Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

The Case of the Extra Mile

by Kirk O. Hanson

At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Elizabeth Connors, analyst in the County Executive's Office, looked with dread at the pile of unfinished work still sitting on her desk. She had been looking forward to a quiet weekend with her husband and one-year-old daughter, a badly needed rest after two weekends of hosting her parents, who had been with them for an extended visit. There was no way she would finish the tasks assigned to her by 5 p.m.
Furthermore, she had just taken an urgent call from a deputy county executive, indicating that he needed a report on the delivery of some specific county services first thing Monday morning. Apparently, several major decisions regarding these services were to be made during the following week.
"I have always been proud to be a county employee," thought Elizabeth. "I hold a special position of trust with the residents of the county. That means getting the job done for the public, particularly the recipients of county services my division delivers. But how far do my obligations go? There is no way I can get the report finished without spending much of my Saturday in here. I have been spending more and more weekend time in here during the past six months. Where do I draw the line? When should my responsibilities to the public outweigh my family's needs? I have a vacation coming up; what if some big issue emerges in my area just as I am scheduled to go on vacation? Do I owe it to the county to postpone my vacation?"

Kirk O. Hanson is executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
Dec. 7, 2001


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