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Making the Most of Your Ethics Training

Making the Most of Your Ethics Training

By Natalie O’Donnell Wood Vol . 20, No. 08 / February 2012

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44 state ethics commissions offer some type of training.

The number of states offering ethics training has crept steadily upward; 44 commissions in 40 states and many other legislative agencies provide programs. States also have expanded training to a wider range of participants—from public officials to legislative and executive staff to lobbyists. Increasingly, training is available online. One thing, however, has remained the same: Ethics training is considered crucial for public officials. Training educates legislators and staff on ethics laws and rules and demonstrates to the public that these officials realize that ethical behavior is integral to holding their trust. Now that ethics training is so prevalent, how can states ensure it is the best it can be?

States structure ethics training in a variety of ways. All review appropriate behavior using relevant laws and rules, codes of conduct, or an employee handbook. While these tools are important, the Institute for Ethical Awareness finds few people read these materials. The Ethical Leadership Group agrees, urging those responsible for training to “avoid sounding authoritarian, abstract, or boring.” Ethics trainers can be more effective by offering actual legislative dilemmas and illustrating how they were handled.

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