Professional ethics in a bureaucracy

Bureaucracies tend to take a narrow and legalistic definition of ethics. This may be administratively convenient, but it feeds a culture of amoral cynicism. While there are cases where right and wrong are unclear, the existence of moral dilemmas is no excuse for abdication of moral responsibility or outright bad faith.

For leaders, there is no escaping the responsibility to make the call. People acting in good faith make mistakes and can develop stronger ethics through such experience. Draconian enforcement is counterproductive. On the other hand, toxic people ("sharks") systematically exploit processes that give them second chances and the benefit of the doubt. If justice starts closing in, they set up a colleague to take the fall. Leaders have the tough job of seeing through that deception and dealing decisively with sharks before their trail of victims grows long. If you don't, you're on the menu.

Last modified: Wed Nov 11 12:43:52 EST 2020
2020 David Flater. All rights reserved. Contact for publishing rights.