Stories in the media of questionable behaviour by those in government remind me of when I taught a course in public sector ethics. Most of my students were in master’s level public administration studies. “Why” a bright, articulate student asked, “are we required to take public sector ethics?
We all know there isn’t any ethics in government.” This from one who aspired to earn a living through government employ. My answer then and now – because it is important in government to promote ethical behaviour. It is of consequence that decision makers are principled. And for citizens of any country, public servants or not, there is enormous benefit to society when we take time to reflect on our own conduct and be aware of responsibilities and expectations both in and outside of the workplace.
Borrowing from the pre-amble to the City of Ottawa’s code of conduct for employees: “Ethical behaviour is not about finding all the right answers – it is about asking all the right questions.” It is suggested that employees and those who hold elected office would do well to ask these questions:
- Am I putting my own interests before those of my employer?
- Would I make the same decision if my managers, the public or the media were watching me?
- Will I owe someone a favour if I do this or accept that? Would I be offered this if I weren’t an employee or one who holds elected office?
It is all about personal choice. How one decides can have life-altering consequences.