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Analysis of the Meaning, Scope, and Nature of Public Administration: Ethical and Unethical Behavior in Different Contexts

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Written By: David M. Seward


Public administration is a multidimensional field that encompasses the management and execution of public policies, programs, and services.

It involves coordinating resources, implementing government decisions, and serving the public interest. Ethical and unethical behavior concepts are crucial in shaping public administration’s effectiveness, integrity, and accountability.

These behaviors are evident not only in the workplace but also in various hierarchical levels, such as between supervisors and subordinates and in educational settings like classrooms between teachers and students.

Meaning and Scope of Public Administration:

Public administration refers to implementing government policies and managing public resources to achieve societal goals. It involves various activities, such as planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and budgeting.

The scope of public administration extends from the central government to local governments, encompassing public agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions involved in public service delivery.

Nature of Ethical Behavior in Public Administration:

Ethical behavior in public administration is characterized by actions and decisions prioritizing the public interest, upholding transparency, fairness, accountability, and respect for the rule of law.

Ethical public administrators strive to serve the community with integrity and professionalism, avoiding conflicts of interest and taking measures to prevent corruption and abuse of power.

Nature of Unethical Behavior in Public Administration:

Unethical behavior in public administration involves prioritizing personal gain over public interest, disregarding ethical standards, manipulating information, engaging in nepotism, and abusing authority for a unique advantage.

It can lead to public mistrust, inefficiency, erosion of integrity, and a negative impact on public policy outcomes.

Ethical and Unethical Behavior in the Workplace:

Ethical behavior entails honesty, cooperation, and respect among colleagues in the workplace. Public administrators must maintain transparency, avoid favoritism, and use public resources responsibly.

Unethical behavior, such as embezzlement, bribery, or manipulation of information, can undermine citizens’ trust and tarnish the reputation of public institutions.

Ethical and Unethical Behavior between Supervisors and Subordinates:

Ethical supervision involves providing clear guidance, fostering professional growth, and treating subordinates fairly.

Unethical leadership can manifest as micromanagement, favoritism, misuse of authority, or withholding recognition, leading to demotivation, low morale, and decreased subordinate productivity.

Ethical and Unethical Behavior in the Classroom:

In an educational context, ethical behavior between teachers and students entails respect, fairness, and creating an inclusive and conducive learning environment.

Unethical behavior may involve discrimination, harassment, or exploitation of students’ vulnerabilities, undermining the educational process and negatively impacting students’ development.


Ethical behavior in public administration is essential for maintaining trust, achieving policy goals, and upholding the public interest.

Conversely, unethical behavior erodes public confidence, hampers efficient governance, and diminishes the overall quality of public services.

Public administrators, supervisors, and educators must embrace ethical conduct to foster integrity, accountability, and transparency within their respective spheres of influence.

This will ultimately contribute to the betterment of society and the effective functioning of public administration.

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