Milakovich and Gordon – Chapter 5 – Pages 215-236
The evaluation of decisions based on ethical behavior has a long history in the United States. Yet, there are a multitude of dimensions of what constitutes ethical behavior.
Review the American Society of Public Administration’s Code of Ethics
The public sector has a standard that set high expectations. You need certain attitudes and moral qualities to behave ethically on the public service. 1.) Awareness of moral ambiguity in decision making. 2.) Appreciation of contextual forces at play in decision making. 3.) Understanding of the need for orderly and rational procedures balanced against an understanding that the procedures can sometimes be an impediment to responsiveness and public accountability. You need the moral qualities of optimism (and willingness to take risk), courage (make unpopular decisions and avoid favors), and charity (placing principles above personal needs).
There are both internal (personal) checks and external (legal-institutional) checks on ethical behavior. Which one is most effective is up for debate. Both types are probably needed. The public trust add a dimension to what individuals do in matters related to governmental decisions. “The public trust imposes obligations on public officials over and above those arising from private moral codes.”
Political corruption is commonplace in government and differs to some extent by state and locality. “Deals are made quietly, contracts awarded, jobs created, votes bartered for (and occasionally stolen), offices bandied about, power exerted, contributors rewarded, and so on, all on the basis of various forms of favoritism.” Corruption is inherently undemocratic.
A major challenge for public administration is the defining, establishing, and maintaining of a high level of ethical behavior among government/nonprofit employees. Given the cynicism of government, ethical behavior is more important than ever. It is important to train employees with codes of conduct and monitor the performance of the organization towards ethical behavior. Professional conduct, personal honesty, and concern for serving the public and respecting the law and democratic principles are at the center of codes of ethics. Personal gain is prohibited when performing one’s duties.
Review of the International City/County Management Association Code of Ethics and Guidelines.
Some organizations have their own Code of Ethics. Many organizations have requirements for disclosure of personal financial dealings. The disclosure of outside employment and payments is also common. In house ethics training has become common. But the most effective is “moral leadership” throughout the management of the organization.
Thompson’s “The Possibility of Administrative Ethics”.
Dennis Thompson writes a good article on whether administrative ethics is possible in an organization. He defines administrative ethics as involving “the application of moral principles to the conduct of officials in organizations.” It is an element of political ethics.
The potential for administrative ethics is challenged by those who believe you can have moral ethics in private life but not in organizational life. The challenge comes for the ethics of neutrality and the ethics of structure.
Ethics of neutrality asserts that administrators have to act neutrally and follow the decisions and policies of the organization rather than their own moral values. The ethics of structure assets that the organization is held accountable for the decisions and policies rather than the administrators in the organization.