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Caring for Clients. Thomas Donlin-Smith, Professor of Religious Studies. “Caring for Clients”. Do all the good you can By all the means you can In all the ways you can In all the places you can At all the times you can To all the people you can As long as ever you can. John Wesley.

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Caring for Clients

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Caring for Clients

Thomas Donlin-Smith, Professor of Religious Studies

“Caring for Clients”

Do all the good you can

By all the means you can

In all the ways you can

In all the places you can

At all the times you can

To all the people you can

As long as ever you can.

  • John Wesley

A resource for this topic:

  • See Mike W. Martin, Meaningful Work (Oxford Univ. Press, 2000)

Examples of what professionals “care about:”

  • Caring about persons affected by one’s work

  • Caring about one’s work, its ideals and standards

  • Caring about being a caring person, possessing the virtue of care

Basic Principle of Professional Ethics: Beneficence

  • “Doing good” toward others, especially the client

  • “Serving” the client

  • Exercising “due care” in regard to clients

  • How does your profession express this value?

Justifications for making client service a priority. Why should pros care about clients?

  • Self-interest

  • Utilitarian reasons

  • Deontological

  • Character

  • The telos of any profession is to do good.

In what specific ways does a professional in your field demonstrate caring for clients?

Should professionals care for their clients as persons?

  • Clients’ “unified good” (“summum bonum”)

  • Clients’ profession-specific good

  • Caring pros connect the client’s pro-specific good to the unified good

  • Professionals provide “role-delineated forms of help”

Limits on professionals’ caring for their clients

  • Role-related restrictions on expressions of care (because some manifestations of caring are inappropriate)

  • Respecting client autonomy, avoiding paternalistic behavior

    • Paternalism = beneficence overriding autonomy

  • Pro caring is about actions of valuing others, not about emotions of affection?

But genuine caring can still be present

  • Genuine caring is a pattern of motivation for long-term habits of competent service

Personal investment in client or organizational success

  • Personal investment in one’s work is fulfilling & produces good results.

  • Personal fulfillment is one reason people enter a profession in the first place.

  • The opposite (alienation) is decidedly negative

Limiting personal investment in client or organizational success

  • Too much personal investment (“underdistancing”) can lead to:

    • Slavish, unfulfilling service; loss of identity

    • Violations of morality & law

    • Personal crisis in times of client or organizational failures

    • The counter-reaction of “overdistancing” in “burnout” or “compassion fatigue”

The “Middle Path” of appropriate professional distance

  • Avoiding both underdistancing and overdistancing.

What forms might excessive underdistancing or overdistancing take in your profession?

  • Why might members of your profession be inclined to these problems?

  • What harms come from these excesses?

  • How can members of your profession protect against these problems?

Benefits of the “Middle Path”

  • Avoiding “burn-out”

  • Respecting client autonomy

  • Maintaining objectivity

    • Truth

    • Adjudication

    • Evaluation

    • Conflicts of interest

Another dimension of professional caring: voluntary service

  • Longstanding feature of professionalism but neglected in pro ethics literature

3 overlapping expressions of voluntary service:

  • Philanthropy - pro bono service

  • Work in not-for-profit organizations

    • Not-for-profits as the "moral sector" of the economy?

  • Supererogatory responsibilities

Supererogatory responsibilities

  • Typical moral classification of actions as right, wrong, or indifferent ignores supererogatory acts.

  • Supererogatory acts are purely optional until promised. Then a commitment is created, a duty to see it through.

  • But some supererogatory acts are mandated by personal moral ideals

Puzzles of supererogatory responsibilities

  • How to think about requirements of religious ethics that are presented as obligations but hold people to very high standards?

  • How high can the codified moral standards of conduct go in a profession? How high into the range of acts normally considered supererogatory can a profession require its members to go?

Professional caring and professional autonomy: When may a professional refuse a client?

  • Conflicting presumptions: client service vs professional autonomy & integrity

Overriding the presumption in favor of client service

  • Common sense limits

  • Bad reasons for refusing a client

  • Immoral clients?

  • Uncooperative clients?

Professional caring beyond the client

  • To whom else – besides the client - is beneficence/caring owed?

Conflicts of interests between clients and 3rd parties: what to do?

  • Professionals sometimes work in adversarial settings (e.g., business, law)

  • What do professionals owe to third parties? Bayles says:

    • Nonmaleficence

    • Fairness

    • Truthfulness

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