Social Norms and Ethical Practices, are they different?

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Our society is contently changing and evolving. Sometimes for the good sometimes for the bad. But when I talk about cultural changes I see things from my point of view. So when I am talking about what is ethically correct, what am I talking about? This is why Ethics is such a gray area in most organizations and even in social situations.

I remember when I was young my mother had a thousand and one little sayings that she would repeat to teach me a lesson. One of those sayings went something like this; “If Johnny were to jump off a bridge would you jump off the bridge with him?” What she was teaching me was to make a rational decision based on what would or could be the outcome of my choose, based on what I knew or was capable of deducting would happen if I jumped off with him. This is the process of making a ethical decision.

Ethics play a large part of my career as a licensed Social worker and my training to be a professional Counselor. Each time I renew my license I am required to have training in ethics. It is important when working with people that my decisions are morally sound. As I wrote in my last blog I believe that ethics and integrity are closely related. It means doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.

So how does social norms come into play. We live in a widely diverse society where what is right to one person may be morally wrong to someone else. I believe that it is important to check yourself on these questions regularly. My ethics professor grilled us frequently on ethics. One class period we spent an entire hour on the ethical dilemma of if a professor (Him) should take a piece of candy from a student (yes that was me). Ethics is a guide for us to determine if our decisions are based on rules that society justifies as morally correct.

But I have to admit, our culture is constantly changing. The community that I grew up in is not the same one that is there today. When I was young, people in the neighborhood looked out for each other. I could write a whole blog about how close we all were but that is another story. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t always follow the crowd. I believe that I have a different idea of what is right and wrong. So to answer my own question, I do believe that social norms and ethical practice can be different. I will leave you with the steps to solving Ethical concerns in the Counseling profession. I would say following these step, with a few modifications, would help in any ethical dilemma in our society.

1) Identify ethical problem, situation or issue

2) Look at your options and evaluate

3) Refer to the Code of Ethics – note what values may be/are in conflict?

4) Consult with your supervisor – assessing possible consequences of all viable options

5) Re-evaluate, re-assess options, choose an option that has least damaging consequences and best outcome and plan the implementation

6) Implement decision and record the process (Including dates and supervisor recommendations)

7) Review and reflect on outcome of the decision (include review notes in process records)

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