Administrative ethics refers to the professional code of morality in civil service. They constitute the moral fibre of civil servants and regulate the conduct and behaviour of different categories of civil servants.

The civil service, being a profession in the modern state, has developed a code of morality for its members. The code of ethics consists of traditions, precedents, and standards which have to be kept up by the civil servants. The civil servants are expected to set up high moral standards not only for themselves for the community at large, particularly, in the context of the growing importance of administration and its impact on the society.

Public service ethics are a prerequisite to, and underpinning of public trust, and are a keystone of good governance. Citizens expect public servants to serve the public interest with fairness and to manage public resources properly on a daily basis. Democratic values such as equality, law, justice etc. have moral connotations and require a strong commitment from civil servants. Civil servants are duty bound to uphold these values.

Highlighting the importance of administrative ethics, P.R. Dubhashi said, “It is of utmost importance that the public administration should be efficient but it is even more important that it should be ethical. It is said of an individual that if character is lost, everything is lost. It could be stated about public administration, that if ethics is lost, everything is lost.”

Now, let’s look at scholarly perspectives on Administrative ethics

Chester Barnard has described the ethical conduct or moral behaviour as “governed by beliefs or feelings of what is right or wrong regardless of self-interest or immediate consequences of a decision to do or not to do specific things under particular conditions.”

Glen Stahl (in his book Public Personnel Administration) rightly remarked, “the problem of ethical conduct of public official arises by virtue of the power and influence that he commands and the commitment that he undertakes of loyal and disinterested service to the public.”

Paul H Appleby in his book Morality and administration in Democratic Government preferred the expression Morality instead of Ethics. He argues that morality and administration cannot be separated. He remarked, “It is not merely bigger government that ultimately matters; what is significant is that morality in administration alone could ensure better government. He delineated the following attributes of a moral administrator:

    • A sense of responsibility
    • Skills in communication and personnel administration
    • Ability to cultivate and utilize institutional resources
    • Willingness to engage in problem-solving and to work with others as a team
    • Personal confidence to initiate new ideas
    • Prefers to be influenced by public needs, interests and sensitivities rather than resorting to the use of raw bureaucratic power.



    • Most important factor in administration is conviction, in human relationships.
    • A good administrator should try to anticipate the behaviour of people.
    • The administrator must be functionally active which means, he should have his own sources of information.
    • The administrator should be clear in communication.
    • The administrator should avoid sharp departure from the accepted policy.
    • The administrator should undertake intensive touring to be close to people and workers at the cutting edge.
    • The administrator should enlist public co-operation without being propagandist.
    • The administrator should ensure that the unity of command in a department is not disrupted.
    • The administrator is a trustee of public interest and not a ruler over public.

The administrator should equate practice with precept.