Ethics in Private and Public Relationships

Ethics in Private and Public Relationships

This article deals with topic titled ‘Ethics in Private and Public Relationships  .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here

1 . Ethics in Public Relationships

  • It refers to the ethics that a person may adhere to in respect of their interactions and business dealings in their professional life.
  • Main principles
    1. Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
    2. Integrity : Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations
    3. Objectivity : In carrying out public business, holders of public office should make choices on merit
    4. Accountability – for your actions taken in respect of your position in public service
    5. Openness : Holders of public office should be as open as possible
    6. Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties
    7. Loyalty to the Organisation
    8. Spirit of service
    9. Fairness & Justice 

  • Public life has to be in the ethical framework . When somebody enters into public life whether as MLA or MP ie by election system or as Civil Servant ie Selection System then he cant say that he will go by normal way. There has to be some special ethics for such persons . Hence, ethical framework has been prepared for the people in public life . They are supposed to be strictly guided by that ethical framework.

But in previous years , moral erosion of public servants is seen. Reasons for moral erosion are

  1. Lack of accountability and responsibility. If anything goes well , there is no dearth of people to claim that they are the people behind that but if anything goes wrong, nobody is ready to take responsibility.
  2. Sacrificing ethics, values , integrity and spiritualism – These things are sacrificed in comparison to the materialism & wordly success
  3. Social Acceptance -society as a whole has started to accept the people who are corrupt . So social pressure to  wrong attitudes and behavior is gone.
  4. Failure on the part of family, schools, society and institutions wrt inculcating values
  5. Mega Administration, slow methodology and delay in decision making – There is growth of each department and institutions both vertically and horizontally. This has created confusion in hierarchy leading to delay in decision making.
  6. Soft Society, tolerant public opinion and politico-business-bureaucracy nexus – Public don’t resent & tolerate the wrong doings. This give decision makers more liberty against not doing such crimes in future.

What can be done to correct this

  • Increase transparency : Effective laws which require civil servants to give reasons for their official decisions
  • Whistle-blower’s Protection Law to protect appropriate ‘public interest disclosures’ of wrong-doing by officials
  • Ethics audits to identify risks to the integrity of the most important processes
  • Effective external and internal complaint and redress procedures.
  • Violation and breaches of Code of Ethics should invite sanction and punishment under the disciplinary rules.
  • Computerization and digitization : remove the middle layers in which people have to depend on bureaucrats for work
  • Setting CCTV – create fear that they are being watched
  • Promote self certification

2. Ethics in Private Relationship

  • Ethical and moral values adopted by person during his personal dealings , is known as Ethics in Private Relationships
  • Freedom of Will forms the basic foundation of Private Ethics. It means freedom to act or not to act . Eg : One should speak Truth but you are at full freedom to speak lie as well.
  • Private Relationships are
    • One to One and based on emotions
    • Informal in nature 
    • Internal control instead of external control (law, rules etc)
  • Ethicality of Action in Private life can be checked only if 
    • There must be some human knowledge of the consequences of that action
    • Action should be done voluntarily ie no compulsion     
    • There should be presence of different choices

Although ethics in private life varies from person to person but there are some common underlying principles that are accepted by the society. For example – 

  • Law of Integrity : Person shouldn’t lie and keep his promises
  • Law of Improvement : If mistake has been committed, person should try to improve that
  • Gratitude : If other person has helped him, person should keep that in mind
  • Helping  others
  • Justice
  • Self Improvement
  • Don’t damage others
  • Loyalty – loyalty to one’s partner and to the family members
  • Love – loving all even with their imperfections

Relation between Private Ethics & Public Ethics

  • No sharp line can be drawn where private life starts and where public life ends for a Civil Servant . Very philosophy of Civil Service says that when a person becomes Civil Servant, he loses his individuality and becomes part of larger order. He defines society and society defines him. 
  • Distinction between private and public ethics is a dubious one because both in public and private lives person lives by same ethical values in general.  The way a civil servant treats women in his family is reflected in how he handles female co-workers or whether policies implemented by him have a gen der bias or not
  • There should be  no conflict between personal and professional ethics as it may lead to frustration, guilt , confusion & dissonance in the mind of some persons
  • Ethics in public life places a greater responsibility & person cannot always follow his personal ethics. For example personally you may feel abortion is morally wrong, but if you are a doctor, you need to do abortion according to your professional ethics. When performing a role in public, we need to separate our personal lives and follow professional code of conduct strictly
  • His private life can act as motivating factor but many a times can be depressing factor too. Environment from which he comes to office everyday certainly have influence on his behavior rest of day.
  • Can present him Conflict of Interest Situation – Whether to further Family Interests by compromising public intersts
  • His personal affiliations , ideology of his family and his personal convictions can stop him from taking rational decisions

How to ensure that both lives remain separate

  • Take decisions rationally and objectively based on facts and merits only
  • Go by code of conduct always when faced with dilemmas
  • Be impartial always and ensure that your actions arent only impartial but looks to be impartial too
  • When with family, spend quality time with them and don’t bring your office between you and them. Make them feel that you are  not ignoring them so that they are helpful when you really are in important public concerns and not bother you.

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