Ethics Corner


Tenet 10

“Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.”

“Everyone has values; even criminal gangs have values. Values govern people’s behavior, but principles govern the consequences of those behaviors.” – Stephen Covey

Unfortunately, most of us will be confronted with an ethical dilemma at some point in our careers.  Sometimes it is fairly obvious, like being pressured to hire an unqualified employee at the request of an elected official (or else).  Even then, it is not an easy task.

To get through those tricky scenarios, it is critical to have your priorities straight.  Take the time to think about what is more important to you. Is your job worth allowing someone to encroach on your professional responsibilities and compromise your principles and ethics? This is one of those “defining moments” in a career.  You are faced with many variables. Is there an easy way out? What is popular? What is best for my wife and young children? What did I learn from my family?

Though it isn’t something we enjoy thinking about, maintaining your integrity sometimes means choosing resignation over compromising ethical standards.  Even though it will be tough in the moment, those who have gone through it very often say that it is a character-defining time which paved the way for their future successes.

All of us act on or take a certain action based on conditions or a particular line of reasoning. Tenet 10, at its core, can only be followed if you keep in check with regularity and the strongest of conviction and personal and professional principles to guide your actions.  That line of thinking extends to even potentially precarious situations. Note the wording in the tenet: “Resist,” “member should be free,” “without interference,” and “handle each problem without discrimination.” Consider what will happen if you constantly walk close to the water’s edge on a slippery slope. Life is already full of too many challenges, and it is safe to say we do not need to add to the list. The moment you don’t resist, allow interferences or start to discriminate, you essentially have traded who you are and what you stand for. You will never get it back.  Your integrity is a coin that can be spent only once.

Communities deserve men and women of principle and those who are guided by the deeply rooted principles we all have as professionals and managers.  We have what it takes to make the tough decisions; as long as we let our principles govern the day!

(Article authored by Bert Lumbreras, Assistant City Manager, Austin.  Edited by members of the TCMA Ethics Committee.)