Ethics is what one ought to do–the kind of behaviors that would make the world a better place, especially if everyone engaged in them. The key question is: how does the conscientious public servant sort through competing considerations and determine “the right thing to do?” When it comes serving the public, how does one put one’s values into practice?
To determine what one ought to do, go to the root of the matter and think in terms of values. Research by the Institute for Global Ethics identifies ethical values that transcend virtually all cultures and religions.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”–Warren Buffett
California has a complex set of ethics laws to guide local officials in their service to their communities. How does the well-intentioned local official keep track of them all? Keeping four core principles in mind helps:
What options are available to local officials who are interested in promoting public service ethics within their agency? Realistically, there is no silver bullet for achieving a culture of ethics within an agency. It takes hard work, strong leadership and a sustained effort.
Are there other tools out there that have worked for your agency? Please feel encouraged to share your experiences by posting a comment on what has worked and what hasn’t for your agency.
“No great achievement is possible without persistent work”–Bertrand Russel