Ethics and Public Administration

Ethics refers to moral principles that guide and control the behavioral types of an individual. It is based on moral guidelines that helps one understand what can be quantified as right or wrong to the “self” and surrounding people. It is necessary to mention that ethics is a relative variable that is best understood in the context of society. It comprises principles that define how one behaves despite the environment or the prevailing pressure that may influence them to adopt other types of behavior. It is this aspect of ethics that makes it a good variable in public administration, where there is a need to ensure that any action reflects the interest of the public. Nowadays corruption is a common unethical practice in public administration, and many public officers are given bribes to influence policies in a manner that serves the interests of a few at the expense of the majority. Besides, public administrators also engage in misappropriation of public funds, particularly in the form of overquoting supplies or projects spending managed by the public administrators. In respect to these occurrences, the improvement on the level of ethics in public administration has now become a crucial undertaking to ensure that all public administrators remain ethical in all aspects in their line of duty. However, despite existence of many potential ways of improving the level of ethics in the public sector, all of them have both strengths and weaknesses. Hence, there is a need to ensure that due diligence is applied while choosing the most appropriate strategy for improving the level of ethics.


There are many ways which public administration can exploit when empowering the parties involved on the importance of upholding ethics in their undertakings. However, there is a need to appreciate that every organization is different, and therefore, it is necessary to perform an analysis to ensure the right approach is identified before any action is taken. Public administration entails balancing between meeting the demands and developing a set of strategies that reflect the needs of the public. There is, therefore, a need to ensure that the work of public administration is realigned in a manner that meets the current demands while maintaining an action approach that does not disadvantage the population. So what are the most feasible strategies that can improve the level of ethics in public administration?

Recruitment with Close Scrutiny

Recruitment process empowers any organization toavail the workforce with the needed traits. Recruitment with close scrutiny can be used to ensure that the people employed in public administration appreciate the importance of upholding ethical principles. Ethical employees is a tremendous asset to any sector, and thus utilization of proper recruitment strategies can ensure that public administration is performed by employees who understand, appreciate and uphold ethics as an integral part of their day to day performance. Therefore, recruitment enables the public administration sector to filter employees they hire through a specialized recruitment process, which will ensure that they can rely on the workforce when it comes to ethics.


The use of recruitment as a strategy of improving ethics in the public sector provides a platform for controlling people who serve the sector. This strategy allows the sector to establish who is eligible to serve in the sector, thus ensuring that only people with the desired ethical consideration are appointed to service in public administration. Moreover, this strategy makes it possible to control the nature of ethics required within the sector by the use of selective recruitment, whereby only people who reach the predetermined ethical threshold can be employed in public administration. Furthermore, the recruitment strategy promotes fundamental ethical principles in the sector through recruitment of people who already have a high level of threshold in the matters of ethics.


Apart from ensuring that candidates possess the required ethical characteristics, the recruitment process needs to be specialized in capturing the required ideals in the candidates. This specialized approach is related to extra cost in the recruitment process, making it infeasible in the public sector that has scarce resources. Besides, this approach may not be effective since the presentation made by candidates to the recruiting panel may not reflect their actual personality but be a part of the candidates’ strategy aimed at improving their chances of being employed. Moreover, this recruitment strategy might not be effective in improving the level of ethics due to that ethical performance is highly influenced by the environment one is working in. Thus, recruits might find themselves falling into the trap of being unethical due to unprecedented pressures within the sector.


Leadership highly influences the operational culture in any organization. Similarly, leadership can influence the level of ethics in public administration. It can set an example in the duties of public administrators, enhancing a clear and precise ethical consideration in any action or decision taken by the leaders. This strategy demands leaders to be pacesetters, thus encouraging the employees to adopt a high-level ethics. This theory is based on the transformational leadership theory, which outlines that a leader can motivate junior employees to adopt a certain behavior or level of performance. In this context, strong leadership can motivate employees in public administration to improve their level of ethics in their line of duty.


This strategy is highly successful since there is a direct interest of the leadership, which develops in-house strategies to ensure total adoption of the desired behavior. Moreover, due to a close follow-up by the leadership, the employees are keen to learn the new ways of conduct both as a means of attaining the desired organizational behavior and following the leadership’s demands. Besides, this strategy makes use of motivation tactics as a means of encouraging the employees to adopt new ways, which guarantees support of many employees. Furthermore, the leadership strategy employs a concurrent audit that sheds light on the needed realignments, which helps the leadership to improve areas identified as lacking compliance with the code of ethics. The concurrent audit also enables the leadership to provide the needed realignments on time, thus minimizing occurrence of unethical practices in public administration.


