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Paul is nervous. An employee has approached him about a potential conflict of interest that the employee is concerned could lead to termination. While Paul is mostly sure that the situation is not quite that dire, he is uncertain about his next actions. He understands that the employee cannot expect him to ignore the situation, but he also does not feel as if exposing the potential conflict of interest—and possibly terminating the employee—is his responsibility.

Paul is experiencing the intersection of legal and ethical responsibilities in administration. To decide on a course of action, he will need to brush up on human resources law.

By necessity, ethical decisions must be made within the framework of the legal realities of the adult education environment, which can lead to difficult decisions. These types of decision happen far more often than most administrators would like—conflict of interest, questionable student behavior, insufficient resources to serve everyone equally—and each requires a thoughtful, measured approach.


Think about a situation you have experienced where the ethics were problematic for you; perhaps, it was a hiring decision or allocation of scarce resources.

How did you make your decision?

What were your guiding thoughts?

Were you satisfied with the outcome, or would you handle the situation differently if you could do it over?

Is there anything you wish you had known at the time?

What advice would you give someone facing the same or a similar situation?

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