Understanding Human Resource Development: A Research-Based Approach

By Jim McGoldrick; Jim Stewart et al. | Go to book overview

12

ETHICAL ISSUES IN HRD RESEARCH

Rona S. Beattie and Marilyn McDougall1


Aims and contribution

Ethical issues are floating constantly beneath the surface of what we do, and they typically receive too little public attention within and beyond the research community.

(Miles and Huberman 1994:289)

The overall aim of this chapter is to explore a range of ethical issues and dilemmas in empirical HRD research through the vehicle of an action research project in a major public sector organization. The focus of the research was the implementation and evaluation of a pilot mentoring and peer-mentoring programme for middle managers.

The research team's interest in ethics in HRD has been growing over the last few years. This mentoring programme was a particularly appropriate vehicle for exploring ethical issues and dilemmas because of the sensitivities that can arise from processes which are integral to mentoring relationships and programmes. A key issue for such relationships is the trust between participants. There is therefore an important need for researchers to be cautious that their interventions - particularly in Action Research - do not breach such trust and thus damage this approach to learning.

This chapter argues that due to the potentially intrusive nature of research into HRD issues at both individual and organizational levels there is a need to consider the possible ethical dilemmas that can emerge. It encourages researchers and practitioners to recognize and develop strategies to resolve such dilemmas appropriately, and presents a useful framework to support this process.


Theoretical context

The concept of mentoring is one which has played an important role in learning and development both within and outwith the world of work. As it relates to work organizations it has been defined as 'a process in which one person

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