Category Archives: Consulting

Ethics and Recruiting Business: The Problem of Using Invalid Research

United States Supreme Court building in Washin...
The Supreme Court

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.

Ethics, Consulting, Fees and Billing: The Problem of Unexpected Expenses

An I/O consultant providing consultation services looks at consulting proposal and gives an estimate of services to be provided based upon a careful analysis of time and resources required to complete the company’s employment recruiting program.  However, after the initial interview with the HR staff, it is discovered that the process will be much more labor intensive than had been projected.  Feeling that it would be unethical to submit a bill for an amount to cover additional cost, the decision is made to absorb the cost. (Ford, 2006, p. 199)

Analyzing key ethical principles of the case that raises important questions about financial benefit that might impinge upon decision making and poses the question about what constitutes ethical behavior within a consulting role in this situation. This example presents a common problem that consultants might be faced with and presents a challenge to identify what issues are of concern and understand what the correct course of response may be when unexpected issues have an impact upon fees increasing.  How can the problem should be handled ethically?

The problem

The problem that is presented is whether it is ethical to change payment or billing amounts after discovering that a situation in a consult is more complicated after the fact. Narrowing the problem to an identifiable question redirects attention to asking what the code of ethics says about payment for services: 6.04 Fees and Financial Arrangements which states, “(a) As early as is feasible in a professional or scientific relationship, psychologists and recipients of psychological services reach an agreement specifying compensation and billing arrangements” (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).  One fundamental problem that is not answered in the study is whether or not informed consent is a part of the financial agreement for services. In 10.01 Informed Consent to Therapy, the stipulation is made that:

(a) psychologists inform clients/patients as early as is feasible in the therapeutic relationship about the nature and anticipated course of therapy, fees, involvement of third parties, and limits of confidentiality and provide sufficient opportunity for the client/patient to ask questions and receive answers (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).

As a result to make a decision, hypothetically there needs to be a Q&A with the consultant to determine if informed consent has been used and has the terms and course of the services for therapeutic services been accurately developed, presented, and an opportunity to a proposed plan of treatment to be executed.  A further problem that seems to be present is that only an estimation of anticipated cost has been given which may point to a competency issue in analysis of proposed services.

A Process

A recommendation that might prevent this situation is to make an attempt to be as thorough as possible in the preparation of informed consent documents that represent as accurately as possible the scope and terms of services rendered.  Another approach is to use an open clause in the process that stipulates what is understood to be a reasonable course of action and a disclaimer which allows the informed consent to have an addendum to services based upon research findings.  In the event that services are beyond reasonable limits for a client, then the practitioner has to make a value decision in how to proceed with consulting responsibilities.  In a question of feasibility of service, one question is centered in the general Principle B: Fidelity and Responsibility and Principle C: Integrity that may demonstrate a potential conflict in the Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010). Consequently, a decision must be evaluated in respect to the matter of whether the services offered can be provided at an optimum level that guards the principle of doing no harm, while providing services for the agreed terms.


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.

Related Articles

Ethics, Theory Construction, and Compliance

Cover of "The APA Dictionary of Psycholog...
Cover of The APA Dictionary of Psychology

Ethics and Compliance

The APA Dictionary of Psychology (2007) defines the IRB as the, “abbreviation for INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD” (VandenBos) which quite honestly was not a term in my vocabulary before I began the PhD program. As it relates to the content area of  research in multicultural ethics, Ford (2006) establishes a connection between Ethics, Values, and Theory Construction, by stating, “Behavioral research is generally conducted to test specific hypothesis arising from psychological theories” which posits a corollary construct between what has been written in theory to what is done in practice for researchers. Therefore, and assumption is made that compliance lies somewhere between the theoretical didache of research and the utility found in the real life experience of practice.

One of the challenges that can be identified in the work of researchers is balance.  In a psychological research program the task is is to find common ground for the work of research within the ethical constructs of acceptable ethical principles is found in ethical codes, philosophical assumptions, and application of acceptable norms. Therefore, there are principles to guide the work of ethical research. The principles found in the code of ethics reflect generally accepted and identifiable area where violations can be possible.  Within the principles there are philosophical assumption that are expressed in way principle address concerns.  The intent is to speak to the needs of people who are made of diverse populations and cultural representations  Principles inform problem solving approaches with information to clarify reason and develop approaches to clarify what “should”or “ought” to be done in resolving a conflict.

