Ethical Characteristics/ Traits in Civil Servants | UPSC | PDF Download

 Ethical Characteristics/ Traits a Civil Servant must possess (UPSC)

Q. What are the five ethical characteristics that can be used to predict a civil servant's effectiveness? Explain why they belong in the matrix. (150 Words)


Q. Identify five ethical traits on which one can plot the performance of a civil servant. Justify their inclusion in the matrix. (150 Words)(UPSC CSE 2021)

Approach :

Start with mentioning the need for Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration.

Chart out the five ethical traits which you consider essential in a civil servant and justify their inclusion with examples.

Conclude suitably.

Ethical Characteristics & Traits in a Civil Servant

Model Answer :

Introduction :

Ethics can be defined as a set of “moral principles that guide and govern a person’s behaviour or conduct in various situations”. Ethics relates to those ultimate values and standards by which human actions can be judged.
Ethics are subjective standard of rights and wrong. 

For a civil servant, acting ethically is of utmost importance. A Civil Servant holds the public office based on trust. This trust at no cost can be breached as it is the bedrock on which the institution and whole machinery lies. Thereby, acting ethically ensure that the management of the government affairs is done effectively and efficiently.

Ethical Characteristics/ Traits a Civil Servant must possess

Body :

A civil servant has an obligation to act ethically in all circumstances. He/she is supposed to possess the virtues of objectivity and impartiality and non-partisanship. This prevents him from indulging in unethical practices and constantly improve his/her productivity and efficiency at work.

The five ethical traits – Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Objectivity, and Selflessness – form the core of ethics in Civil Services institution and other values like nonpartisanship, tolerance, responsiveness emanate from them. 

Here is the matrix of ethical traits, which are beneficial in performance evaluation of civil servants :

Ethical Trait/ Characteristics & Justification 

Integrity : 

  • Important for elimination of corruption and malpractices.
  • Builds leadership quality to act as a role model for others.
  • Best utilisation of public resources.
  • Pursuit of professional excellence.
  • Dedication towards service :

  • Brings the spirit of service toward the nation.
  • Self-motivation for public service.
  • Prevents ethical dilemma and unethical behaviour.
  • Compassion :

  • Connect with the feeling of public.
  • Builds emotional intelligence.
  • Inner compulsion to work for the weak.
  • Bring empathy towards weaker sections.
  • Outcome and effectiveness orientation.
  • Accountability :

  • Brings transparency and openness in administration
  • Make administration public oriented.
  • Higher public trust and participation.
  • Deterrence for unethical conduct.
  • Responsible civil servants and functionary.
  • Objectivity:

  • Decisions based on merit, without any bias.
  • Makes a civil servant impartial.
  • Brings element of non-partisanship.
  • Fairness in action and tolerance towards opposing views. Efficiency orientation.
  • Selflessness :

  • Action oriented towards professional excellence and public interest.
  • No consideration for personal benefits.
  • Prevents misuse of entrusted public resources and authority.
  • Helps in resolving conflicts of interest, countering nepotism and cronyism.
  • Courage :

  • Courage of conviction towards moral obligations.
  • Courage to stand for truth and against all possible injustice.
  • Not to submit against political or other type of pressure.
  • Conclusion :

    These traits are foundational in the conduct and behaviour of a civil servant. They ensure that a civil servant fulfills his professional obligation even in adverse situations and achieve personal as well as professional excellence. Maintaining these high standards of traits help a civil servant gain the trust of the public and society towards administration and governance. The ideal training programme for a civil servant should be a mix of ethical traits, procedural rules and practical situations.

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