- Slides: 20
Addressing ethical lapses: Ego-depletion theory and teaching administrative ethics RICHARD M. JACOBS VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY
Overview Social scientists studying ego depletion theory have found: Workplace ethical lapses arise from a variety of sources. Explaining those lapses, subordinates can be honest or dishonest. Administrators tend to respond more harshly to a subordinate’s honesty than dishonesty, with the effect of unintentionally building less ethical workplace cultures.
Questions to be answered: How might public administrators address ethical lapses on the part of subordinates? What does this require of those who teach administrative ethics?
Ego depletion theory Self-control may be likened to a “muscle” that human beings can strengthen or allow to weaken. A weakened state—called “ego depletion”—makes it less likely that people will persist in completing challenging, difficult, and frustrating tasks as well as fail to enact their beliefs.
Sources of ego depletion pressed for time unexpected, high-stress situations glucose level fatigue physical discomfort exhaustion associated with making difficult personal and professional choices
Ethical lapses: The observable effects of a breakdown in self-control… Exerting self-control may weaken the neural mechanisms responsible for conflict monitoring, resulting in: guilt – inhibited ability to engage in reflective practice; antisocial conduct – organizational deviance (i. e. , acts directed at the organization) and interpersonal deviance (i. e. , acts inflicting harm upon individuals) which can vary in both intensity and potential consequences;
deception: cheating or misrepresenting performance, falsifying business expense receipts, procrastination, and humiliating coworkers, deceiving and undermining coworkers, and verbal abuse toward others, including supervisors and subordinates; and, decreased motivation and commitment to personal beliefs.
A key “take away” for public administrators cognitive, motivational, and affective influences can shift subordinates’ motivation away from self-control and toward gratification as administrators provide cues signaling the need for greater self-control toward those signaling indulgence, subordinates can redirect their attention to exert the power of will to “indulge” in ethical conduct
The problem administrators tend to respond more harshly to a subordinate’s honesty than dishonesty, perhaps with the effect of unintentionally building less ethical workplace cultures
How might public administrators respond as ethical leaders? ensure there are consequences for unethical workplace conduct and work assiduously to uphold those consequences to assist subordinates learn from their ethical lapses and promote the development of more ethical workplace cultures provide a complete program of continuous, progressive, and developmental training in public administration ethics designed to assist subordinates replenish their attentional resources and strength their self-regulatory resources
What does this require of those who teach administrative ethics? First: To focus students not solely upon the evidence of ego depletion that subordinates may exhibit but, more substantively, its underlying causes.
The learning objectives: Students will: know, understand, and identify the underlying causes of ego depletion; and, develop an awareness of what’s necessary to ameliorate ethical lapses.
What does this require of those who teach administrative ethics? First: remember they are educating adults not instructing children; and, implement constructivist principles in the classroom – “learning by doing”; and, introduce mini-case studies featuring common ethical lapses to “draw out” principled decisions through ethical deliberation (“high-road” ethical decisions).
The learning objectives: Students will strengthen their ability: to deliberate; to be deliberate; and, to accept personal and professional responsibility for one’s decisions.
Second: for each case, have students respond to the question “What am I going to do about this? ” using Cooper’s (2016) ethical decision making model; and, have students critique those responses concerning what they assume, what their subordinates need to know, and how they will learn those things.
The learning objectives: Students will develop: the capability to create a climate that’s conducive to learning ethics and ethical decision making; and, an understanding of the process required to increase subordinates’ readiness to learn administrative ethics and develop more integrated ethical identities.
Third: assist students to envision, design, and implement a complete program of continuous, progressive, and developmental training in public administration ethics that’s designed to assist subordinates replenish their attentional resources and strength their self-regulatory resources
How? students will collaborate in designing modules that build one upon the other utilizing ethical andragogy to teach ethics and ethical decision making; and, students will arrange modules along a short-term (introductory), near-term (intermediate), and long-term (advanced) trajectory that introduce progressively development skills in ethical decision making.
The learning objectives: Students will: envision ethical lapses on the part of subordinates as providing opportunities for public administrators to serve as ethical leaders; and, respond to ethical lapses by initiating a process for providing in-service ethics training as they introduce ethical andragogy into their organizations; and, be capable of providing ethical leadership which encourages trust, honesty, and collaborative problem solving and, thus, builds more ethical workplace cultures.