Maintaining Responsible Conduct in Public Organizations: Two Approaches
One is supposed to think as a designer in order to manage the ethics of an organization’s structure and culture, meaning that one should look systematically and carefully at the givens of a particular organization and comprehending its ultimate constraints, which may be entrenched in history or mission or law. For the public officers to respond to the wishes of a democratic citizenry, they must be guided by established policies in their general conduct in serving the public interest that reinforce and enforce approved public service values.
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The Situational Context
It is advisable to reflect on the situations or settings in which ethical dilemmas arise before setting out to design definite mechanism to be used by an organization trying to encourage ethical behavior. The physical, cultural, and social environments of an agency or set of agencies have considerable impacts on ethical decision-making.
Internal and External Controls
External controls and internal controls are the two general approaches responsible for maintaining conduct within public organizations. External control tries to compel on the conduct of an individual public servant constraints originating from outside themselves.
a) “Much Ado About Something” and External Controls
Proponents of external controls tend to consider about changing the organization and the laws or the regulations that controls its operation rather than trying changing the subjective states of people within the organization. Responsible conduct is looked for by establishing sanctions, standards, boundaries, requirements, and limits instead of sensitizing, education and persuasion. Typical forms of external controls include codes of ethics and ethics legislation.
b) Ethics Legislation
The establishment of ethics legislation boundary of conduct has probably contributed to the improvement of public service.
c) Codes of Ethics
The establishment of codes of ethics boundary of conduct has probably contributed to the improvement of public service.
d) Pros and Cons of Ethics Legislation
- Ethics legislation provides broad constraints within which the ethical conflicts and dilemmas that public administrators face are to be solved.
- Ethics law also provides sanctions for public servants caught stepping beyond the limits established by the citizenry.
- Ethics laws also provide a means for setting cautionary examples
- Ethics laws are seriously lacking in specific reference to particular situations; they address general conditions.
- Ethics legislation has generally been difficult to enforce
- A serious attempt to enforce ethics legislation may erode the morale of government employees.
e) Pros and cons of codes of ethics
- Codes of ethics design obligations, norms, and ideals for specific professional groups.
- Codes can be customized in a better way to fit the settings of a profession.
- A code of ethics may establish a mechanism for internalizing and clarifying the values of a specific professional group.
- Codes of ethics are generally loft, abstract, and vague that they are impossible to employ in certain situations where ethical guidance is required.
- In many instances, there are no means of gaining compliance provided to the code of a professional group.
- All the same, codes of ethics may be meaningless even if they are used and enforcement mechanisms employed.
- Code of ethics can suppress the power of making decision unconstrained by external forces thereby inhibiting the administrator’s ability to carry out his or her duties.
f) Internal Controls
Cultivating a set of internal controls provides a sense of self-confidence in exercising judgments, a feeling of structured autonomy in dealing with unanticipated circumstances.
The chapter has discussed external and internal controls and their roles in ethical decision making.
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