is not as difficult as we see it today.

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