Business and Personal Ethics

2. Analysis of differences between personal and business ethics

In spite of seeming similarities between personal and business ethics, it is possible to trace substantial differences between them, especially when business and personal ethics come into conflict. In fact, specialists (Ferrell, Fraedrich and Ferrell, 2004, p.10) argue that certain activities which are deemed as ethically with regard to business ethics, may not be viewed as ethical with regard to personal ethics (e.g. whistleblowing). Hence, what is moral and right in terms of business ethics may be immoral and wrong in terms of personal ethics and vice versa.

Furthermore, personal ethics is based on the individual system of values, while business ethics represents a more generic approach with rules taking into account ethical consequences for all stakeholders. In fact, each individual has his/her own set of values that shape his/her personal ethics. However, as an individual joins an organization he/she should apply norms of business ethics in his/her professional life. Each individual has his/her own cultural background that defines his/her personal ethics but the different cultural background may widen the gap between moral norms an individual has developed in terms of personal ethics and moral norms the individual has to accept in terms of business ethics as the individual has to work within an organization that has its own moral rules and its own business ethics.

In fact, business ethics relates to actions of individuals within an organization (business environment), while personal ethics applies for all domains of life. These are two different domains, which may intersect with each other but they do not form the common ethical ground. Individuals use different moral norms in business or workplace environment and in their family, for instance.

3. Role of both types of ethics for business environment

Personal and business ethics are closely intertwined. As a rule, business ethics derives from personal ethics because organizations and business accept moral rules that are acceptable in the society. Business ethics just adapts these rules to specificities of the business environment to make these moral norms working.

At the same time, good conduct of personal ethics is the basis for making ethical business decisions. Individuals use their personal ethics as the basis for choices and decisions in business ethics. Business ethics should match fundamental moral norms and rules of personal ethics, although business ethics admits deviation from insignificant personal moral norms, if they are harmful for business and organizations.

The combination of good personal and business ethics helps to reduce business risks and to increase long-term business effectiveness. In fact, individuals will feel comfortable, if their personal ethics does not come into clashes with business ethics. They may be frustrated, if they have to use different set of moral values at work and at home. Instead, close integration of business and personal ethics helps people work effectively and feel comfortable.


Thus, business and personal ethics are closely intertwined, although they are different. They help individuals to interact with each other and set moral rules people attempt to follow. However, they should attempt to integrate their business and personal ethics to feel good and to work effectively.


Ferrell, O.C., Fraedrich, J., Ferrell. (2004). South West College Pub.

Frosh, S. (1991). Identity Crisis, Modernity: Psychoanalysis and the Self. Boston: St. Martin Press.

Harvey, D. (1995). The condition of Post Modernity New York: Routledge.