Ethical Concerns and Dilemmas in Government and Private Institutions

Ethical Concerns and Dilemmas in Government and Private Institutions

This article deals with topic titled ‘Ethical Concerns and Dilemmas in Government and Private Institutions .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here

Ethical Principles that should be followed in Public Office

  1. Legality and Rationality : 
    • Function within the limits set by the laws
    • Decisions should be based on rationality rather than personal beliefs.
  2. Responsibility and Accountability :
  3.  Work Commitment: 
    • An administrator should be committed to his duties 
  4. Fusion: 
    • fusion of individual, organisational and social goals 
  5. Utilitarianism: 
    • While making policies and decisions, an administrator should ensure  greatest good (happiness, benefits) of the greatest number.
  6. Responsiveness :
    • Respond effectively to demands & challenges from outside as well as, from within organisation.
  7. Compassion to weaker & vulnerable sections
  8. National Interest
  9. Maintain Transparency
  10. Ensure Integrity

Ethical Concerns in Public Institutions

1 . Administrative Discretion

  • Within the rules and regulations laid down by legislation and within the prescribed procedures, there is ample opportunity for the public official to use his discretion.
  • Problem is that the selection of one path of action from among several alternatives is often made on the basis of personal preference, political or other affiliations, or even personal aggrandizement

2. Corruption

  • Self explanatory

3. Administrative Secrecy

  • Secrecy can provide an opportunity to cover up unethical conduct and  promote corruption 

4. Nepotism

  • Appointment of relations and/ or friends to public positions, thereby ignoring the merit principle   

5. Information Leaks

  • Leaking official information at a date prior to the public announcement 
  • Disclosure of the information can lead to chaos, corrupt practices or improper monetary gains.

6. Other Concerns

  • Abuse of sick leave privileges
  • Extended tea breaks
  • Violation of office rules in general.

There are many reasons that Public Servants aren’t Ethical

Historical Context Colonial Legacy => Independent India inherited the same Bureaucratic Structure  
Social Context Society has accepted Corruption and doesn’t view it negatively. It is not a social taboo anymore  
Legal-Judicial Context Wrt Public Services, Laws made during the time of British are still used. They had nothing in them to guide Civil Servants wrt Ethical Concerns. Eg : Indian Police Act, 1861.  
Political Context Criminalisation of Politics <==> Unethical Public Servants are their allies  
Organisational Aspect massive expansionof Bureaucracy => Political executive cant control it  
Excessive Security Excessive security which has been provided in Acts like PoCA and Article 311 of Constitution etc  is misused by corrupt and unethical civil servants

Ethical Concerns in Private Sector Institutions

Ethics in private institutions refer to the ethical principles which should govern business activities. 

1 . Ethical Concerns wrt employees

  • Working for multiple organizations. An employee cannot work in more than one place simultaneously 
  • Failing to maintain the privacy policy of the company :   Do not  give company’s data  to another company/competitor.
  • Offensive communications : Employees are not allowed to use offensive language in the office. 
  • Improper usage of machineries for personal uses 
  • Taking advantage of the travel benefit. 
  • Taking excessive leaves beyond the allowed number

2. Ethical Concerns wrt Employers

  • Favouritism: Employer shouldn’t  favour a particular person with regard to promotions and bonuses 
  • Sexual harassment
  • Terminating an employee without any notice
  • Unnecessary delay in paying employee’s provident fund and gratuity 

3. Taking Credit for Others’ Work

  • Employees often work in teams to create marketing campaigns, develop new products or fine-tune services; yet rarely does everyone in a group contribute equally to the final product. If all employees accept equal praise even though only a select few did the real work, it is wrong .  Team members should insist that all employees perform specific tasks to help complete a project.

4. Harassing Behavior

  • Employees often don’t know what to do if they see one of their co-workers harassing another employee either mentally, sexually or physically. Employees may worry for their jobs if they attempt to report a superior for harassment.
  • The best way to resolve this ethical dilemma rests with the staff members who develop the company’s employee handbook. It is their job to include specific language that spells out that an employee won’t be punished for reporting the harassing behaviour or inappropriate actions of their co-workers.

