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M3D1: Ethical Decision-Making Models

In your textbook, Cooper provides a design approach to ethical decision-making. This is not the only model for ethical decision-making. For this discussion, you will research ethical decision-making models and locate an article or example illustrating how an organization or public administrator applied an ethical decision-making model.

Respond to the following:

· Locate an article or example illustrating an ethical decision-making model used by a public organization or individual public administrator and provide a summary of the steps outlined in this model.

· Provide your own analysis as to the general utility of this model in resolving ethical dilemmas in public organizations.

· Identify and explain one way in which the model you found is different from Cooper’s model.

Read and respond to the conclusions drawn by your classmates (approximately 250 words each) 


One ethical model, as presented by Rosen (2005), does not have a specific name but has a clear list of steps to follow as well as a visual matrix-based approach that overall focuses on organizational mission, relationships, and personal integrity. When a public administrator is confronted with an ethical dilemma, they would be advised to employ a systematic approach to make the best decision. First, the administrator must stop to reflect on the situation (Rosen, 2005). This can help establish an emotional distance between themselves and the problem and consider the factors involved. Next, the administrator should clarify their goals for the ultimate decision, including the long- and short-term goals (Rosen, 2005). Then, the administrator should take the time to determine the facts surrounding the issue and establish the validity of the problem (Rosen, 2005). Once the administrator has reached this stage, they must now develop all the options that can be taken (Rosen, 2005). This is to be done without ruling out any possibility that seems at first like it may be unreasonable (Rosen, 2005). Once all the potential options are listed, the administrator should then analyze those choices and their possible outcomes and consequences (Rosen, 2005). This should be done while considering the following values: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship (Rosen, 2005). At this point, the administrator picks the most ethical decision, given the information available (Rosen, 2005). Finally, the administrator must monitor and modify their decision as able and as appropriate (Rosen, 2005).

While this is a complete method of considering and implementing ethical decision making, it obviously requires a fair amount of time. This level of time may not always be available in a given situation. However, an abbreviated version of this that spends less time in theoretical realms such as listing every option may be more reasonable for real-world scenarios. Meanwhile, I would add considering the second and third-order effects of a decision made. This would have the administrator consider organizational effects and the results of those effects on the organization and other closely tied entities. 

Cooper’s (2012) work utilizes two models to view an ethical dilemma: the first being the descriptive model that establishes ethical relativity. The second prescriptive model establishes empirical ethics that tries to establish a moral code that is not subject to change (Cooper, 2012). Rosen’s model differs from Cooper’s prescriptive model in that it emphasizes information gathering and validation steps. Rosen’s model also establishes a monitor and modify stage, which further considers the limitations of not having all of the data necessary to make a wholly ethical decision. Meanwhile, Cooper’s (2012) model is unique as it considers ethical decisions as inherently defensible by requiring the administrator to rehearse the justifications of each choice. I believe that this step is helpful when stuck between two real and competing solutions.

Both models offer valuable steps to establishing ethical decisions. An administrator that uses either is likely to select a viable option but may benefit by using elements of both as time allows.


Cooper, T. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

Rosen, M. J. (2005). Doing well by doing right: A fundraiser’s guide to ethical decision-making. International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing, 10(3), 175–181.


When trying to find an example of an ethical decision-making process and specifically an ethical decision-making model, I was stumped.  I understand the concept (or so I thought), but I just couldn’t find an example of what I was looking for.  The best that I could do was an article by Dr Steven Mintz that discussed how that accounting students are taught to use ethical decision-making models in school.  “Accounting educators typically use an ethical decision-making model to teach ethics to accounting students. These models provide a systematic way to think through ethical issues, identify alternative courses of action, evaluate the ethics of each alternative, and decide what to do” (Mintz, 2019).  These teachings allow for the students to have a better understanding of organizational culture that will help to improve their decision making at their place of employment, as well as learning the internal policies at those locations.  The last part focuses on relationships with those within the organization that can help to resolve conflict should it arise.  While it doesn’t speak to it specifically, this seems to fall more into the descriptive model of ethical decision making, or making decisions based on “what is, or how things are”.  Meaning that if something is wrong, then there is no way to look at it other than it is wrong.  This would be the correct approach when it comes to the numbers that the accountants would be dealing with, as you wouldn’t want them spinning them into how you would want them to look instead of how they actually look.

