The field of career and employment has its fair share of ethical dilemmas and a skilled CDP navigates them regularly with guidance from the Canadian Code of Ethics and by using the 5-step Ethical Decision-Making Model.

Download Alyson Judd’s (Horizon TNL) helpful Ethical Decision-making Model visuals. She created them following the June 2022 Yakety Yak Community of Practice and generously offers them as a reminder of the decision-making process.

Ethical Decision-Making Model

This is a model of ethical decision-making to complement the Code of Ethics developed for the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development. This model is offered to assist career development practitioners with a process to follow and with cues, such as emotional reactions, which may assist in making better ethical decisions and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Steps in Ethical Decision-Making

1. Recognize that an ethical dilemma exists.

An emotional response by a career development practitioner is often a cue to the need to make an ethical decision, such as feeling uneasy about a situation, questioning one’s self or the actions of a client, or feeling blocked or uncomfortable in a situation with a client or colleague.

2. Identify the relevant ethical issues, all of the parties involved, and the corresponding pertinent ethical principles from the Code of Ethics.

The career development practitioner can check his/her feelings of discomfort and what these may tell about the situation. The feelings of the client or a third party involved in the dilemma could also be explored.

In some situations following one of the Codes of Ethics will offer enough guidance to resolve the situation. In situations where more than one Code is relevant or there is more than one course of action, the career development practitioner will need to proceed further with this model.

3. Examine the risks and benefits of each alternative action.

The examination should include short-term, ongoing and long-term consequences for each person involved, including the Practitioner, when more than one Code of Ethics is relevant or alternative courses of action seem to be suggested by the Code of Ethics. In such situations gathering additional information and consulting with a trusted colleague is highly recommended.

The career development practitioner can check his/her own emotional reactions to each solution and those of others involved in the decision. The career development practitioner also needs to determine if he/she has allowed enough time for contemplation of the situation. Projecting the various solutions into the future and envisioning the possible scenarios as each decision is enacted can be helpful.

4. Choose a solution, take action and evaluate the results.

The career development practitioner needs to act with commitment to one of the solutions, checking that the solution continues to feel the best that can be done in the situation, for all involved. The practitioner will need to assume responsibility for the consequences of the decision and be willing to correct for any negative consequences that might occur as a result of the action taken. This means determining that the outcome feels right and re-engaging in the decision-making process if the ethical dilemma remains unresolved.

5. Learn from the situation.

The career development practitioner will examine each ethical situation to consider the factors that were involved in the development of the dilemma and to see if any future preventative measures could be taken. Examining what he/she has learned from the situation and how the experience might affect future practice are also important activities for the career development practitioner.


Canadian Code of Ethics