- Project the likely consequences of each alternative.
Public administrators should analyze each option and consider the likely outcomes and consequences of each alternative. Cooper (2006) recognizes that this is a challenging step in the process, and he recommends four elements to consider when seeking the most appropriate alternative to address a problem ethically (Cooper, 2006).
· Moral rules – Refers to basic standards, such as legal requirements, that should be attributed to alternatives and their consequences. Cooper (2006) cautions that if an alternative is illegal or illogical, it should not be selected.
· Rehearsal of defenses – Refers to the process of analyzing an alternative to determine whether it fits with the organization’s values, culture. As part of this process, decision makers should ask themselves whether they could defend the alternative if it was implemented to address the problem.
· Discernment of ethical principles – According to Cooper (2006), ethical principles are statements specifying the rules that should be followed to guide action and fulfill certain values. A principle “explicitly links a value with a general mode of action” (Cooper 2006, p. 24-25). When deciding which alternative should be used to address an ethical problem, decision makers should ensure that whatever actions are taken will align with the organization’s values. If different alternatives align with different values, the decision makers will need to prioritize those values and select the alternative that aligns with the value considered to be the most important to the organization.
· Select the alternative that balances moral rules with ethical principles and can be defended. As part of this process, consider how people will react to the decision and the outcomes and consequences that are likely to result.
Select the alternative that is most likely to address the issue and produce the most desirable outcomes and consequences.
Rational Decision Making
This is basically the rational approach to decision making, and Cooper (2006) acknowledges that in the real world, decision making is rarely this straightforward. He argues that in reality, public administrators move back and forth among the steps in the process as they struggle to fully understand a problem and determine the most appropriate method to address it.
Take a few minutes to view the following TED Talk by Michael Sandel of Harvard University, “What’s the right thing to do?” He introduces the philosophy of utilitarianism as it relates to morality, ethics and the law. As you listen think through the scenarios, is it better to make one decision that might not be ethical or morally upstanding to come out with the desired benefit which would benefit a far greater number of citizens? Is the best result always the most just? Definitely, something to think about as we work through the issues in this course.
Clearly, making decisions based on good ethics can be challenging, and no formula exists to instruct and guide public administrators as they endeavor to practice ethical decision making. Instead, they must have a good understanding of ethics, as well as the steps that lead to good decisions, and they must use this understanding to guide their decisions and resulting actions.
You can find more on these concepts and others by clicking on the link.
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