Rules For Public Administrators to Live By


Within organizations most of company rules revolve around conduct and results; everything else is basically left up to employees. Public administrators face fewer restrictions than almost anyone else within governmental and non-governmental agencies, but they can’t afford to become lax in their freedom. Personal codes are needed to help pick up the slack, and that’s not because it’s impossible to do the job without them; it’s because people with vision need to discipline themselves if they want their vision to come true.

The Rules

The five rules public administrators should adhere to are:

  • Efficiency and humanity go hand in hand
  • Structures that don’t suit people should be changed
  • The underprivileged should be the foremost concern
  • The individual is as important as the group
  • No one should be expected to do what the administrator won’t do

Rule 1: Efficiency and Humanity Go Hand in Hand

The centerpiece of many public administration theories is efficiency standards that mimic the private sector. This is a positive development on the whole because people perform best when they are rewarded or punished based on merit. However, this can be taken too far, and it’s important to balance the need for efficiency with the needs of employees.

Rule 2: Structures That Don’t Suit People Should be Changed

Human nature is impossible to alter, and when an organizational structure proves to be stifling for too many employees it’s time to reexamine it. The clockwork machinations of the industrial era don’t suit modern people, and creating structures that cater to people as they are instead of trying to force conformity are ultimately better for productivity and job satisfaction.

Rule 3: The Underprivileged Should be the Foremost Concern

Public administrators have a lot of things to consider when developing new policies, and even though the field came into existence as part of an attempt to address poverty, the poor still fall through the cracks. It’s easy to plan legislation that centers around local businesses and other projects, but if there’s no quantifiable and demonstrable gain for the underprivileged then it should be taken back to the drawing board.

Rule 4: The Individual is as Important as the Group

Every society and organization is comprised of numerous individuals working toward a common goal, and even though public administrators should strive to act in the name of the greater good, their efforts can fail when they’re willing to force too many sacrifices on certain groups for the sake of others. It’s impossible to avoid damaging everyone 100 percent of the time, but no one should ask others to make sacrifices except when there is truly no other way.

Rule 5: No One Should be Expected to Do What the Administrator Won’t Do

Leaders who don’t lead by example are not respected, and their employees grow to resent every demand that’s made by someone they view as lazy and duplicitous. There’s a lot of pressure on public administrators to perform as it is, but only those who are willing to step up to the plate and make themselves beacons of what they want their organizations to embody are fit to take on the role.

Connie Lyons is an avid blogger. If you’re in the public admin field or interested in learning more on your own, you may consider a degree such as those offered by University of Southern California or San Francisco State University.

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