Over the next few blog posts, I want to offer some insights into unethical behaviors that all local government appointed and elected officials and employees should avoid. The behaviors are subject to context and the list is by no means exhaustive. This collection of posts is also not intended as a rulebook.
The avoidable behaviors described below are listed to increase awareness of the importance of an unwavering commitment to public sector ethical integrity. It is your responsibility to be familiar with your organization’s Code(s) of Ethics. If you lack clarity on a particular course of action, please contact your direct supervisor or Human Resources department.
- Absenteeism – All employees will invariably miss work for legitimate reasons: illness, death the family, vacation time, etc. Abusing your employer’s absentee policy, however, is in essence stealing time from your employer while simultaneously placing an unfair workload on fellow team members.
- Abuse – Verbal, sexual, physical, mental, emotional, and substance, or any other form of abuse in the workplace is unethical.
- Accepting a Bribe – It is unethical to accept payment in any form from any individual or organization attempting to persuade or induce favorable outcome.
- Appearance of Impropriety – Public sector employees should avoid behaviors that appear inappropriate. Embrace the following general rule of thumb: If making a decision looks or feels wrong then choose another decision; one that both looks and feels right.
- The Blame Game – It is unethical to shift blame to another co-worker, team, department, citizen, etc., when you are to blame. Another common term for this is “scapegoating”.
- The Budget Game – It is unethical to misrepresent budget numbers or purposely hide intent for budget dollars.
- Charitable Contributions – It is not unethical to solicit charitable contributions; for example: public safety personnel may solicit, “Toys for Tots” during the holiday season. Obviously, it is unethical to use any charitable contribution for personal reasons/benefit. There are gray areas that must be contextually defined. Your organization should implement standards related to charitable contributions from vendors, contractors, service providers, and businesses your organization regulates and/or does business with. Many local governments depend on the generosity of local businesses, faith communities, etc., for holiday gift drives, back-to-school supply drives, etc. Clarification of expectations is important in such relationships in order to avoid any quid pro quo expectations. For example: a faith community engages in a police-sponsored holiday gift drive, and a later signage code violation is ignored.
We will share more unethical behaviors to avoid in our next post.