Matters of ethics need to be personal and not be forced by external parties. Therefore, the use of leadership’s influence as a means of improving the level of ethics may not produce the result of sustained ethical behavior. Besides, the use of motivation as envisaged under the transformational leadership to influence the adoption of the desired behavior may produce the seasonality effect, whereby employees may adopt the demanded change as long as the motivational strategy is relevant to them. This aspect jeopardizes sustained improvement of ethics in the public sector. Besides, for one to be termed ethical, there is a need for a sufficient level of autonomy when individual integrity comes into play to demonstrate the element of ethics. However, the leadership strategy highly jeopardizes this autonomy due to close follow-up by the leadership. As a result, most of the time, junior workers will remain ethical as long as the leaders are present. Therefore, in the leadership’s absence, ethical behavior might not be fully guaranteed to be upheld by all the employees.


Empowered people are better assets in any undertaking for any organization. The empowerment strategy aims to sensitize public administration officers on the importance of upholding ethics. Training is the primary tool used in this strategy, which demands all officers to undergo an evidence-based training where the desired ethics is instilled in employees. The primary intention is to ensure that the targeted population understands the potential positive impact that adoption of the new behavior can have both on them and the public they serve. Moreover, employees who undergo the ethics empowerment training are better placed in adopting and upholding new norms.


This strategy helps cultivate the culture of self-drive on the matters of ethics. It also provides the grounds for embedding the needed changes in one’s character for a longer time since the behavioral changes results from receiving a thorough training. While this strategy is intended to empower people to make the needed changes and thus improve their ethical conduct, it also allows the concerned organization to improve the level of ethics from personal levels. Besides, it is easier to provide personalized help to administrators through feedback on their performance provided in the form of training evaluation. As a result, all the targeted people are ethically qualified to serve in public administration. Furthermore, the strategy allows the concerned party to improve the level of ethics in a sustainable manner by assuming a shared responsibility in safeguarding ethics.


One of the disadvantages of this strategy is that it is expensive since it entails training all targeted population, in this case the personnel of public administration. In particular, considerable costs are associated with the form of training, which is based on retrospective audit that sheds light on the weak links in the line of upholding ethics. This, in turn, creates a demand for a specialized form of training that appreciates different capacities present in the organization of concern, making the training process longer and thus expensive. Moreover, the success of this strategy depends heavily on the support of employees in upholding the values learned in training. Thus, after the training, it depends solely on administrators whether they live up to the training demands when it comes to upholding ethics in their line of duty. Therefore, if the approach does not attract the necessary support, the concerned organization might incur unnecessary expenses in the form of training costs, which ultimately leads to no positive gains in improving its level of ethics.

Best Strategy

The best strategy for improving the level of ethics is the one that has both the element of self-sustenance and teamwork. In this respect, empowerment strategy presents the best platform under which ethics can be improved and sustained in public administration. Thus, the empowerment process will ensure that everyone is incorporated in the improvement by being subjected to same training. Moreover, this strategy is centered on creating self-driven ethics traits, bringing about a sustained improvement since the members of public administration will be actively and collectively involved in the ethics improvement. The self-driven aspect in ethics is crucial, and in the empowerment approach, self-drive is brought about by the sensitization process on the importance of upholding ethics as a means of meeting both individual improvement and service to the public. Through the empowerment training on ethics, all public administrators undergo a training session that is aimed to meet individual ethics gaps. Therefore, this approach ensures that no one is left behind in improving their level of ethics while working in public administration. Apart from that, the empowerment strategy sensitizes the target population on collective responsibility as a means of upholding ethics, thus making them inclined to becoming pacesetters within the organization of concern, namely the public administration sector in this case. Thus, the improvement initiative has clear positive benefits to both the individual and the public they serve, which makes it the best strategy for improving ethical behavior in public administration.


It is clear that ethics is a crucial variable in public administration needed to ensure that all its undertakings possess a sense of integrity and inclusiveness. Moreover, in public administration, ethics ensures that actions and decisions are made in line with the interests of the majority of people rather than safeguard the interests of a few. It is also apparent that ethics in public administration can be improved through different strategies, all of which have both strengths and weaknesses. However, the empowerment strategy presents the best approach to improving ethics in public administration due to educating people on the why, how, and when to uphold ethics. Moreover, the empowerment strategy develops a self-driven approach to upholding ethics, thus helping create and sustain an ethical culture in public administration. All in all, any strategy employed to improve the level of ethics in public administration possesses some strength and weakness, which suggests the need to apply due diligence in ensuring that the right strategy is utilized so as to attract more support and ensure a sustained change in ethical conduct.

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