Why is it hard to determine if power in the workplace has been used ethically?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with all ethical dilemmas, there is no absolute benchmark or metric to determine if workplace power has been used ethically.  Ethical determinations reside in using different criteria and judging the action from said metric.  Competing notions of the good make any ethical analysis difficult.  This is certainly the case in the utilization of power in the workplace.  I think that one of the strongest examples of whether or not the use of power in the workplace is ethical has to be the current Chicago Teachers' Strike (2012).  There are some ethical issues at play in both sides' demonstration of power.  The first would be whether or not it is ethical for teachers to go on strike.  As with so many public service employees like health care workers, police officers, and firefighters, the challenge between public service and workers' rights and power becomes a very challenging ethical proposition.  At the same time, another ethical issue related to power use is whether or not the board of education in Chicago should be demanding that test scores are used to assess teacher's performance.  It is an ethical issue because there are so many elements that determine a child's performance on a standardized test that it becomes too daring to place it all on the child's teacher.  In these, one can see where ethical issues regarding the use of power is evident and how these can be assessed on different levels in the ongoing Chicago teachers' strike.

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