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date: 10 December 2022

Ethics in Work and Organizational Psychologylocked

Ethics in Work and Organizational Psychologylocked

  • Joel LefkowitzJoel LefkowitzBaruch College, CUNY

Summary

Adequately appreciating any area of applied ethics necessarily begins with indispensable foundations from moral philosophy and moral psychology, which are the bases for understanding normative ethical principles. (Otherwise, one could be reduced to the rote memorization of a near-infinite list of “dos and don’ts.”) Personal and social values also are critical as they shape people’s conceptions of ethics and morality. (For example, what constitutes a harm or a wrong? What is the right thing to do?) Traditionally in moral philosophy there have been three ways of answering those normative questions: from deontology (determining what is permissible based on absolutist ethical principles of right and wrong); consequentialism (assessing which alternative is best because it produces the greatest good [or least harm] for all those affected); and virtue theory (being virtuous). Yet, they have all been shown to have weaknesses. For example, what happens when principles are contradictory? What counts as a good? Who determines what is a virtue? And situations sometimes lend themselves more readily to one or another approach, so prudence suggests understanding and being prepared to use all.

A person experiences an ethical problem when faced with a choice that challenges one or more of their ethical principles, with potential significant impact on the well-being of others. Professionals often experience ethical dilemmas, which entail having to make uncomfortable choices—choices one would rather not have to make at all. It helps to be able to recognize the form or structure of the dilemma (e.g., contemplating a self-serving act that will harm others). What makes the situation painful is that the person is motivated to some appreciable degree to “do the right thing” (otherwise they wouldn’t be experiencing a “dilemma”). Professionals such as work and organizational psychologists (WOPs) encounter a variety of ethical challenges in the different venues in which they work—as educators, researchers, practitioners, and administrators. Recent empirical survey data concerning ethical situations experienced and reported by WOPs have become available, illustrating that variety. The process of ethics education and training ought to entail becoming familiar with one or more of the several decision-making models for facilitating ethical reasoning that are available in the professional literature.

Subjects

  • Organizational and Institutional Psychology
  • Psychology and Other Disciplines

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