2. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues
NASW Code of Ethics: Ethical Standards
(a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should
represent accurately and fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations
(b) Social workers should avoid unwarranted negative criticism of
colleagues in verbal, written, and electronic 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 ability.
(c) Social workers should cooperate with social work colleagues and
with colleagues of other professions when such cooperation serves the
well-being of clients.
Social workers should respect confidential information shared by
colleagues in the course of their professional relationships and
transactions. Social workers should ensure that such colleagues
understand social workers’ obligation to respect confidentiality and
any exceptions related to it.
2.03 Interdisciplinary Collaboration
(a) Social workers who are members of an interdisciplinary team should
participate in and contribute to decisions that affect the well-being of
clients by drawing on the perspectives, values, and experiences of the
social work profession. Professional and ethical obligations of the
interdisciplinary team as a whole and of its individual members should
be clearly established.
(b) Social workers for whom a team decision raises ethical concerns
should attempt to resolve the disagreement through appropriate channels.
If the disagreement cannot be resolved, social workers should pursue
other avenues to address their concerns consistent with client well-being.
2.04 Disputes Involving Colleagues
(a) Social workers should not take advantage of a dispute between a
colleague and an employer to obtain a position or otherwise advance
the social workers’ own interests.
(b) Social workers should not exploit clients in disputes with colleagues
or engage clients in any inappropriate discussion of conflicts between
social workers and their colleagues.
(a) Social workers should seek the advice and counsel of colleagues
whenever such consultation is in the best interests of clients.
(b) Social workers should keep themselves informed about colleagues’
areas of expertise and competencies. Social workers should seek
consultation only from colleagues who have demonstrated knowledge,
expertise, and competence related to the subject of the consultation.
(c) When consulting with colleagues about clients, social workers should
disclose the least amount of information necessary to achieve the purposes
of the consultation.
2.06 Sexual Relationships
(a) Social workers who function as supervisors or educators should not
engage in sexual activities or contact (including verbal, written,
electronic, or physical contact) with supervisees, students, trainees, or
other colleagues over whom they exercise professional authority.
(b) Social workers should avoid engaging in sexual relationships with
colleagues when there is potential for a conflict of interest. Social
workers who become involved in, or anticipate becoming involved in, a
sexual relationship with a colleague have a duty to transfer professional
responsibilities, when necessary, to avoid a conflict of interest.
2.07 Sexual Harassment
Social workers should not sexually harass supervisees, students, trainees,
or colleagues. Sexual harassment includes sexual advances; sexual
solicitation; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal, written,
electronic, or physical contact of a sexual nature.
2.08 Impairment of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague’s
impairment that is due to personal problems, psychosocial distress,
substance abuse, or mental health difficulties and that interferes with
practice effectiveness should consult with that colleague when feasible
and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague’s impairment
interferes with practice effectiveness and that the colleague has not taken
adequate steps to address the impairment should take action through
appropriate channels established by employers, agencies, NASW,
licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.
2.09 Incompetence of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work
colleague’s incompetence should consult with that colleague when
feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague is incompetent
and has not taken adequate steps to address the incompetence should
take action through appropriate channels established by employers,
agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional
2.10 Unethical Conduct of Colleagues
(a) Social workers should take adequate measures to discourage, prevent,
expose, and correct the unethical conduct of colleagues, including
unethical conduct using technology.
(b) Social workers should be knowledgeable about established policies
and procedures for handling concerns about colleagues’ unethical
behavior. Social workers should be familiar with national, state, and
local procedures for handling ethics complaints. These include policies
and procedures created by NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies,
employers, agencies, and other professional organizations.
(c) Social workers who believe that a colleague has acted unethically
should seek resolution by discussing their concerns with the colleague
when feasible and when such discussion is likely to be productive.
(d) When necessary, social workers who believe that a colleague has acted
unethically should take action through appropriate formal channels (such
as contacting a state licensing board or regulatory body, the NASW
National Ethics Committee, or other professional ethics committees).
(e) Social workers should defend and assist colleagues who are unjustly
charged with unethical conduct.