Ethics and Recruiting Business: The Problem of Using Invalid Research

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An  I/O psychologist working as a personnel consultant for a local industry has success in recruiting new business for a consulting practice; then, presents work done in a report of positive changes through employee retention for companies using the approaches designed by the consultant to achieve ROI for consulting services and further understands that business people identify with numbers. In a scenario such as this, does advertising and promoting the successful results and approach without scientifically validated research create a ethical caveat that will potentially create an ethical dilemma?

Problem Identification

Advertising Service within the Boundaries of Competence.

The idea of a psychology professional promoting, advertising, making claims of outcome based upon a particular modality or treatment has the flavor of a multi-level marketing strategy. It raises a question about what is appropriate in making a presentation to a prospective organization seeking services from an I/O psychologist.

What are the issue at stake when promoting services that are within the bounds of competency and professional ethic? The specific area that the example calls to attention is how an organizational consulting psychology practitioner represents professional services offered.  One specific issue which is an underlying consideration is, Principle C: Integrity (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010) which addresses a Kantian maxim (Ford p.63) which could be express as a self evident truth in the practice of personnel psychology. Therefore, it should be rationally understood that honesty, integrity, and using deceptive practices to enhance business are clearly a breach of ethical practice, but has occurred in the case example.

The question of how to address the issue is the question that is the object of interest in a resolution of the matter of what has happened.  One answer to address how to respond to the dilemma is inherent within the problem solving approach and code of ethic for psychologist.  Maybe, a more important issue is how to prevent unethical breaches might be better addressed by appealing by giving consideration to, 2.01 Boundaries of Competence (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010) in how practitioners are provided professional training.

Problem Focus

Competence in Connecting Research to Scientifically Validated Outcomes.

The code is specific in directing attention to the fact that, “Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience” (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).  If a reverse outline were constructed of the case example, what would be demonstrated is the use of invalid research statistics used to enhance the ability of the instruments used by the practitioner to achieve results in “employee retention” (Ford p. 193) has no empirical basis.

The fact that this information is used in a spurious manner is an indication of either intentional dishonest, or simply not understanding the ethical implications of how research data is to used in an ethical manner.  A rationale for understanding what should be done is expressed in Evidence Based on Test Content, “ Important evidence can be obtained from an analysis between a test’s content and the construct it is intended to measure” (2008, p. 11). As well as using evidence based testing approaches, a level of competency should be evident in post graduate certification to administer and interpret test results.

Process Rationale

Focusing on Competencies Rather than Ideology.

Therefore, to address the particular dilemma indicates that psychologist/consultant necessitates developing the ability necessary for problem solving by:

focusing on competencies or “end states,” rather than specific course work requirements to be included in an academic curriculum, the developers of the Principles have acknowledged the reality that competence in any given area may be achieved through a variety of avenues, such as course work, supervised practice, apprenticeships, or seminars and workshops, to name but a few (Fuqua).

Consequently, identifying the ethical problems and developing outcomes that will bring the necessary competency will require the practicing psychology consultant to submit to a competency development process that builds upon existing expertise through restricting activity to areas of competency and developing areas that require expertise prior to representing service outcomes.


Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2010, from Amercan Psychological Association:

Ford, G. (2006). Ethical reasoning for mental health professionals. Thousand Oaks, California, USA: Sage Publications.

Fuqua, D. &. Academic perspectives on the principles for training in consulting psychology. . Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research , 54 (4), 223-232. doi:10.1037/1061-4087.54.4.223.

Standards for educational and psychological testing. (2008). Washington, D.C., USA: American Educational Research Association.


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