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Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 8:58 AM

Do engineers tend to be more ethical than other professionals?

Some of the worst people I've met had college educations but no ethical morals. I wonder if this is a genetic trait in some people or a function of their environment and upbringing.

Or is it just greed? Which is more powerful; the love for money or the love of power?

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#1

Re: Engineers, Ethics, honesty and character

04/10/2012 9:23 AM

First, we are all at the top of the evolutionary ladder.

Second, I posted the links below, in previous threads, engineers and scientists tend to obey rules where entrepreneurs and managers don't. Both types are needed. The engineers need to be "honest" to prevent the construction of calamities, the entrepreneurs to think outside the box.

The "dishonest" ideas, put through the scientist/engineer sieve, provide the new solutions for the future.

The robbers tend not to go into scientific disciplines, they follow the money.

Given your question, you might find these sites interesting:

Myers-Briggs

Aspergers Society

Sometimes, Aspergers is known as the Autism Spectrum .

I found these when I was trying to find out why I was "different".

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Engineers, Ethics, honesty and character

04/10/2012 9:59 AM

The robbers tend not to go into scientific disciplines, they follow the money.

Really? Despite all those movies? Like, this guy in the video clip below. He wants money, and lots of it. In fact he wants:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l91ISfcuzDw

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#3
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, honesty and character

04/10/2012 10:07 AM

Thank you for the links, they are very interesting and useful.

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#4

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 10:17 AM

I would say that engineers overall are more ethical than most.

They do however, as is often pointed out on the pages of CR4, tend to be smart a$$es and lacking in social graces, but being impolite should not be confused with being unethical.

I'd rather be treated like CR4p by an honest person, than be stroked and treated nicely by someone that's going to rip me off.

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#23
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 10:39 AM

Amen! Also, it is possible with time to train the honest but socially abrasive personalities to function more cohesively in society (Yay Sheldon and Amy!), while it is near impossible to convince the dishonest "nice" people to be honest and forthright.

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#5

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 10:36 AM

I think ethic and morals have to do in part with the environment and upbringing and in part with who you are as a person. There are honest and dishonest people with and without college degrees, not all engineers are ethical and not all non engineers are unethical.

There are sons of drug dealers that are honest, they run away from their family and live an honest live.

There are people from stable, honest and loving families who have no ethics and do not mind doing dishonest actions in order to get what they want, they do not mind if they break the law, rob or kill someone if they reach what they want. They don't even mind robbing their parents to get what they want.

In most cases money and power come together, greed is very powerful and greedy people do not care on the consequences of their actions.

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#14
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 12:48 PM

That is so interesting with alot of truth.

I know of a businessman (as will as attorney's by the way) who in his later life was very philanthropic, but if you have something that he wants, this humanity simple disappears.

When I see these very rich, well off people being philanthropic, I question, the real reasoning, whether it is just guilt. but I doubt that.

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#6

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 10:59 AM

I believe that there is no more powerful urge than to correct some one else's writing.

This is a subset of the lust for Power, of which Money is merely an enabler.

If you analyze culture carefully, you will see that we hold our degrees of freedom and empowerment very dear; in the west, most punishments are about removing one's degrees of freedoms and empowerment.

After that, I find lust for high quality dark Chocolate to be my weakness. I'm just not a "beer guy."

Milo

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#11
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:44 AM

"I believe that there is no more powerful urge than to correct some one else's writing."

My greatest urge in this direction is to correct my own writing, I am often irritated at my lack of precision.

"If you analyze culture carefully, you will see that we hold our degrees of freedom and empowerment very dear; in the west, most punishments are about removing one's degrees of freedoms and empowerment."

Here lies the basis of a discussion on is it a freedom or is it a burden. Think government provided services.

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#7

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:18 AM

Do engineers tend to be more ethical than other professionals?

more depends on the environment that they are working under. Where they may assimilate the culture.

I had worked with people calling themselves engineers (that were not) just so it would masque their unethical or incompetent behavior, thou it would show its face eventually

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#8

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:26 AM

I think almost everyone has his / her price. One can always justify doing the wrong thing if the monetary reward is large enough; politicians, religious leaders, doctors or engineers not withstanding. Engineers though might have an edge on all the others.

