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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Social Workers’ Perceptions of Their Peers’ Unprofessional Behavior

Gricus, M., & Wysiekierski, L. (2021).
Journal of Social Work. 

This article explores social workers’ perceptions of their colleagues’ professional mistakes, and the influences of those opinions. Vignettes in a factorial survey helped to determine whether certain variables related to the social worker or the situation influenced the perception of others’ professional errors and ethical violations. The changed variables included personal characteristics of the offending social worker such as perceived race, gender, and sexual orientation of the social worker, and characteristics of the situation, such as the length of time involved in unprofessional behavior.

Licensed social workers in six U.S. states (n = 5596) read vignettes based on real cases brought before licensing boards (n = 22,127) and assigned levels of seriousness and importance to discipline. The vignettes rated most highly involved perceived harm to a client or other vulnerable individual. Those on the lower end of seriousness and importance to discipline were those violations against the profession of social work. Analysis of changed variables indicated respondents’ ratings were influenced by several situational factors, but not by personal characteristics of the social worker involved in the vignette.

Our findings provide some insight into the decision-making factors important to social workers. The results may be helpful to licensing boards considering the contextual factors of unprofessional behavior and whether to discipline certain actions.

From the article:

The availability heuristic proposes that people make judgments based only on the information available at the time (Croskerry, 2002; Shah & Oppenheimer, 2008). The representativeness heuristic allows people to judge whether an example belongs to a given category (Bowes et al., 2020). In clinical settings, this heuristic can play out in diagnosing similar, but not identical, clinical presentations with the same diagnosis. The representativeness heuristic can also cause people to make judgments based on race and gender stereotypes (Bowes et al., 2020). Bisking et al. (2003) (as cited in Salvador, 2019) found that when individuals are involved in enacting sanctions on someone perceived to have engaged in misconduct, their decisions are influenced by characteristics of the offender such as gender. The anchoring and adjustment heuristic, also known as focalism or priming, reveals that people form judgments largely based on the first piece of information they receive and weigh it against all other information (Bowes et al., 2020). Focalism can help to explain why misinformation can be difficult to disprove.