Legal and Ethical Requirements

When industrial psychologists of the early twentieth century recommended hiring or promotion, designed training, or carried out any other of their responsibilities, they had only to satisfy their employers' demands. Since the late 1960's, I/O psychologists have also had to satisfy legal and ethical requirements pertaining to a host of problem areas such as racism, sexism, age discrimination, and discrimination against the handicapped. More than good intentions are necessary here. The psychologists must work to balance the societal demands for fairness in work settings (the basing of decisions about workers' hiring, salary, promotion, and so on entirely on work-relevant considerations and not on race, sex, age, or other personal characteristics) and the practical interests of employers, sometimes having to endure criticism for even the most ingenious of solutions.

For example, if an employer finds the company must increase its number of Latino workers, vigorous recruiting is an excellent first step, yet it may prove expensive enough to aggravate the employer. If recruiting is not successful because would-be applicants doubt the employer's sincerity, both they and the employer will be unhappy. If recruiting is successful in generating interest, but many interested individuals are unqualified, providing them special training could be a reasonable solution. Applicants might feel it degrading, however, to be required to undergo more training than others before them, or the employer might balk at the extra cost involved.

The first industrial psychologists needed little more than solid training in their discipline to achieve success. Their successors need, beyond training in a discipline that has enlarged enormously, the talents of diplomats.

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