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#9
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:31 AM

I have to disagree,

An example is my own personal experience.

When you do have ethics, and the culture in the company is complacent, or I should say, having a manager that is incompetance.

You have a choice, Staying to your own ethical standard knowing that the likely hood is losing your job, or go with the flow and being dragged down to unethical standards.

On the other hand, maybe one can be ground down to unthical standards over time.

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#10
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:41 AM

He who has a price has no values.- Milo

"I can't believe that for money almost anyone / everyone would do anything. Like say kill their own child. Or someone elses in cold blood, just because someone handed them a bag of cash. I have drawn the line at work several times where a cheaper engineering shortcut might "get by" but seriously endanger the public or end user. I was prepared to walk if the wrong thing was done. A professional earns their price by meeting their obligation to serve the public and deploy their judgement to "in the first place do no harm." Anything else is theft. Theft of truth, theft of safety. Theft of confidence. Price my a$$!"

Milo

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#12
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 11:55 AM

I agree. People may consider me a tad crazy, but my ethics aren't for sale for any price.

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#13
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 12:36 PM

I agree,

If you have a price on something that one can't put a price on, then your nothing to begin with.

I've said this before, The only people who know what the price of integrity is, are the people who actually have it.

And yes, I am tying integrity with ethics. Colleges try to teach ethics with courses in ethics, which amounts to no more than describing different type of ethics.

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#15
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 12:56 PM

Bravo! Thank you Milo that. It takes a brave and confident person to stand up to bad leadership. If you are allowed to walk away because they can't appreciate what you are saying, then you probably should.

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#17
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 1:13 PM

The problem arises when you have competing ethical duties. When your duty as an engineer is in competition with your ethical duty to provide a home and food for your family.

Another conundrum, do you become unethical in your treatment of someone who has, unethically, cheated your employer to the extent that if you don't cheat back, your employer will become bankrupt.

I won't make an exhaustive list, just examine the principle involved.

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#20
In reply to #10

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 8:57 AM

I agree. I recently left a project management position to relocate for a technical engineering position.

A friend I worked with asked me, "would you stay if they gave you a raise?" I said "no." He said, what about a 20% raise...No. A 30% raise...No. A 40% raise...I had to stop him. I told him I don't like the position because engineering and math are used less than corporate politics to get what's wanted/needed.

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#16

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/10/2012 1:07 PM

Surely no group of human beings are exclusively, purely ethical. This is why NUOJ used the word "tend" in the original question. Discussing the exceptions is an off topic discussion. (Possibly worthy of starting a new thread.)

Keeping in mind that I am obviously biased by being an engineer, I believe that engineers and scientists as a group are considerably more ethical than most of society. Being an engineer/scientist means that we see and analyze the world in a way that baffles most people. Yet we clearly provide a useful commodity to society to call on our baffling skills. Many of our nuanced choices cannot be clearly explained to the uninitiated but our successes show for the most part that we know our stuff. So even though we have the opportunity to be unethical because those who look behind our curtain of equations and analyses do not understand what they see, we tend not to deceive.

This though is just the ethical level of being a professional. The question is are we usually more ethical than other professionals. I say that we are. I say this because we much more often than other professionals have to explain or demonstrate that a popular belief of other professionals in an organization is wrong. The best of our profession do this while convincing accountants that they are saving money, by impressing insurance inspectors that they're mitigating risk and by just in general meeting other professionals goals while meeting our own goals.

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#18

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 12:11 AM

Interesting subject indeed! I for one would say I did not live a most ethical life at first,my childhood years were pretty rough and I learned what it is to lie and manipulate from the best, but over the years the poor ethics of people like that has shown me what happens to and that alone is enough to make me very wary of intentionally doing wrong to others in any form or fashion.

For me I would say early nurture showed one way and I chose to defy that nature due to the high costs that others selfish actions caused me which is why today I am far more outspoken about rating out the unethical and catching them in their lies.

I have lost good jobs because some little unethical jerk felt I was a threat to his ego and status a few times and I wont do that to anyone or let that happen to anyone if I have any power to prevent it and even if I cant prevent it I certainly have no issues bringing their actions to light after wards with no concern to what it may cost them as a result!

