In our final week, we will examine the diversity in public administration and the issue of ethics in public management – topics that are both of critical importance in the daily responsibilities of public administrators.
Diversity in public administration is important and used to be approached as a response to the demographic changes in the United States (Pitts & Wise,
2010). This often meant there was an effort to include minorities and women. (Selden & Selden, 2001) Public organizations often implement diversity policies and programs in order to ensure diversity in the workplace. (Pitts, 2009)
In addition to considering race, age, and gender, it is important to include diversity in socioeconomic status, cultural background, disabilities, sexual orientation, ways of thinking, life experience, and approaches to problem-solving. An organization whose members all have similar backgrounds and think in similar ways will be less creative and innovative than one with more diversity in its members. Diversity of thought can be a powerful way to improve the services you give the citizens you serve.
Public servants have a moral duty to avoid discriminating against people based on criteria irrelevant to job duties, a legal duty to comply with anti-discrimination laws, and an organizational duty to avoid building an organization without the diversity necessary for creativity and innovation.
There are many advantages to diversity of thought in the workplace.
Diversity is just one of the ethical considerations in public organizations. Ethics in government, and specifically ethical violations remain a serious issue. There are many scandals that are examples of ethical challenges faced by the government organizations.
For example, in October of 1973, President Richard Nixon engaged in a clear conflict of interest when he had his acting Attorney General fire the Special Investigator that was investigating his involvement in the Watergate cover-up. Nixon’s Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General resigned in protest rather than carry out that unethical order (Andrews, 2013).
President William Clinton lied under oath and influenced at least one other person to lie under oath in a lawsuit against him, leading to his eventual impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice (History, n.d.). These examples involve the highest public official in the U.S., but ethical challenges and violations can occur at any level of government.
Think about your local headlines. Have you seen issues that implicate a government agency did not practice ethical decision-making when it came to diversity?
A lack of diversity in thought can lead to “groupthink,” an environment in which people tend not to challenge what they perceive to be the group’s consensus. A famous example of this is the decision to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger in colder weather than that for which some of its critical components had been tested. While a few engineers objected (paragraph 55 and following), they were overruled because the group considered the schedule more important than their concerns. This decision led to the deaths of seven astronauts, the loss of the shuttle, and a massive setback for the U.S. space program.
Class, consider how diversity, including diversity of thought, has helped public servants as they serve citizens.
Andrews, E. (2013) What was the Saturday night massacre? History. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-was-the-saturday-night-massacre
Blank, C. (2016) How can groupthink affect an organization? Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/can-groupthink-affect-organization-26044.html
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2013). 35 years of ensuring the promise of opportunity. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/history/
EthnoConnect (n.d.) Business advantages of diversity in the workplace. Retrieved from http://www.ethnoconnect.com/articles/9-business-advantages-of-diversity-in-the-work-place
Frederickson, H. G. (1996). Comparing the reinventing government movement with the new public administration. Public Administration Review, 263–270.
History (n.d.) President Clinton impeached. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-clinton-impeached
Holman, R. (2014). Power in Diversity of thought. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5noCx2AyfVg
Mayhew, R. () Why is diversityin the workplace important to employees? Chron. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/diversity-workplace-important-employees-10812.html
Pitts, D. W., & Wise, L. R. (2010). Workforce diversity in the new millennium: Prospects for research. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 30(1), 44–69
Schick, R. (2011). Government Contracting: From the Perspectives of Management, Ethics, and Governance. Public Administration Review, 71(4), 665–667. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02403.x
Selden, S. C. (2006). A solution in search of problem? Discrimination, affirmative action, and the new public service. Public Administration Review, 66 (6), 911–923.