1.02 Self-Determination Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination.

1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality (a) Social workers should respect clients’ right to privacy.

1.12 Derogatory Language Social workers should use accurate and respectful language in all communications to and about clients.

2.01 Respect (a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should represent accurately and fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations of colleagues.

3.02 Education and Training (b) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should evaluate students’ performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.

Ethical Standard of the Month


a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should represent accurately and fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations of colleagues.
b) Social workers should avoid unwarranted negative criticism of colleagues in communications with clients or with other professionals. Unwarranted negative criticism may include demeaning comments that refer to colleagues’ level of competence or to individuals’ attributes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.
c)Social workers should cooperate with social work colleagues and with colleagues of other professions when such cooperation serves the well-being of clients.

The value of respect is not limited to social work month. Respect is an all-encompassing and foundational theme woven throughout the NASW Code of Ethics, starting from the core value of Dignity and Worth of the Person and the related ethical principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.

In the standards that follow the Code expressly charges social workers to embody the value of respect when interacting with clients, colleagues, and in practice settings.

We know that it is difficult to garner respect if we don’t first have it for ourselves. This month’s focus on standard 2.01, Respect, is a challenge to examine the way we as social workers treat each other. From time to time we all can benefit from a gentle reminder to treat each other respectfully, for example by avoiding unwarranted negative criticism of our colleagues and cooperating with colleagues to advance the well-being of clients.

During the Office of Professional Review’s weekly consultations, we receive calls from members facing a myriad of ethical dilemmas. It is often the case that some of the gray areas associated with ethical decision making can be decoded with more attention to the value of respect. Whether the dilemma is related to transitioning from an employer to private practice, or addressing unethical conduct of colleagues, having respectful and courageous conversations with colleagues as a starting point can often pave the way for ethical decisions.

As Social Work Month comes to a close, let us continue the celebration of all we are by committing to intentionally lifting up our colleagues and profession throughout the year by seizing every opportunity we can to respect the profession, our colleagues, and ourselves.

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