As far as intelligence goes I would certainly say that being more insightful and able to understand things over the average person does have its advantages in keeping things fair but I definitely see that if I chose to I could certainly use it for great harm to get personal gains as well.

I have a wife who loves me for who I am, a job I don't mind going to and I sleep with a clean conscience regarding the things I do. Its enough for me.

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#19

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 12:18 AM

The knowledge that is gathered through education system should be capable of being used for service to society and helping or improve the conditions or one's fellowmen. Purpose of education is slowly changing. It is the right time that educational institutions have to gear up to develop a curriculum that satisfies the social and technological needs of the globe. The necessity of ethics in the engineering education was corroborated by the problems faced by engineers. The promotion of human values must become an integral part of the education process. This is possible only if the present education system at all levels needs to be revamped by introducing ethical values at various stages in the curriculum of learning process.

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#21

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 9:11 AM

I have to agree with RedFred wholeheartedly on this one. My experiences pretty much mirror his.

I'd like to add that being ethical is pretty much determined how you were raised and the qualities that your parents adhered to.

But even in the engineering field I've run in to some *sswipes. Case in point was when I left my longtime employer of 12 years and started working for another engineering firm run by a Czech-born engineer. After 3 weeks working for him he pulls me into his inner sanctum and expounds that he's cutting my salary by $10K. When I asked him why, he replies that he needs to pay for his new Million Dollar Lake Placid home (2nd home), a new 24' power boat, and his brand new Suburban. Mind ya, his Czech-born wife had a huge spending habit and an equally huge Coke habit. It wasn't my performance on the job nor my engineering skills at issue, but his buying habits for Big Boy Toys that had gotten him into a financial tailspin.

My employment at a Landscape Architecture and Engineering firm was fraught with ethical problems. All 4 principals of the firm were LA's, and one in particular was always after me and several of the other engineers on staff (we were all P.E.'s) to falsify Field Reports, septic system perc tests, you name it. I and the others held our ground and repeatedly replied with a resounding "NO", that it isn't happening on my watch. Needless to say that come the end of the year there were no raises and usual other perks for the engineering group, yet the LA's in the firm got them. Needless to say I left that firm PDQ for greener pastures.

And then there was my employment at a large long-established engineering firm,founded in the 1890's years later. My immediate boss was a "bean counter", not an engineer let alone a Licensed Professional Engineer, who had lots "connections" throughout the firms' operating sphere. This particular fellow had come to this firm from another well established firm years before. He held the title Senior VP of Engineering Operations (not a Partner of the firm, with shares) so the firm could still operate as a S-Corp (Professional Corporation) and not run afoul of the NYS laws. He only had an Associates Degree (AAS) in Civil engineering Tech, yet was dictating to me and other staff engineers how to do engineering and making engineering judgement calls + the need to falsify reports, tests, and project estimates. We did a lot of work for municipalities and the State of New York. Initially, we'd get the design work IMO based on the low-ball cost estimates and low-ball engineering services quotes, then hit them with extras later down the road during the project. VERY UNETHICAL! At times I felt like walking up to the State AG's Office, which was a few blocks away from the our office, and filing a complaint. In hindsight I should have done this, but I was concerned with my fellow workmates loosing their jobs in the event of an investigation. Needless to say that my stance regarding unethical behavior of this guy and the President of the firm (a P.E.) eventually got me canned, even though several of the firm's senior PE's stood behind me because of my good work and my ability to bring in repeat clients and new clients + my mentoring of the younger engineers on our staff. These 2 guys should have ended up in prison based on the falsification of billing hours, reports and testing....they padded their pockets in the end at the expense of the Taxpayers and private clients.

IMO, not all engineers are ethical but a good majority are. It all depends on what cloth they are cut from.....

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#22

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 9:47 AM

When an engineer screws up, everyone knows it, everyone sees what happened, and everyone knows who is responsible. Simply doing what an engineer does reinforces the need to be truthful and to do the best work that one can do. Taking risks in engineering inevitably leads to failure and disgrace.

For managers and politicians on the other hand, honesty and hard work tend not to yield visible rewards, so the opposite occurs.