The defining task is to identify the challenge and provide an assumptive reasoning that describes a process that is indicated; given that all things are equal in a perfect world.  The process describes the fundamental thinking process that guide understanding involved which calls attention to an underlying area of competence for psychological research, expressed in a design resolve a conflict.  Therefore, what is contained in a formula for response declares the basic principles that are a concerned couple with assumptions about how value is expressed in rank of importance i.e., the code of ethics, meaning, and intent of the ethical code.  In addition, the theoretical connection of what research means to the study of psychology is also firmly established in being able to understand, articulate, and connect the philosophical assumptions that inform ethical decisions in a reflective process that connects the philosophy to the lived experience of the researcher in psychology.  Ford (2006) describes the impact of the process upon the outcome of research by saying, “Researcher’s personal values might affect not only what issues they study, but also how they evaluate the evidence (i.e., data) they obtain” (p. 222)  As a result, the challenge can be understood in a development of a response that is informed not only by principles of facts, but also by the dynamic relationship of a developing interaction of the person and values of the researcher upon the object and persons involved in research.

Ultimately, the buck must stop somewhere in decision making and that is where the determination is made to determine what is acceptable.  In Ford (2006), suitable standards are decided by, the IRB [who] is the official entity that reviews research proposals involving human participants to determine whether the studies are ethically acceptable” (223).  Therefore, the challenge that is present for researchers is to maintain diligence in understanding, evaluation, and application of acceptable, normative approaches to guarantee that participants are not endangered or harmed in the implementation of research in the practice of psychological inquiry.

The challenge of psychologists in maintaining fidelity to the principle of Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010) is how to respond with a meaningful thoughtful method of evaluating a broad range of possible ethical area of concern.  The principle places emphasis upon a need to utilize a thought process that utilizes a provisional review process that focuses upon principle, process, and potential.  An important component to the research done by psychologist is to engage in research that is based in a scientific validation process  which establishes empirical credibility to research.  In addition having a theoretical approach to validate ethical balance, provides a foundation that enhances evidence based approach to the methodology in the work of research.

This can is realized within populations, groups, or individual to whom measuring risk is a very subjective process. Therefore, because there are times when ethical responses are difficult to measure, “researchers (and IRB’s) have an ethical obligation to calibrate the standards that will qualify a ‘minimal risk’” (225) which places a process in hand that goes beyond principle, philosophy and personal values, to a consensus of ideas and opinion which adds validity to apply what is known, understood and believed into a cogent and reasonable argument that is well supported.

What is observable and knowable about Ethics, theory construction, and compliance is that the code of ethics does in deed provide principle that can address a significant number of ethical concern, philosophical systems of thought can provide a rationale for decision making, but compliance is not always a clearly defined issue when dealing with areas that the code and philosophies do not adequately address to protect participants from harm.  So the value that is offered by the IRB is that it adds another voice that is constructed of expertise in the field of research that can ask the questions that can provide substantive consideration to what is in the best interest of research among psychology professionals


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.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The Ethics of Psychology and Christainity in Review of a Theoretical Orientation

The Influence of Theoretical Orientation, Vision, and Values     The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Does the way a theoretical orientation, conceptual vision, and underlying values are possessed have a potential to become an ethical dilemma for a practitioner? The simplest approach to an  answer is to consider how core values have impact decision making processes. Every practitioner is an individual holding  a set of value contained in an orientation that is a part of how decisions are made personally and professionally that express individual person-hood. An example of how personal values have an influence can be illustrated in the evangelical Christian value system which is a minority view among psychologists. For those who hold this point of view, it is reasonable to believe that beliefs held will encounter resistance from some traditional perspectives in the field of psychology.  This potential conflict is noted by Meyer (1988) who describes how psychology programs respond to Christian applicants:

Studies have shown that the religious population, particularly in the traditional institutional sense, is underrepresented in the profession of psychology (Malony, 1972; Ragan, Malony, & Beit-Hallahmi, 1976; Shafranske & Gorsuch, 1984). Gartner (1986) found evidence of an “antireligious prejudice” in admissions to doctoral programs in clinical psychology after sending mock applications to graduate programs (p. 486). What is apparent is that there may be a correlation between religious orientation and acceptance into graduate psychology programs.

