Posted: October 17th, 2013








The Responsible Administrator talks about the responsibility that administrators have in making in ethical decisions. Because administrators serve the public, they must always ensure that the decisions they make are ethical. The author, Terry Cooper, gives advice to administrators, managers and others who wish to pursue the particular field, on how to avoid getting caught up in situations that would make one deviate from appropriate ethics (Cooper, 1990). Such situations would include deadlines, pressure to provide fast results, budgets and bureaucracies. He teaches one to balance work, organizational and personal values. Cooper further explains the role that ethics play in public service.

He puts a focus of ethics on public officials, because they are tasked with many roles, and they have a certain freedom in making decisions. Therefore, ethics would guide them in making ethical decisions and in using this freedom well and wisely (Cooper, 1990). According to Cooper, administrator’s responsibilities have two sources, namely, their professional role and their role in serving the public and managing the funds the public funds they have been entrusted with well. In chapter nine of the book, Cooper explains the design approach applied to ethics in public administration. The design approach suggests that it is unlikely for a person to acquire a correct solution for a problem.

Rather, in just one problem, there could be several responses, whereby the most workable would be considered as the solution for a problem. In this, it is also likely for a problem to have more than one solution (Cooper, 1990). The best solution would be that with the greatest potential to achieve the desired results, offer more security, and conform to the specific criteria. There are several elements of a design approach. First, one should consider the several interpretations that a situation presents and approach it with uncertainty. In this, for a situation to be considered ethical or unethical, the necessary information, about the information must be collected and analyzed. In this, one can avoid making unfound judgment that could damage a person or organization’s reputation or even cause suspicion for ones motives in making such conclusions. Secondly, if a problem is described in a brief and comprehensible way, the principal factors involved in the problem, may not be addressed (Cooper, 1990).

This suggests that, in order for a solution to be given, a problem must first be explained. In this, one seeks to understand the reason behind the particular misconduct. There could be more than one ethical problem, present in a situation (Cooper, 1990). Thirdly, ethical problems must be resolved within a given period, such that the possibility of giving many solutions together is open. Since administrators have been assigned limited time, the time taken in resolving a problem should be also limited. The administrator gives a solution in several steps, where by the actions taken are not extreme and show little potential of damaging the organization. This is then followed by the main action.

Fourthly, for an ethical problem to occur, the organization encourages such conduct, impedes or allows both of these. When dealing with ethical problems, the organization culture and structure must be considered. When using these elements, the work environment of an administrator must also be considered, in making ethical decisions. The setting of the organization, which allowed a problem to emerge, must be considered. When coming up with a solution, the administrator must consider, whether the setting of the organization would support or stop it. If latter, the decision made should strength support and at the same address resistance (Cooper, 1990).




Cooper, T. L. (1990). The Responsible Administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.


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