Participation in crime, as an example, can be viewed as the worst failure of the professional in terms of behavior antithetical to the public values of his or her profession. However, crime represents only the tip of the iceberg of activities that fail to further the public values that justify a particular profession. Professional crime can be seen as the tip of an iceberg of unproven crimes, unethical, questionable and/or anti-social behavior. Attention to professional misbehavior is not primarily about chasing down the criminals. It is about attempting to ensure that professionals live up to the high standards that justify the existence of the profession. Our aim should not be to concentrate on the worst forms of professional behavior. The fact that professional behavior is not bad enough to justify prosecution hardly equates to fulfilling the ideal of professionals upholding the social good.
Developing the analogy, backstops may be important, even vital, but they are not the main game. The skills of the backstop are necessary but only when the keeper and slips fail for one reason or another. Backstops may be important but they are not the main game. You may place a backstop if the bowler is wayward or the ‘keeper is lacking in the skills to take chances or stop byes. However, you cannot win the game through the backstop and the main focus of the game is with bowler, batsmen and ‘keeper. If the backstop is the first line of defense, the game is already lost. If the fielding team is doing well, the backstop may never be used.
In short, criminal behavior will be easier to detect for two reasons. First, individuals engaging in such behavior will be more easily visible and more readily subject to peer condemnation because they will be more obviously out of the mainstream. Secondly, the more limited number of breaches means that the resources of regulatory and disciplinary agencies can be concentrated on a small number of more isolated miscreants. With most professionals falling well above the line of potential misconduct, the profession can join the community and external regulators in what we will suggest should be the ‘pitiless pursuit of the few offenders’. In terms of our own analogy, the iceberg will be smaller, and its tip will be minuscule and easier to get at.
A critical part of effectiveness is to bring the values at different points on the continuum into sync so that the norms for each type of behavior (the highest professional standards, good work, sub-par work, misconduct and criminality) are mutually supportive and broadly consistent. This is not as simple as it sounds because the norms at different levels are set by different groups, for overlapping but not entirely consistent reasons. To have the norms at each level set by the same body would change the nature and undermine the effectiveness of norms at different levels. For example, if the norms of good practice within an organization were set by statute, they would cease to be the norms of the organization and might be narrowly construed. What each profession needs to do is to have a clear appreciation of the different normative systems involved, the way they interact and the way they can be mutually reinforcing.
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