Discuss the importance and usefulness of Cooper’s ethical decision model in ethical decision making in public services. (15 Marks)

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  • Source: Ethics by Lexicon publications.
  • The question is based on Cooper’s Ethical Decision Model and its utility in public services for ethical decision making. One is expected to bring out the importance of model ethical conduct at the workplace.
  • The answer must first elaborate on what is ethical decision making. Then explain in detail the Cooper’s model, its utility in public services.
  • Start with the importance of decision making at the workplace.
  • In the main body, discuss how business ethics address the rights and responsibilities of public administrators, thus ethics in decision making becomes centric to the role played by public/ civil servants. Courses of Action and Consequences of any decision made by an administrator has a larger public taking its effect.
  • In such a scenario the model by Cooper aids in making decisions ethically.
  • Discuss in brief the tenets of the model, how to apply etc.
  • Conclude that according to Cooper, the ideal solution to any ethical problem will be on the balance of four elements.


We are often faced with decisions to make about situations that have arisen in our daily work lives.  Ethical dilemmas are circumstances in which we are faced with a decision and have more than one possible course of action; however, there may not be a perfect solution.  Terry Cooper designed a model to help work through an ethical dilemma. His Ethical Decision-Making Model takes us through several steps to determine the best course of action with which to solve an ethical dilemma

As promoted by Cooper (2001) ethics in public administration is not a transient concept but has proven to be an approach which has shown a great deal of sustainability which is fundamental to the area of public administration. Cooper presents an approach that follows a definite procedure in making ethical decisions.

The Descriptive Task: The first step in this approach is ascertaining and giving a description to the facts of a situation including the main participants, their perceptions, the issues and the threats posed by the situation.

Defining the Ethical Issue:  The second step which is the most difficult one involves defining the issue. This step is described as the most difficult because the administrators face a problem in identifying the values and principles at risk.

Identifying Alternative Courses of Action:  The third step in Coopers approach is looking for an alternative once the ethical issues have been ascertained and described. Cooper advises that caution is important in this step because ethical issues have many alternatives.

Projecting the Possible Consequences: The fourth step in coopers approach involves doing a projection of the possible impacts of the alternatives. Although this step is part of an informal decision making process, Cooper advises that it should be conducted consciously and systematically.

Finding a Fit: The appropriate solution or alternative is a balance of four elements

  • Moral Rules: Those basic standards that can be attributed to the alternatives and their consequences.
  • Rehearsal of Defences: The assessment and alignment of alternatives with the accepted norms of the wider professional organization and political communities of which we are a part of.
  • Ethical Principles: In assessing the moral rules, it may become clear that certain moral values are competitive. Therefore, it becomes difficult to say that an alternative which supports social justice is more correct than the security of an individual or the organization. Here, an administrator assesses alternatives and their moral values under the light of the level of ethical analysis – deciding how the hierarchy of moral rules is structured and ultimately influencing the final decision.
  • Anticipatory Self-Appraisal: Simply put, this analysis of alternatives requires an internal reflection of whether an administrator feels that an alternative fits within what he or she perceives to be their own personality. This is an examination of whether an alternative will meet our need to feel satisfied with the decision.

By following Cooper’s model of ethical decision-making, a public administrator is able to create a more concrete process by which to assess individual steps that were taken in reaching a decision. This ensures that at each point, an effort was made by the administrator to uphold ethical principles and that fairness and equality were the standard. An administrator’s decision must be able to withstand scrutiny to ensure that there is a continued trust and respect for accountability among employees and the public in the administrator’s ability to conduct his/her duties.

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Deepanshu Gulyani
Deepanshu Gulyani
2 years ago

Parth sir, i use to attempt the questions without prior studying the topic( because last two three years mains was based on that quality itself i guess). So i want to ask how to tackle these kind of questions such as i don’t know anything about cooper’s model here.
Please sort this
Thank you 🙂

Deepanshu Gulyani
Deepanshu Gulyani
2 years ago


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