I worked for an organization that hired psychologists to coach existing executives with specific development opportunities and conduct executive level candidate assessments. One psychologist, named Ben, had been in place for several years and had a good reputation for his sensitive and caring approach so when he introduced a fellow psychologist as his new business partner, no one had any reason for concern.
Lindsay was early in her career so Ben had her focus solely on candidate assessments which followed a strict protocol and which she was good at due to her outgoing nature and ability to make people feel comfortable. After a few months, Lindsay met an employee named Scott whom she had a lot in common with and who became a close personal friend. Since she was not working directly with Scott, she felt her friendship was acceptable and made sure Ben was aware of it. One night when Lindsay and Scott were at dinner, he began to complain about a peer who had applied for an executive role. Scott couldn’t believe his peer was even considered for the role because he “didn’t seem smart enough” and lacked the executive presence that Scott believed was necessary. To alleviate Scott’s frustrations, Lindsay shared details about the peer’s assessment scores, made jokes about the answers he gave, and even showed Scott the notes she took when she administered the assessment. Scott felt better knowing that his instincts about his peer were right and over time began to share the information whenever other employees expressed concerns or dissatisfaction with the peer.
According to the American Psychological Association Code of Ethics, Lindsay violated Principle E: Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity because psychologists are supposed to “respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights of individuals to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination” (APA, 2010). Lindsay also violated Section 4.01 Maintaining Confidentiality by not only sharing confidential information but by showing Scott her personal notes taken during the assessment.
If Ben, Lindsay’s business partner, found out that Lindsay had shared confidential client information and did not report it, he could also be found in violation of code 2.05 Delegation of Work to Others because he was not able to ensure that Lindsay was performing her duties competently. I wasn’t given all of the information but depending on how the account and assessment procedures were set up, Ben and Lindsay could also be guilty of violating Section 3.11 Psychological Services Delivered to or Through Organizations which details how information from the assessments will be used and shared throughout the organization. Specific verbiage for the APA code can be found by visiting apa.org.
In this case, once Lindsay had learned that Scott was sharing the information, she knew she had to inform Ben who quickly disclosed Lindsay’s actions to our top executive and promptly removed Lindsay from her assignment. Scott was disciplined and made aware that any further sharing of the information would be cause for immediate termination but in an ironic twist, the top executive and HR executive decided not to tell the employee that his assessment data had been compromised. In my opinion, this decision demonstrates an additional violation of the Academy of Management’s General Principle 2 Integrity which covers honesty and accurate representation of facts, General Principle 3 Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity which covers individual rights to privacy, and Professional Principle 2 The Advancement of Managerial Knowledge which explains that members must preserve and protect the rights of the test subjects (AOM, 2006).
Academy of Management. (2006). Code of ethics. Retrieved from http://aom.org/About-AOM/Code-of-Ethics.aspx
American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/