Ethics and Values in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

By Joel Lefkowitz | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

A prolific academic author once told me that an effective book is generally based on just one idea—irrespective of how broad the topic or complex the material. I took the comment to mean that in order to make a point one should at least have a point to make. The overarching thesis of this book is that, contrary to an attitude often expressed or implied, professional ethics is not an unreasonable set of rules or expectations designed by intrusive idealists to make our lives more difficult. As psychologists we study human behavior. To do so, we depend on the goodwill and trust of the persons who cooperate with us voluntarily, sometimes revealing their private selves to us, enabling us to do our work and research. As industrial and organizational (I/O) psychologists we further depend on the goodwill of organizational decision makers who trust us when we say that we can improve the effectiveness of their enterprises. As professionals, we cannot do that work very well, at least not for very long, if we do not treat all of those persons ethically—that is, honestly, fairly, and with respect and dignity.

But our motives ought not be solely instrumental. Indeed, as reviewed in chapter 3, the hallmark of some moral theories is the rejection of such utilities, or “cost-benefit analyses, ” as a means of judging ethical behavior. As is characteristic of all professionals, we assume the responsibility of “the service ideal. ” As psychologists, we carry with us a humanistic tradition that includes a concern for promoting people's welfare, some of which is formalized in our ethical codes. Thus, ethical issues of fairness and justice and of duty and beneficence are central to our core values as professional psychologists. Some of the more controversial portions of this book, however, include the criticism that much of I/O psychology has drifted rather far from those core values and has to a considerable degree replaced them

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