social work ethics

Case Study 7.3: Responsibility to Self, Client, and Agency An Employee Assistance Counselor’s Dilemma Abstracted from an unpublished paper by Mel Hall-Crawford in Rothman (2005) From the front lines: Student cases in social work ethics. Boston: Allyn and Bacon p.125 Young woman working on a computer with a supervisor standing beside her.Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) are increasingly being utilized in both the private and public sector with the general goal of addressing employee problems that impact on work performance and conduct, on their attendance, and on other issues that affect their ability to perform their assigned tasks in an optimal manner. Programs are generally available to employees through self-referrals or through either formal or informal referrals by supervisors. They are generally unlimited in terms of the types of problems that may be addressed. Elena, a Japanese-American woman, is a self-referred employee in a large corporation, who asks for assistance from the employee assistance program due to the great deal of difficulty she is experiencing in performing her duties as a policy analyst. She recently separated from her husband and describes their relationship as filled with anger and mistrust. However, since he has left, she has become very frightened of being alone, and she feels very isolated, both at work and in her personal life. Her job is her sole source of support, and, beyond that, her sole opportunity to interact with others. Elena feels that she has been assigned an impossible task of creating a database, a project she has been working on for over two years. She is frustrated by the lack of clarity from her supervisor regarding expectations and expresses concern that her job is in jeopardy. Elena says she stares at a blank computer screen in her office hour after hour, getting almost nothing done, and has actually curled up on the floor and cried on occasion. Though Elena repeatedly refuses suggestions of involving her supervisor in these discussions, the worker feels that this is advisable in order to determine (1) if things are as bad as Elena describes them (2) if perhaps the supervisor could clarify what was expected of Elena so her job performance could improve. However, the worker is also concerned that bringing this situation out in the open might further jeopardize Elena’s job security in that such a meeting would spotlight Elena’s job performance and force the supervisor to examine the severity of the situation. Elena reluctantly consents to involve her supervisor. During the meeting, her supervisor indicates that she wants to be supportive of Elena, but she also acknowledges that Elena’s emotional state is indeed affecting her work performance. Elena breaks down in tears at this, but finally it is agreed that the supervisor will work with her to help her gain a better sense of how to proceed with her assignment and will also give her other intervening projects that would give Elena a sense of closure and accomplishment in her job. The worker agrees to help Elena deal with the larger issue of her depression and emotional problems by exploring other treatment options and by continuing counseling. Following this meeting, Elena receives an informal performance appraisal rating her work as “satisfactory”, a decline from prior ratings of “excellent” and a bad rating by general corporation standards. She believes that her job is in jeopardy and that a bad rating would make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to find another position. The worker feels an obligation to protect Elena’s best interest, but she is unsure whether she should continue to try to resolve Elena’s work situation without involving the supervisor or to urge that the supervisor be brought into the process to gain needed perspective and clarification. There is also a concern about whether the worker’s urging Elena to give her consent to supervisory involvement infringes on her self-determination. Because Elena’s job appears to be in greater jeopardy since the involvement of her supervisor, the worker feels responsible. However, the worker is also concerned about the larger ethical dilemma. What is her obligation to her client and to the larger employer of both Elena and herself? What if her obligation to her employer (to support and maintain optimum job performance for employees, which in this case might mean terminating Elena) and her obligation to her client (to keep her in a stable job situation, through which she is able to support herself) conflict? Go back to the ethical framework you devised for yourself in Module Three. Resolve the Elena dilemma based on the ethical framework you created. Your paper should use specific elements of your chosen framework to address the Elena case in reference to your responsibility to: Yourself Those who are close to you (your own family, friends, etc.) All of your potential clients (including individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities) Elena as your specific client Elena’s supervisor Other colleagues Your employer Society as a whole. Your paper should conclude with a summary of the steps you plan to use in addressing the Elena case and reflection on your greatest struggle in addressing this case.