Ethics: Corruption

Posted: October 17th, 2013

Ethics: Corruption


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Ethics: Corruption


Some small actions done may be misinterpreted due to poor communication. On the other hand, there are other actions that are interpreted to lead to results, which are considered as extremes. These are called fallacies. Ethical values pertaining corruption and moral behavior, whether inbuilt or adopted can be misinterpreted or poorly communicated if one fails to follow the appropriate procedures. In this relation, the theories regarding public corruption are real as compared to being a slippery slope argument.


            One of the things that can lead to poor results of communication is the slippery slope. This is a form of argument explaining that exceptions to a rule can lead to the general ignoring of the rule. In other words, a small step may lead to more other steps which will in the end have results of significant impact. For example, if a rule is to be applied at all times, applying the rule some of the time may lead to the general abandonment of the rule.

The slippery slope argument can be greatly associated with gratuities. In most cases, gratuities are given out of goodwill. They are mostly offered to the people in the restaurant and hotel business, and other service rendering departments. In other words, this is the offering of tips. Some hotels, for example, disapprove the acceptance of tips and other gratuities from customers. A manager sees a member of staff taking a tip from a customer because the staff member picked the customer’s car from the garage. This is not part of the staff’s job description), and then allows it to continue for a couple of more times due to the extra service rendered by other staff members to customers, the slippery slope argument states that this gratuity rule will be ignored. The staff members will start accepting gratuities even for normal services rendered. This same case may also occur in the police department and other public offices rendering services.

The three theories of corruption; the society at large hypothesis, the affiliation or the structural hypothesis and the rotten apple hypothesis can all be related to the slippery slope argument. The society-at-large hypothesis asserts that the public is sometimes responsible for corruption in the public offices and departments. For example, if the public gives the people in the immigration department for the first processing of their documents or the retrieval of any documents, then these public servants will always expect gratuities from the public before or after they perform these tasks even though it is part of their job description.

Such acts of the public are also seen in the police department when the public needs the police security. According to the slippery slope argument, the continuous behavior of the public rendering these gratuities will lead to the extreme result of corruption in the public servant (Cheney, 2010). Although these may be a fallacy, it has been evident in various sectors. Why do some people get their documents processed faster than others yet both groups went to the same offices? Why do some people’s cases receive more attention more than others yet they are of the same magnitude?

The affiliation or structural hypothesis asserts that public officials may become corrupt because their seniors are corrupt. This means that corruption can trickle down from the seniors down to the lower level staff. For example, if a high ranking police officer is given extra money by a local gang in order to protect them or prevent any attack from the police officers, the lower ranking officers will take the path and take gratuities from the citizens in the name of “if the senior is accepting, we will also accept” (Cheney, 2010).

The rotten apple hypothesis asserts that some people are simply corrupt to the core due to a number of reasons. They might have been influenced by their upbringing, their environment, friends or their personal issues. In most cases, it seems as if corruption is in ‘their blood’. It is hard to make them stop this unethical behavior. For example, if a man is in the customer care department in the immigration department, and is accused of taking gratuities from the public, he is reprimanded and transferred to the customer service in the banking industry. He will still find ways of receiving gratuities from the customers. The main challenge occurring due to the behavior in this people is that they can be of great influence to the rest of the public servants.

Although these theories may be considered to fall in the slippery slope argument, they are evident in most cases. Wilson had researched on Chicago Police Department when he came up with these theories. Statistics in the African countries have indicated that most corruption cases among the public cases are caused by the public (Von, 2008). The most affected are those in the police department.

Furthermore, the public goes ahead and gives gratuities to those at the senior ranks. In this way, these seniors only issue orders to those at the subordinate categories for them to perform particular tasks. These tasks are such as the quick recovery of a document. This is done ahead of the queue and raises suspicion from the rest of the staff, the staff concludes that the senior has been bribed. If such cases occur frequently, the staff starts accepting gratitude from the public (Highhouse & Gregarus, 2009). Although there are other facts to be considered, it is also important to recognize the great influence a leader has. It is also good to recognize that persistence bears fruit as in the case of the society-at-large hypothesis.


            The theories are more evident in the developing countries as compared to being just part of the slippery slope argument. The public, the leaders and the individual public servants have a role to play pertaining to their ethical behavior. In most cases, it takes the decision of an individual to stop these corruption cases. If the leaders would lead by positive example, the public to act it wants to be treated, and the individual responsibility of their actions, corruption cases would be minimized.


Cheney, G. (2010). Just a job?: Communication, ethics, and professional life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Highhouse, S., Brooks, M., & Gregarus, G. (January 01, 2009). An Organizational Impression Management Perspective on the Formation of Corporate Reputations. Journal of Management, 35, 6, 1481-1493.

Von, M. A. P. (January 01, 2008). Studying Methods, Not Ethics: Exploring the Methodological Character of Administrative Ethics Research. Public Integrity, 11, 1, 9-34.

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