Ethical Issues within Organizations

Ethics moves people to think beyond themselves when making decisions about others and evaluating consequences that can arise from their actions. At an organizational level, such decisions become more complex because they are more far-reaching and often affect the performance of the entire organization. At this point, ethical concerns do not only arise in the process of organizational performance, but at the stage of research as well. For this reason, certain committees, such as an institutional review board (IRB), have been founded to protect the right of humans participating in research. In order to deal with a range of ethical concerns, researchers are recommended to obtain the IRB’s consent to the research and bear in mind three basic ethical principles when conducting it.

Ethical Concerns within an Organization

An ethical concern, or an ethical dilemma, arises when a person has to choose between two values, both of which seem equally right. Some of the most common right/right dilemmas are “justice versus mercy, truth versus loyalty, individual versus community, short-term goods versus long-term goods” (May, 2012, p. 7). There are five types of ethical concerns that a person involved in organizational development may have to deal with, especially when there is a need to introduce organizational changes.


This type of an ethical concern occurs during the entering phase of an organizational change when an intervention starts producing results that do not comply with the organization’s policies or are unreasonable in the current situation (Cummings & Worley, 2009). To prevent this problem, it is necessary to clearly identify the goals of the change and its expected results.

Misuse of Data

This ethical concern is related to the leakage of information within an organization. It is especially critical in case of close and friendly relationships between employees. When an entire organization works as a team, it is crucial for them to trust each other. Consequently, when one of the members obtains information about wrongful deeds on the part of a colleague, the ethical dilemma consists in whether to remain a reliable team member or a loyal employee who needs to report about the problem.


The problem of coercion also arises due to the implementation of organizational changes. Employees often perceive changes as manipulations and resist them because they do not want to feel dependent (Cummings & Worley, 2009). Another facet of this problem is that helping relationships per se create dependency. Therefore, the ethical concern consists in helping a colleague or a subordinate in a way that would not make him/her feel dependent.

Value and Goal Conflict

This problem occurs when team members have different visions of the intervention, and, consequently, act differently when implementing the change. To avoid this problem, it is vital to clearly state and deliver the essence and objectives of the latter.

Technical Ineptness

Technical ineptness is a type of an ethical concern that occurs when certain functions are performed by employees who are not skilled enough (Cummings & Worly, 2009). In addition, such dilemmas occur when an organization cannot simply implement certain changes owing to its structure and internal policies.

Ethical Concerns in Research: The IRB Application

Ethical concerns cannot only arise in a business environment. They are “paramount when planning, conducting, and evaluating research” (Cozby & Bates, 2012, p. 39). With regard to this, a researcher should consider three basic ethical principles before carrying out a research.


Since the element of risk is always present in a research involving people, it is necessary to differentiate between avoiding harm and doing good. Beneficence ensures that this risk is taken for the benefit of others rather than for the sake of the study. Thus, the assessment of risks and benefits has to be made as part of a research to ensure that beneficial effects of the latter are obtained with the least possible harmful consequences (Cozby & Bates, 2012).


Respecting persons’ autonomy presupposes that subjects make voluntarily decisions regarding their participation in a research (Cozby & Bates, 2012). The researcher is obliged to obtain the informed consent from each of the participants, as well as avoid withholding of information and deception of people that can take place due to the misrepresentation of information.


With respect to this principle, the participants of the research should have equal access to the benefits they obtain from participation, as well as the information about potential risks related to it (Cozby & Bates, 2012).

The principles mentioned above are taken into account by the institutional review board (IRB), also known as an ethical review board. This committee is composed of scientists, nonscientists, and legal experts that review research proposals and are responsible for determining whether a particular research should be conducted or not (Cozby & Bates, 2012). It is used for studies related to social science (psychology, sociology, anthropology, and others), as well as in the field of health. The IRB’s main purpose is to ensure safety and equal treatment of all study participants.


In conclusion, ethical concerns can occur in any organization, especially when it is necessary to implement organizational changes. Apart from dealing with the misuse of data and misrepresentation, the organization has to face technical ineptness, coercion, and value and goals conflicts. Certain ethical problems are likely to be encountered when conducting a research. The IRB can deny the right to conduct a research if it does not comply with such ethical principles as beneficence, respect/autonomy, and justice.