The Responsibility of Others
toward the Excuse Giver:
The Need for Dialogue
Professional ethics is a relational subject defining how professionals ought to treat others. A professional must be concerned with how she acts and is acted upon. As a customer of other professionals, she can become a victim of unethical activity. Under the principle of reciprocity, she should not expect ethical performance from others unless she is willing to give it in turn. When a professional takes on a task, she should do it to the best of her ability; if she makes a promise, she should perform it if at all possible; if she receives a confidence, she should keep it private. These important rules of conduct are often overlooked when one is the actor and seldom missed when one is the victim.
Sometimes there will be a justifiable reason why the professional cannot perform a duty she has assumed. She should not be ashamed to raise such an explanation (excuse), but must be convinced it is valid. The best test is whether it does persuade others or, at least in her best judgment, is likely to persuade others. If she does not test that out by discussing it with the client or objective bystanders, she can never be sure she is not playing games with herself and merely avoiding responsibility. The obligation to perform ethical duties contains an obligation to rely only on excuses she is persuaded have validity.
When the professional is victim, he is entitled to expect others to perform their duties to him. As victim, he is the one most interested in assessing the validity of any excuse given. This process of receiving excuses and assessing their validity is a constant in daily living. Its breeding ground is the relationship between parent and child. Not only does the parent or other infant