Moral injury is a term used to describe the psychological harm that occurs when individuals are exposed to situations that violate their deeply held values or ethical principles. While this term was originally used in the context of war, it has more recently been applied to other areas, including the workplace. Moral injury in the workplace can be defined as the harm that results when employees are required to engage in activities or behaviors that conflict with their sense of right and wrong.
Examples of situations that can lead to moral injury in the workplace include being asked to lie to customers, being required to engage in activities that harm the environment, or being pressured to compromise safety in order to meet production targets. In all of these cases, employees may feel that they are being asked to act in ways that violate their principles. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and regret.
One of the most insidious aspects of moral injury in the workplace is that it can be difficult for employees to recognize and articulate what is happening to them. They may feel that they are alone in their struggles, or that they are somehow responsible for the harm that is done. This can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness, and potentially develop into larger mental health concerns.
What can we do?
It’s important for organizations to recognize the potential for moral injury in the workplace and to take steps to prevent it from occurring. This can involve creating a culture of transparency and accountability, where employees feel safe to speak up about ethical concerns and are supported in doing so. It can also involve providing training and resources to help employees navigate difficult ethical situations and make decisions that align with their personal values and principles.
Another key strategy for addressing moral injury in the workplace is to provide opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful work that aligns with their personal values and sense of purpose.
Ultimately, addressing moral injury in the workplace requires a commitment to creating a culture of ethics and accountability, where employees feel supported in speaking up about ethical concerns and are empowered to make decisions that align with their personal values and principles. By doing so, organizations can create a workplace that is not only more ethical, but also more fulfilling and rewarding for their employees.