You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'administrative ethics'.
Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 entries.

Ethical Autonomy

  • Posted on March 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

It’s spring break from my classes, so I wanted to use this time to share a few of the things I’ve learned in my ethics class last week. In administrative ethics, the dual focus is organizational ethics and individual ethics. Ethical autonomy is where this dual focus collides.

Apparently, there are a variety of theories that try to explain how organizations erode the individual ethic of their members. We see the results of this erosion in our government sectors, our business sectors, our nonprofit sectors, and even in our advocacy groups. I find the theories, as I understand them, of Alberto Guerreiro Ramos most compelling, because of all the theories covered in Terry L. Cooper’s The Responsible Administrator it is the only one that seems to see this tendency in the larger culture, instead of restricting it to within the organizational environment.

Essentially, human beings become compartmentalized in order to fit into society by placing themselves in one of society’s defining boxes. In order to combat this tendency, we need to emphasize our whole personhood and hold onto that, which will allow us to make individual ethical judgments, even when they go against the assertions of the organization(s) we participate in. In more loaded words, we have to remember that we are individual people—whole people—in order to keep ourselves from unwittingly selling our souls to the organizations we choose to work for/with.

Last week’s studies made me think of some of my previous employment experiences and the effort trainers and managers made to bring me into the fold. Cooper, citing Milgram (1974), describes this process as the agentic shift, which involves diminishing one’s conscience in order to conform to an organization’s hierarchal structure. I realized, quite readily, that I was never any good at this. I may “buy in” to an organization’s message, but as soon as it involves compromising my own ethical standards I disengage, reexamine, and reassert my sense of self.

I don’t know how extensive this is, but I’ve found a similar tendency among many people on the autism spectrum, and it’s one of the autistic “traits” I tend to admire most. Perhaps part of the social “deficiencies” associated with autism is an inability or an unwillingness to submit oneself to a collective conscience or ethic. Being neither a psychologist nor a sociologist, I wouldn’t know how to test this theory and I’m not even sure I would know what to look for to see if someone else had already done so. What I do know, however, is that, from my point of view, if this is true of all or part of people on the spectrum, then I must say it’s a good thing and may even be an adaptive measure to correct some of the corruption rampant in our societies.

I am conscious of my individual responsibility: It doesn’t matter who tells me to do something, if I think it’s wrong and I were to do it, then I know I would be responsible for having done it. So, I don’t do it. Apparently, this consciousness is unusual. Ethics researchers are actually investing resources in discovering how to make people conscious of their own culpability. They talk about building an ethic of awareness, which means that people need to be aware of ethical situations in order to choose ethical action. They also talk about limiting organizational loyalty, meaning they’re looking into ways to prevent people from submitting themselves completely to their organization(s).

These are things I do naturally. I haven’t always had the courage to stand up for what I knew was right, nor have I always known how to go about it, but I’ve always felt it. What does it mean for our societies that ethical autonomy is abnormal? I think the answer goes far to explain the rampant corruption in our politics, our governance, our businesses, and our culture. Perhaps the real question is this: Why, in such a society, would anyone want to be normal?

Nothing About Us Without Us: A Presentation

  • Posted on March 17, 2014 at 9:39 AM

No Title

  • Posted on January 31, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As I start my second semester of public administration studies, I embark on a study of administrative ethics. Ethics has always been of great interest to me, because I feel it is very important, even essential, to do what is right as much as possible. If I am to increase the opportunities for me to do what is right, then I have to better understand what the right thing to do is. Ethics helps in that goal by helping me construct a framework to use when making decisions.

In my recent reading, I learned something new, something rather unexpected, and I’d like to share it with you. The text I’m reading now is The Responsible Administrator by Terry L. Cooper. According to Cooper, responsibility is a relatively new term coined after the American and French revolutions in response to the need of a new way to define “a common set of values among people of divergent cultures and traditions.”

Apparently, the change of political and governing structures did so much damage to our ideas of roles, structures, and obligations that we had to create a new framework for understanding and expressing our expectations for ethical behavior. Responsibility asserts obligations on individuals in order to describe and attribute obligations for achieving what is right.

In this sense, the idea of responsibility is evolving and adaptable as we learn more and more about what the consequences of behaviors and values can be, thereby bringing us—as a society and as individuals—closer to what is right.

Cooper asks, “What does it mean to be a responsible parent in the first decade of the twenty-first century? Or a responsible spouse, responsible citizen, responsible politician, or responsible public administrator?”

As a partial answer to this question, Cooper proposes, “Responsible administrators must be ethically sophisticated enough to reason with others about the ways in which their conduct serves the public interest and have sufficient clarity about their own professional ethical commitments to maintain integrity and a sense of self-esteem.”

Remembering that I am studying public administration with the intention of learning what I need to know to found my own nonprofit organization, which will serve people with neurological differences, I cannot help but apply these questions and this answer to my own areas of interest.

What does it mean to be a responsible parent of a child with autism? What does it mean to be a responsible citizen in a society with people with neurological differences? What does it mean to be a responsible founder of an organization intending to serve the needs and interests of people with neurological differences?

It is not enough to simply do what you believe is right. You need to be able to explain, articulate, and justify why it is right, because then you can apply the ethical standard more generally. For example, a responsible parent of a child with autism will not pursue treatments that endanger the life of their child, because the life of their child is more important than the outcome of the treatment. Projecting this value further, a responsible parent of a child with autism will not kill their child because the child’s autism is incurable, because the life of their child is more important than whether or not the child is autistic. By understanding and articulating our reasons and our justifications, we clarify our ethical standards and reveal lapses in ethical judgment.