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Situational Ethics

The term situational ethics was originally coined by Joseph Fletcher – as a Christian based ethical theory – Fletcher proposed that depending on the situation – circumstances existing in a particular time or place – that absolute moral principles or standards might be broken if the course of action or the outcome might result in more agape love-that is how we treat others might be improved.

Situational Ethics is more about judging the value of an action based on the value of its consequences (the end, the outcome). That is, the ends justify the means not the rules justify the means. This approach judges a person’s actions within the context of the situation as opposed to judging based on a fixed set of principles.

That is not to say that principles or standards or rules do not serve a purpose. However, situational ethics recognizes that human behavior and society are much more complex and dynamic than what can be proscribed in an inflexible set of standards. It also recognizes that there are contexts in which one standard could be in conflict with another standard. For instance what if there is a conflict between your professional code of ethics and your personal or religious/spiritual code of ethics.

The person using the situational ethics approach resolves problems with a set of general moral principles not a strict set of ethical laws or standards and is prepared to relinquish those defined laws or standards if the result is for a greater good.

The Litmus Test

  • Is it legal?
  • Does it comply with our rules and regulations?
  • Is it consistent with our organizational values?
  • Am I the only or prime beneficiary of an offer or service?
  • Does it match our stated commitments?
  • Will I feel okay and guilt free if I do this?
  • Is bias or emotion clouding my judgment?
  • Would I do it to my family and friends?
  • Would I be okay if someone did it to me?
  • Would the most ethical person I know do this?
“At least once in your lifetime take a risk for a principle you believe in, even if it brings you up against your bosses.” Daniel Schorr  

It may be a dangerous road to go-in terms of consequences, but the right one to be able to look yourself in the mirror when all is said and done.


Tips for the Local Government Manager in Transition

Based on my own experience as a “Manager in Transition” or MIT – as we say in the profession, I offer the following suggestions to local government managers who find themselves unemployed.

  • Preliminary Steps
  • Get Organized
  • Digital Organization
  • Internet Job Search
  • Headhunters
  • Prepare for the Interview How Do I Explain Being In Transition
    • Sample Questions
    • Due Diligence Questions

Read more…

Ethics In Government

Oel Wingo For those of us in government, ethical dilemmas are a constant and making the right decision in those situations requires a logical, rational approach not an emotional approach.

Play Video Government Ethics: Establishing Public Trust -The Markkula Center for…youtube.comJudy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, shares best practices in making ethical decisions. What are the unavoidable ethical dilemmas public officials face? They include…

Neither Protecting nor Serving

Neither Protecting nor Serving: Police Abuse in Modern America |

Great article on how police abuse in America has become rampant.  We are raised to respect and trust law enforcement officers, but the ever-increasing number of corruption cases speak for themselves.  A simple search on Google for Florida over the past year revealed the following links related to police corruption in Florida:

Read more…

Do we Devalue our Democratic Principles?

John Nalbandian, (University of Kansas) had some thought provoking comments at the recent FCCMA Winter Institute-thought I would share a summary:

Unlike the private sector which is profit driven or the non-profit sector which is mission driven, government (local in particular) is value driven. The primary value that drives it is Efficiency– Not in the traditional sense of the word, but Efficiency in that government provides services that the individual can not provide for themselves effectively, i.e would you want everyone contracting out for solid waste as individuals or is it more efficient to provide a city-wide contract with controls?

Resolving how we provide these services efficiently in a democratic society is determined by three very basic democratic values: Representation, Social equity and Individual rights. It is these values that make the delivery of services efficiently so problematic as we struggle to balance those values and provide equitable service to all while allowing all to be heard and protecting individual rights.

Furthermore, the continued demeaning or diminishing of the role government plays in our society coupled with lack of trust and respect for government may serve to devalue the basic tenets upon which our democracy is based.  FOOD FOR THOUGHT!

Corporate strategy for turbulent times

McKinsey Classics: Corporate strategy for turbulent times.

Very timely and appropriate article  for business and government management.  For more on making on Organizational Development, visit Oel Wingo Management Consulting Services.

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