5. Transparency and disclosure

6. Quality of products and services

  • Providing quality below what the organisation is claiming is always considered unethical by the society.

Discipline generally implies following the order and subordination. However, it may be counter-productive for the organisation. Discuss. (UPSC 2017)

  • First mention that discipline is important – Brings efficiency and helps in maintaining ethical behavior within organization
  • But too much emphasis on discipline in form of order and subordination can be counterproductive
    • It kills innovation . Eg companies like Tesla give space and freedom to think beyond ordinary lines and this has made them leaders in innovation
    • It creates an army of sycophants and decision makers of company cant get real picture
    • Indian companies rely too much on discipline and as a result they have become just outsource destination of western companies . We are not able to create Indian Facebook or Google in-spite the fact that Indians are heading many Innovation power houses of world.

Dilemmas in Public and Private Institutions

Ethical dilemmas or moral dilemmas  are situations in which

  • There is a choice to be made between two or more options, neither of which resolves the situation fully
  • There is a mental conflict between moral imperatives, in which to obey one would result in transgressing another.

Reasons for Dilemmas

  • Conflict of interest are the most obvious example that could place public sector leaders in ethical dilemma .
  • Other types of ethical dilemmas include CONFLICT BETWEEN
    • Different Values of Public Administration (Value 1 vs Value 2)
    • Aspects of Code of Conduct
    • Personal values vs government directives
    • Professional Ethics vs Government directive
    • Blurred or Competing accountability 

Types of Ethical Dilemmas

These dilemmas are of three broad categories

1 . Personal Cost Ethical Dilemmas

  • Arises from situations when compliance with Ethical Conduct results in significant personal cost to decision maker
  • These are easy to solve (atleast in case studies) because one option is definitely incorrect although if we go with other option we have to pay personal cost
  • These personal costs include Jeopardising held position, missing opportunity  for material or financial benefit, injuring valued relationship

2. Right vs Right Ethical Dilemmas

  • Arises from situations of two or more conflicting sets of bona fide ethical values
  • Eg : Public Servant’s responsibility of being open and accountable to citizens versus that of adhering to the oath of secrecy / Confidentiality

3. Conjoint Ethical Dilemmas

  •  In this public servant finds himself in situation which is combination of above indicated ethical dilemmas ie problem consist of both Right vs Right & Personal Cost Ethical Dilemma

Note – In solving case study of Ethical Dilemmas , in introduction mention in which category this case study come out of above mentioned Ethical Dilemmas .

Principles to be used in Solving Dilemmas

  • Objective Analysis : To solve the dilemmas, one should always act objectively based on rational thinking & facts and figures.
  • Follow Rule of Law : Act should always be within the rules of law. Hence, if competing choices are such that one is within the ambit of law and other outside law, then one must go with law .
  • Follow Code of Conduct : Always follow Code of Conduct in such cases because main aim of giving exhaustive Code of Conduct are to resolve these situations in best way
  • Society above Personal Interest : In solving these dilemmas , one should place society and nation above personal interests
  • Choose the higher value among competing values : In case dilemma involves competing values, choose the higher value . Eg Openness is higher value from secrecy (unless Security and Integrity of nation is at stake)
  • Use Gandhi’s Talisman
  • Use Conscience : But conscience is not always correct and often leads us in wrong ways.

ACTS OF DOUBLE EFFECT  : Some actions have two effects—good and bad. How does someone decide the morality of such actions? Ethicists provide a few general principles to help decide the morality of acts of double effect. They are:

  1. The action that produces the two effects must be either good or indifferent— that is, not intrinsically wrong.
  2. The good effect must be immediate—that is, not obtained through the evil effect.
  3. The intention or purpose must be good.
  4. There must be a proportionately good reason or cause for performing the action in the first place.

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