Within this model the following steps are utilized:

1. Perception of an ethical problem

2. Describing the situation / Defining the issue

3. Identifying alternatives

4. Projecting consequences

5. Selecting an alternative

6. Finding resolution

This model seems to fit perfectly into how to make the best possible ethical decision.  By utilizing the 6 steps listed above, you would have all the information that would be necessary to make the best decision possible for any organization that you could find yourself working for.  When used in the public arena by say politicians, then you would add a level of transparency that would help the public support decisions that were made, or at a minimum better understand why you made that decision in the first place.

There is no difference in the model, as it was Cooper’s model with subtle variations.  But if I were to change one thing, it would be to add a step at the end that would be to monitor the decision.  This would allow for any change that is necessary to what was previously decided based on is success or failure.  This would be the follow-up that is necessary to ensure that ethical decisions made in the future could potentially be made faster and with a higher degree of overall success.


Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator: An approach to ethics for the administrative role (6th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mintz, S. (2019).  A New Approach to Teaching Ethical Decision Making to Accounting Students.  The CPA Journal.  Retrieved from


Locate an article or example illustrating an ethical decision-making model used by a public organization or individual public administrator and provide a summary of the steps outlined in this model.

In May of 2013, the Department of Defence (DOD) and the VA created over 1400 new Mental health positions to care for returning service members with mental health issues. These issues range from depression to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Now that the VA has License Professional Counselors (LPC) “it was imperative to develop an understanding of the military system, especially of the potential conflict that may exist between military protocols and the counselor ethical guidelines.” (Prosek & Holm, n.d). Researchers came up with an ethical decision model to guide mental health professionals when faced with an ethical dilemma.

The ethical decision model that was highlighted in this article is called the stage model and they are as follows:

1. Clearly define the situation: Consider the dilemma

2. Determine what parties could be affected: Who might this dilemma have an impact on

3. Reference the pertinent ethical codes: Research the American Counseling Codes (ACA) code of ethics as it applies to the situation

4. Reference the pertinent laws and regulations: Consider which laws might apply to ensure you are abiding by them.

5. Reflect on personal thoughts and competencies on the issues: consider your feelings on how to address the issues.

6. Select knowledgeable colleagues with whom to consult: Speak to a colleague who may know more about this type of issue, maybe a superior.

7. Develop alternate courses of action: Try to develop “what if” scenarios on how you will handle the dilemma.

8. Evaluate the impact on all parties involved: Consider how your course of action will impact the individual involved.

9. Consult with professional organizations, ethics committee, and colleagues: Consult with a supervisor about your plan of action. Also, with outside agencies, if you need to make a referral.

10. Decide on a course of action: Now its time to implement the best possible plan from the “what if” scenarios considered in step 7.

Provide your own analysis as to the general utility of this model in resolving ethical dilemmas in public organizations.

These seem like a lot of steps to consider when faced with an ethical dilemma. However, it is a good guideline to follow. The mental health professionals might need to consider all the steps as they have to consider confidentiality on other laws as it pertains to their line of work. They also do not want to violate military protocols when working with military members or veterans. As the individuals they are treating are a unique set of people from a different culture than that of their own. Hopefully, when applying these steps it won’t take the mental health professional a long time to implement their plan of action as that might delay care for the patients.

Identify and explain one way in which the model you found is different from Cooper’s model.

As I mentioned this model is longer than that of Cooper’s model. Cooper model moved from step one of the model in the article to step 7. Again, this could just be because of the laws and colleges that the mental health professionals may need to consult before coming up with a plan of action. In some ways, they are ensuring that they are not tackling this dilemma on their own. They are soliciting the help of other professionals in their field.


Cooper, T. L. (2012). The Responsible Administer: An Approach to Ethics for the Administrative Role (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass

Prosek, E, Holm J (n.d) Counselors and the Military: When Protocol and Ethics Conflict. The Professional Counselor.