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Ethics and Democracy: 5 Ethical Dilemmas That Public Servants Face

A consciousness of moral importance in people who govern themselves

Ethics and Democracy: 5 Ethical Dilemmas That Public Servants Face

A dilemma is a situation where a person is forced to choose between two or more unfavorable or undesirable alternatives. In layman’s terms, it means when you find yourself in a situation where all your choices would lead to unwanted consequences.

Finding yourself in an ethical dilemma is far worse. It’s when you’re forced to make a decision or take an action where neither of your choices will result in a morally satisfactory manner. An example of an ethical dilemma may be that your directives contradict your personal morals and values. All of us have found ourselves having to make difficult choices.

Public servants who try to function professionally with due process within the demands of the law and their duty face many ethical dilemmas. Whistleblowers, for instance, face these problems in cases where their disclosure may be seen as a crime when the ongoing misconduct is severe. Ethical and moral standards are not organized and vary per individual. So there are multiple chances for an ethical dilemma to arise, and disagreements will occur about the appropriate response that should be taken.

  • Administrative Discretion

It’s a fact that a public servant has plenty of opportunities to use his discretion within the rules and regulations laid down by legislature and prescribed policies and protocols. A public official faces an ethical dilemma when facing alternatives where he must use his discretion.

The problem arises when a choice or action is made based on personal preferences, political associations, and personal enhancement, thereby ignoring the facts and the possibility of making a rational choice. In some circumstances, fraudulent choices are made even though the rules and regulations are followed.

  • Secrecy

Another major dilemma in government offices is the secret conduct of business that affects the public. Extreme confidentiality provides many opportunities for cover-ups and unethical behavior. It’s a known fact that secrecy is corruption’s biggest ally. Within a democracy, the people have the right to access the workings of the government. It’s in the public’s interest for the government to conduct public affairs openly.

  • Corruption

This is a significant issue in government offices. The majority maintains a high standard as required by the public office and enthusiastically promotes the public welfare. However, it must be mentioned that the morals of public servants are directly related to society as a whole.

Suppose you accept that in order to secure a quick or favorable response from a public servant and give them a monetary incentive, then your morals and ethical conduct are, in fact, in accordance with society’s point of view. Typically, a public servant will participate in corrupt activities when his personal and political loyalties conflict with his official responsibilities.

  • Nepotism

It’s unfortunate, but nepotism is a common government practice. Nepotism involves the appointment of friends and family into public positions. It overlooks people with merit and the qualifications to do the job. This leads to a decline in the quality of the public service. Sometimes relations or friends are employed to further corrupt activities. This is a major risk to our democracy.

  • Information Leaks

Some public servants leak official information of a sensitive nature to relatives and friends. Pending tax increases, cost cutting, corrupt practices, and more can lead to turmoil. In worst-case scenarios, these officials receive financial gains for their information leaks. An official that leaks official information before the prescribed date of release is defiling procedural prescriptions, which may result in ethical dilemmas.



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