If it is true that a bias exists against those who hold certain religious perspectives, a potential conflict may be present in the way candidates in the process of applying for graduate programs face disqualification which may indicate a larger issue of  general attitudes about religious issue in counseling setting.  What is apparent is that there is a noticeable gap in how religious orientation is viewed from traditionally held psychological perspective that may be affecting how the delivery of competent training is cited in this research. An a area of concern that is raised in how will those trained in an atmosphere of bias be adequately be considered competent to provide services to those who make up a a religious culture of clients when appropriate education, training, and ethical development is not represented.

There may be a mythology held by some in psychological education which minimizes religion as a non issue while maximizing scientific approaches as maximum intellectual truth.  The result informs an attitude that posits beliefs and values thought to be scientific as accepted principles for determining how religious people will be treated in matters related to faith.  As a result, the anti-religious sentiment represented establishes an ethical norm systematically imposed upon professional practice through training—educating of graduate students.

One way the disparity can be approached is by providing a reasonable approach to addressing religious issues. Then, determining what ethical issues and which principles may be relative to understanding the disparity. Identifying the philosophical assumptions is the foundation of understanding  for where the source of conflict is created.  Four key assumptions relating to ethical research are, ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological (2010, p. 4)

Both perspective have one fixed reality—ontological, possess an assumption about how truth is sourced—epistemology, emphasis upon certain values—axiology, and a rationale for how decisions are made—methodology. While both would claim to use a scientific approach that is based upon a particular empiricism, the source of conflict is a fundamentally different epistemology. When the question of where truth comes is asked for a Christian the answer is from God, or specifically what is known in a scientific study of theology about God.  For the secular theorist a philosophy of how truth is determined is either Kant’s formalistic rationalism, a utilitarian best case scenario, situational relativity, or contextual ethics.   One holds a Theo-centric epistemology while the other holds an anthropocentric-person, experience centered as a  locus of truth.  Therefore, what is reasonably assumed to be true and translated as a value is what each acts from.  In the same way that cultures differ in beliefs, mores’, and values, cultures, peoples, and races must be understood in context with ethically appropriate behaviors. The disparity that is seen in under-representation and bias among graduate schools indicate a potential ethical complexity and a potential for conflict in inadequate understanding, training, and representations to enable higher levels of competence.

Providing a rationale with support for the ethical conflict can be found within ethical codes prescribed by professional organizations.   Using a problem solving approach to resolve the potential conflict leads to B.1. Respecting Client Rights B.1.a. Multicultural/Diversity Considerations (2005, p. 7) and  2.01 Boundaries of Competence:

Psychologists provide services… within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience … [with] understanding of factors associated with age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language, or socioeconomic status is essential for effective implementation of their services or research (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010).

Based upon the principles expressed, the central question raised related to competency.  Is a therapist who was trained in an educational environment that is under-represented, described with a  bias against the culture of conservative religion, reasonably assumed to be competent and comply with the ethical code’s principle of competence?  If the answer is presumed to be negative, what is apparent is that there is an ethical dilemma and the counselor will be challenged to find ways to ethically,  professionally, and competently address a significantly represented cultural group who are underrepresented in multicultural training.


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.

Meyer, M. (1988). Ethical principles of psychologists and religious diversity. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice , 19 (5), 486-488. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.19.5.486.

PhD Weekend experience SOSBS T2. (2010). Minneapolis, MN, USA: Capella University.

The ACA Code of Ethics. (2005). Retrieved October 1, 2009, from

Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly

Out of Focus Picture

One of the great difficulties that leaders experience is the inability to change when it is necessary to stay vital and continue to experience success. One leadership principle that John Maxwell teaches in The Twenty One Laws of Leadership is that an organization cannot grow higher than the level of leadership at the top. He calls this the leadership lid. Does it seem like your organization is stuck; like someone has put a lid on the top and things have plateaued? It may be that the organization has grown as high as it can go because of the level of leadership it has. One of the reasons that organizations do not grow is because the leader has not been growing and as a result, both the leader and the organization are stuck in a complacent rut of ineffectiveness: everything is out of focus. Staying focused is difficult when you aim is off. One way to stay on track is by keeping a narrow focus. “…pressing towards the mark…” narrowing the focus to define what will be done. It is easy to look around and find someone to blame when things are not going well, but maybe the place to look is in the mirror and realize that when an organization is having difficulty that the answer may be that it is a leadership problem. One of the reasons we fall of track, so often, is that distractions, circumstances, and life change the center of our everyday world. The result is that organizations and leadership gets out of focus.