I suppose we can see Pavlov's law at work here...

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#24

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 10:57 AM

In some ways, I think that the type of person who chooses engineering as a profession is also more likely to be the type of person who inherently values honesty and ethics possibly more than others. It would make sense that someone who has a tendency towards honesty would like a career where the work can be based on facts. Engineering and other sciences at their core involve facts based on natural laws, as opposed to opinions and judgements and other soft skills. It is not surprising that many engineers are seen by others to have problems with the social skills. I personally am much more comfortable condensing any problem down to the facts and the corresponding logical conclusion, as much as it infuriates others at times.

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#26
In reply to #24

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 12:04 PM

(Data, I had just written this when I scrolled to the bottom of posts and saw yours. So I'm posting as a reply to yours as we are thinking along the same lines.)

To OP:

Ethics is a broad term. You most likely are focusing on "truthfulness."

Personality types are attracted to certain careers. Science and engineering are, in general, concerned with the acquisition of knowledge which is verifiable by testing. This means dealing in something "true" via demonstration. That quality is a part of the personality. When truth is of interest, it usually manifests in one's actions. (Not that there hasn't been fraud in science. There are books about it.)

As to your second musing, money represents power -- the ability to control and modify one's circumstances. Unfortunately, that power extends to being more able (likely?) to do the same with other lives. When those effects are felt as negative, it is commonly termed social injustice.

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#25

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 11:56 AM

Do engineers tend to be more ethical than other professionals?
I believe so, it comes with the job. My wife once stated that all the engineers she met had the same basic personality, ethical and detail oriented.

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#27
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 12:06 PM

... AND there is the Aggie motto: "Aggies don't lie, cheat or steal."

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 12:28 PM

"Aggies don't lie, cheat or steal."
Maybe we are too slow? After all most Aggies are not bankers or lawyers or politicians.

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#29
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Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/11/2012 1:10 PM

3 items to 3 items... and look, they're interchangeable in their equivalence! (Well, sometimes. I wouldn't want to make a sweeping generalization. But the sweeping part might be good. I wouldn't mind separating the wheat from the chaff.)

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#30

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/12/2012 5:53 PM

Character is an internal matter, it is not a result of one's vocation, or more evident in one vocation over another. My son gave me a book several years ago by John Maxwell titled Business Ethics. In it he said there is no such thing as "business ethics"! There is only ethics which apply to whatever one does.

How we act in whatever we do is simply a result of what we have been taught about right and wrong and whether we abide by what we know as being right or wrong.

One of the Posts talked about our educational system and the lack of morals being taught. That is true and much to our detriment. There used to be more uniformity in standards and ethics between the home and the school. I know if I got in trouble at school and got a spanking I also got one at home. I was born in '54 and I realize that is part of the difference between then and now.

Any more there is so much of the Postmodernism view of behavior and standards that it is very nearly wiping out any standards that we should hold our citizens to. If there isn't any objective truth whatever you decide to do should be fine and I have no right or obligation to help you learn anything different. Hence, you get a bunch of people who run rampant without guidelines in life.

"Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading, an easy prey to sensations and cheap appeals." Author Unknown

Those students didn't stay little forever, they grew up and are now occupying positions of responsibility and act upon what they were or weren't taught in grade, middle, high schools and college. When we are little we think that a lack of absolute standards is a good thing. Little do we know at that time that it is better to have high standards and values because they keep us out of the proverbial ditch of life. We are then left with dealing with the results of poor learning and judgment. The greater the level of responsibility, the greater consequence for those around them.

Those in authority, for the most part, are too timid to stand up for principles that have brought huge benefit to this great country of ours. They are too busy pandering to the great amount of citizens who have come through the mediocre educational systems and dysfunctional homes who expect that they can do whatever they want with impunity since no one will tell them that they are not acting in accordance to high standards.

Abe Lincoln said that "many men (women) can handle adversity, but if you want to see what a man is made of, give him (her) power."

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#31

Re: Engineers, Ethics, Honesty and Character

04/15/2012 3:53 AM

To add some idea;

how would you grade ethical morals of engineer trying to construct huge tubes for human blood?

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