Deirdre Knapp, Chair

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1. Does SIOP have an ethics code?

Yes, SIOP members, whether they belong to APA or don’t, agree to adhere to APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.

2. What makes a problem “ethical” in nature?

Three elements contribute to the nature of ethical issues

  •  A choice, often difficult and emotional, must be made
  •  The situation invokes one or more ethical principles (e.g., as identified by the APA Ethics Code)
  •  The decision will have a significant impact on others

3. Why is the study of ethics important?

We depend on the trust of others in order to do our work and we don’t earn that trust without treating them honestly and respectfully (i.e., ethically). While the ethical path is sometimes obvious, studying ethical decision-making strategies helps I-O psychologists identify and navigate ethical considerations that may not be evident at first glance.

SIOP members agree to adhere to the APA Principles of Conduct and Ethics Code, a resource that sensitizes us to potential areas of concern. The excerpts sheet on the CAPE web page lists standards that are particularly relevant to I-O psychologists.

Note that most other parts of the ethics code are applicable to I-O psychologists as well (e.g., Boundaries of competence, Conflict of interest, Exploitive relationships, Maintaining confidentiality, Sexual harassment).

4. Does CAPE offer advice for handling specific ethical dilemmas?

No. CAPE serves an educative function and does not have the resources or expertise to consult with members about specific ethical matters. While individual CAPE members may be willing to serve as a sounding board to you, we are not necessarily ethics experts and should not be viewed as such.

5. What do I do if I have an ethical dilemma?

There are steps you can take to work through the dilemma, and you can approach the issue using the following:

    • Identify stakeholders that may be impacted by the course of action you pursue.
    • Research relevant guidance (e.g., APA Ethics Code, organizational policies & procedures, pertinent laws or contract language).
    • Consult one or more trusted colleagues to ask for help in thinking through the situation and potential courses of action.

6. When should I formally report unethical behavior?

Some unethical behavior is of a particularly serious nature, warranting a formal response. Consistent with APA Ethics Code Standard 1.05, consider reporting unethical behavior if someone is experiencing substantial harm as a result of the unethical behavior.

While CAPE does not provide guidance on individual cases, you may want to consider the following when determining whether to report unethical behavior:

    • Have you attempted to address the unethical behavior through informal means (e.g., talking directly to the person who you believe to be acting unethically)?
    • Is the unethical behavior directly violating a person’(s) human rights?
    • Does your company/organization require you to report unethical behavior of this nature?
    • Are you required by law to report unethical behavior of this nature?
    • Are there confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements that are relevant to disclosing information?

7. To whom should I report unethical behavior?

There are many options for reporting unethical behavior. It is important to consider your company/organization’s existing protocol, as well as relevant policies and laws.

Some options that may be appropriate for reporting unethical behavior may include the following:

    • Your supervisor (Fisher, 2016)
    • Your HR Department
    • SIOP (see SIOP’s Whistleblower Policy here)
    • The American Psychological Association – if the offender is a member
    • A state licensing board – if offender is licensed
    • Other authorities

Refer to the APA Ethics Code, Standard 1.05: Reporting Ethical Violations for additional guidance on reporting unethical behavior. Keep in mind that confidentiality and other contextual factors may place boundaries around how a psychologist reports unethical behavior (Fisher, 2016).

8. I have been accused of unethical behavior, but I disagree with the allegations. What should I do?

Being accused of unethical behavior, when you disagree with the allegations, may seem unfair and stressful, however there are steps you can take if this happens.

    • Begin with honest self-reflection. Is it possible that you unknowingly engaged in a behavior that may appear to or actually be unethical?
    • Consult one or more trusted colleagues to get help thinking through the situation and potential courses of action you might consider taking.
    • Cooperate with any investigation into the matter.

Cooperating with a formal investigation will offer you the opportunity to explain your side of the case and to provide evidence. Remember that APA Ethics Code Standard 1.06 requires psychologists to cooperate with Ethics Committee investigations.

9. What are the differences between research, academic, organizational, and personal ethics?

Although the nature of the problems will manifest differently, the same principles apply across each one.

10. How do I build my own ethics group within my organization or research if there is not one?

If you are in an environment where there are not many or any peers that you can reach out to, you may consider developing external resources. Utilize professional networks (e.g., LinkedIn, other SIOP members) to begin building a trusted network of competent people you can reach out to for guidance or advice on ethical matters.