If there is one thing that will help leaders to continue to be successful, what would that be? People may have many different opinions, but the one defining truth is that leaders must continue to learn, grow, and develop their selves to maintain vitality. Learning to adapt to change is a requisite for leading in today’s leader. Talent Management Perspectives reports that, “Against the backdrop of an ever-changing global business environment and unstable economic conditions, it’s no longer sufficient for leaders to embrace the status-quo …”The organization has to lead change, rapid change. The environment is changing — someone’s inventing something before you expect it or something is collapsing in front of your eyes …’”It’s becoming much more important to deal with change and creativity and innovation and speed and nimbleness,” she said. “Those are part of producing the results; you have to pay attention to those factors”’ ( It may be that leaders have a lot of information at their disposal, but knowing how to use the information and where to apply change in style, strategy, and innovation will define how leadership will be applied in the context of change.

Personal growth and development are indications of a leaders potential for success. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading. All leaders are learners because there is no growth without change and there is no change without being flexible. When a leader stops growing, he/she becomes inflexible. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of predispositions and attitudes toward having never done it that way before. If the attitude is maintained that, “I want to lead the way I used to lead, the way I’ve always led” is maintained, then yesterdays methods will only yield results in yesterday’s constructs. The attitudes and skills that brought you to this point in your leadership are not going to take you to the future. New problems require new solutions. New situations require new attitudes. New difficulties and new opportunities require new skills and new attitudes. What brought you this far and made you a success – that’s why success creates inability to manage new ideas and challenges, because the rules are forever changing.

The root behind resistance to change is fear. There are times when fear paralyzes forward movement: I don’t want to change because I’m afraid of loss–I’ve done it this way and I feel comfortable with it. Therefore what am I going to lose if I do ministry in a new way? The root is the fear of change. Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, or defending the status quo or striving simply to repeat the past because it worked last, it may be that there is a danger of terminal failure. What’s the key to overcoming this trap in leadership? The antithesis is to never stop developing. Never stop developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart, and what you bring to your leadership.

Skill brings success. You may be dedicated to what you are doing, but if development of the necessary skills is not occurring, the tools you have may not fit a new situation. A farming analogy might be: you can’t use a corn harvester on a wheat field, a cotton picker in an apple orchard. The tools that are used have to match the context, culture, organization, people that you are working within. Consequently, if learning stops then the axiom, that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then they get stuck there, kicks in and drives what will happen.

Staying On Target

TargetIt’s no secret that the economy is failing and businesses and organizations will fail also. Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve  found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Perspective about negative factors affects what strategies are used to respond to what is happening in organizations today. One response is to allow negativity to stimulate a reactive behavior pattern or to understand what is happening as an opportunity to create change that enables success.

Describe the niche, market, purpose drives what is trying to be done. Putting behaviors in context with the reason for existence provides a understandable way of understanding why certain action are taken and what is trying to be achieved. In coaching baseball it has been suggested that returning to fundamentals will result in a good game being played. It may be that the team may not always win, but it is an efficient way to evaluate performance in times that are constantly. When there is no understanding what you are trying to do, it yields a zero in productivity.

Develop those who are on the team to increase potential. One way to create positive change in an organization is to identify those who have the greatest potential. Developing those can be most effective is never a mistake. In fact, it strengthens our position. John Maxwell says that an organization only grows as high as the level of those in leadership.Leading others to create success is multiplied when an investment is made developing the team. It is wonderful when a star player is at the top, but it’s the team that carries the ball and how well they play their position is determined by what is invested in development.

Deploy efforts to a clear target. The bull’s eye can never be hit if the sights are off. It may be that with a changing economic market that focus needs to be adjusted. Evaluation is critical to having success in a changing climate. An axiom that demonstrates this is: “if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting.” Changing times mean that needs change and may indicate refocusing,finding a new target,or maybe just readjusting the sights.

Determine to be disciplined. Every athlete that is successful is someone who has talent, but also someone who has discipline. It is easy to get sloppy when things get difficult, but there are some things that can be done to improve results. The discipline of accountability; people only do what is inspected. If this true for others, it is true for us also– honest evaluation enables success. The discipline of reward: celebrating achievement gets a better response than criticizing behavior. The discipline of stress management: if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Knowing what to do is an important step to take towards success, but the results will not come until you do what you know to do.

Everyone understands that there are challenges to be met in the present state of the economy, but putting your head in the sand will not result in anything, only getting sand in your ears. Staying on target means thinking like an entrepreneur not an employee and looking outside of the box to see what can be done to stay viable and productive.