“Hey Bob, what do you think about ABC getting that big hotel job down the street?”

“Oh man, those guys are really going to screw the pooch on that one! They can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground. John at WHA will figure that out quickly when ABC can’t meet deadlines. They should’ve chosen us for the project. We all know Steve just cut his fees in half to get the job.”

Ah, the good old we’re-better-than-them-they-suck-at-what-they-do conversation amongst professionals. True? Maybe. Ethical? Likely not. Most of these conversations go unnoticed or unreported. But, unfortunately, they are so common no one thinks twice when they happen. And many other professionals jump into the conversation to add their two cents about ABC and Steve.

Ethics in our industry are often described as how we treat our clients. Did we give them a fair price? A safe and viable design? Honest in our conversations with them?

We forget that professional ethics extend to our colleagues, vendors, employees, and our community as a whole. As a business owner regularly engaging with clients, I find more professionals trying to put down their peers or competitors instead of talking themselves up. Unlike politicians, we should speak positively about our peers to build the community and serve our clients better. How can we expect to develop our profession as value-based, not commodity-based, if we continue to knock each other down?

“That’s great,” you say. “So, Chris. What do we do to build each other up?” I’m glad you asked! First, start by talking to those who you feel are perpetrators of these poor ethics. If they’re undercutting fees, let them know. Are they bad-mouthing other professionals? Speak up! We must do our part to build each other up, and it starts with one person: YOU!

If you feel that the ethical violation is severe enough, you have an obligation to report it to the state board. It’s never easy to do because we all know the ramifications if the report is worthy of investigation. Should the committee deem the statement true, hearings, potential fines, and loss of licensure are all on the line.

Think, for a minute, about your last interaction with a client. A vendor. A contractor. An employee. How did you communicate with each person? Was it ethical? Did you treat them all the same or one different than another? If it was different, what are some ways you could change your language to make that interaction more ethical and fair. Then, improve your dialogue with others to start the chain reaction of improving the professional community.

Ultimately, the AE professional’s responsibility is to provide exceptional service and value for their community, clients, vendors, and employees. Our responsibility to be honest, ethical, and fair is good human behavior and the law. In treating others fairly, you will find that fairness reciprocated back to you in future dealings with clients and other professionals. It will pay back tenfold in the future. If it doesn’t, you know you did the right thing.