Ethical Decision Making Process
1 Recognizing a Problem & Define the
2 Identify the underlying principles,
legislation and policies
3 Identify and consider the options
4 Choosing a Solution
6 Evaluating the Solution
Define the problem
Gather as much information as you can that will
illuminate the situation. In doing so, it is important to
be as specific and objective as possible. Writing ideas
on paper may help you gain clarity. Outline the facts,
separating out assumptions, hypotheses, or
suspicions. There are several questions you can ask
What is difficult about the situation?
What other factors are involved (e.g. whole of
Who else is involved and what are their points of view
on the matter? Is there a need to work cooperatively?
What effect does your behaviour have on them
Identify the underlying principles
After you have clarified the problem, refer to the Code of Ethics to see if
the issue is addressed there. If there is an applicable standard or
several standards and they are specific and clear, following the
course of action indicated should lead to a resolution of the problem.
To be able to apply the ethical standards, it is essential that you
have read them carefully and that you understand their implications.
If the problem is more complex and a resolution does not seem
apparent, then you probably have a true ethical dilemma and need
to proceed with further steps in the ethical decision making process.
The following area can help to understand the Underlying Principals
Do your personal interests conflict, or reasonably appear to conflict,
with the public interest?
What are your duties as a public sector employee?
Does the Code of Conduct require you to behave in a certain way?
Is there a relevant guideline, determination or policy?
Are there any legal implications? Where necessary, seek legal
Identify and consider the options
List all alternative options. For each option apply risk
management principles to identify the impact on
different stakeholders, the legal implications and the
relevant principles of the Code of Conduct.
For decisions that could have a large impact, or if you
are still unsure as to the preferred action, get a
second opinion from an independent, trusted
Where necessary, seek advice from manager,
organisation’s human resources unit or ethics
advisor, or other agencies.
Choosing a Solution
Considering the information you have gathered and the priorities
you have set, evaluate each option and assess the potential
consequences for all the parties involved. Ponder the
implications of each course of action for the client, for others who
will be effected, and for yourself as a counsellor. Eliminate the
options that clearly do not give the desired results or cause even
more problematic consequences. Review the remaining options
to determine which option or combination of options best fits the
situation and addresses the priorities you have identified.
What would your family or chief executive say if your actions
were reported on the front page of a newspaper?
How will this decision be viewed by future generations?
Would you be happy if this action was performed on you?
Create a detailed, step-by-step plan for implementing
the solutions you choose
Who will do what, when, how?
This should include a means of evaluating the solutions
effectiveness by following ways
Your choice of action must be within the legislation,
policies and guidelines both for your organisation and
the whole of government.
Your behaviour must reflect the Code of Conduct for
SA Public Sector Employees.
You must be able to justify your course of action.
Evaluating the Solution
This is done after the solution has been implemented
and involves comparing the results of what
happened to what you expected to happen.
In addition, you would want to consider what you might
do differently if the situation were to occur again.
Types of Problems and Decisions
Involve goals that clear.
Are familiar (have occurred before).
Are easily and completely defined—information
about the problem is available and complete.
A repetitive decision that can be handled by a
Problems and Decisions (cont’d)
Problems that are new or unusual and for which
information is ambiguous or incomplete.
Problems that will require custom-made solutions.
Decisions that are unique and nonrecurring.
Decisions that generate unique responses.
Typical groups, in which the members interact with
each other face-to-face.
Nominal Group Technique
A group decision-making method in which individual
members meet face-to-face to pool their judgments
in a systematic but independent fashion.
An idea-generation process that specifically encourages any
and all alternatives, while withholding any criticism of those
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