Mitigating ethical stress of government financial managers

05/11/05

A new study published in the latest issue of Public Administration ReviewTM examined the relationship between external ethical stress rooted in political pressure and the work environments of government financial managers. The authors found that the surveyed managers "characterized their jobs as relatively apolitical in the sense that they felt more comfortable balancing competing values and interests then fending them off… political intrusions." Interaction with political actors and the dependence of their job on the success of these political figures did not exacerbate the external ethical stress the managers reported. Instead, in all levels of management from chief financial officers (CFOs) to those who directly report to them (RCFOs) to senior financial managers, fiscal stress was the most powerful contributor to high ethical stress. (The managers reported that fiscal stress had a more powerful impact on ethical pressure the further down the finance hierarchy the manager's position.) For all, the supervisor's encouragement of ethical behavior, the adequacy of feedback, and a high level of coworker personal integrity mitigated ethical stress.

The authors contacted financial managers across the US. The majority of the respondents, more than 74%, worked in local government with 13% in state government, 7% in federal government, and the remainder in other types of organizations like universities. The respondents reported a low level of stress when supervisors and peers encouraged ethical behavior, especially when this encouragement stemmed from the timeliness and adequacy of feedback. Timely feedback to CFOs can mitigate ethical pressure and, in turn, CFOs can temper the harsh work environment in fiscally stressed times by encouraging ethical action and giving adequate feedback.

This study appears in the current issue of Public Administration ReviewTM. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Public Administration ReviewTM has been the premier journal in the field of public administration research, theory, and practice for more than 60 years. Published for the American Society for Public Administration TM/SM, its articles identify and analyze current trends, provide a factual basis for decision making, stimulate discussion, and make the leading literature in the field available in an easily accessible format.

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Gerald J. Miller, lead author, is a Professor in the Graduate Department of Public Administration at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey, Newark Campus, teaches public budgeting and finance.

Dr. Miller is available for questions and interviews.

Samuel J. Yeager, Professor of Public Administration in the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, Wichita State University, teaches organization theory and behavior, ethics and computer applications.

W. Bartley Hildreth is the Regents Distinguished Professor of Public Finance, and Director of the Kansas Public Finance Center, in the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs and the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.

Jack Rabin is Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs, The Capital College at The Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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