The Value of Character-Based Judgement in the Professional Domain

Journal of Business Ethics 169 (2):293-308 (2019)
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Abstract

Dimensions of character are often overlooked in professional practice at the expense of the development of technical competence and operational efficiency. Drawing on philosophical accounts of virtue ethics and positive psychology, the present work attempts to elevate the role of ‘good’ character in the professional domain. A ‘good’ professional is ideally one that exemplifies dimensions of character informed by sound judgement. A total of 2340 professionals, from five discrete professions, were profiled based on their valuation of qualities pertaining to character and judgement. Profile differences were subsequently examined in the self-reported experience of professional purpose towards a wider societal ‘good’. Analysis of covariance, controlling for stage of career, revealed that professionals valuing character reported higher professional purpose than those overweighting the importance of judgement or valuing neither character nor judgement, F = 7.92, p <.001. No differences were found between the two groups valuing character, irrespective of whether judgement was valued simultaneously. This profiling analysis of entry-level and in-service professionals, based on their holistic character composition, paves the way for fresh philosophical discussion regarding what constitutes a ‘good’ professional and the interplay between character and judgement. The empirical findings may be of substantive value in helping to recognise how the dimensions of character and judgement may impact upon practitioners’ professional purpose.

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