Ethics in government and business
Dix, Jacqueline A.
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Canadians appear to hold the activities of those in government and in big business in low esteem. Media reports of several high-profile political and corporate instances of unethical conduct have reinforced the public's concern for the status of ethical conduct and honesty in government and in big business. The response by public and private sector managers to unethical conduct by employees is largely in the form of 'ethical rules' which both sectors agree provide a measure of certainty as to the ethical conduct expected from employees. Since research on ethics in the public and private sectors is limited and since ethics is a topic of increasing concern to both sectors, this thesis provides data that could assist managers in dealing with the issue of ethical conduct within their respective organizations. The purpose of this thesis is to compare the state of ethical conduct within public and private sector organizations in Canada. This is accomplished through a description and analysis of the approaches taken by the public and private sectors as well as the four professions of law, engineering, accountancy and medicine. Ethical conduct within the public sector focuses on the ethical behaviour of public servants rather than elected officials. The underlying intent of this thesis is to discover if contemporary ethical problems are similar in the public and iv private sectors with respect to the four ethical areas of conflict of interest, political activity, problem public comment and confidentiality. The comparative data on both public and private sector ethics are assessed and similarities and differences are identified. One major finding emerges from this study. Codes of ethics in both the public and private sectors are perceived by management to play an important role in the prevention of unethical conduct. A procedure for developing a code of ethics is presented along with recommendations as to the administration of a code of ethics. Finally, recommendations are made as to the role of education in ethics.
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