Eye on Ethics: The Invisible Gorilla and Social Work Ethics

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

School of Social Work


Many ethical issues are obvious. Every clinical social worker understands that it is unethical to be Facebook friends with clients and bill for services they never provided. Social work administrators know that it is unethical to falsify quarterly reports in order to enhance funding from government agencies and foundations. Social work researchers know that it is immoral to alter data to create the impression that programmatic interventions were successful. And social work organizers know that it is unethical to lie to community residents about their educational credentials and work experience.

But, as seasoned social workers understand, many ethical issues are much more subtle and, at times, easy to miss. Sometimes, social workers focus so intently on clinical, advocacy, administrative, policy, or research challenges that it is hard to notice the ethical issues embedded in them.