Being Ethical

March 8, 2010
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Picture8 A quick reference was made to ethics and for the project manager to be ethical when discussing the professional responsibility of integrity and professionalism. Ethics is a strong component of being a professional. A project manager is under tremendous pressures to meet is diverse responsibilities in a project. It will be easy to be tempted to cut corners to ensure some outcomes/results that are expected of him/her. The question being if the end justifies whatever means to achieve that; even if the means adopted were unethical.

Ethical responsibilities of a project manager

The project management institute has a code of ethics for professional managers titled “ Code of ethics and professional conduct”, approved Oct 2006. This code sets the standards of ethics expected of professional managers. It talks of mandatory standards on many of the ethical aspects. These are to be definitely met. It also lists aspirational standards that every professional manager must strive to meet. One thing is certain, professional responsibilities of a manager include not only doing the right things but also to do them the right way and not cut corners/compromise when the pressure to meet performance goals are high.

The goals of the code are described as follows. “ This Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct describes the expectations that we have of ourselves and our fellow practitioners in the global project management community. It articulates the ideals to which we aspire as well as the behavior that are mandatory in our professional and volunteer roles.” The code is expected to enhance confidence in the profession and would make better persons out of the management professional by following these standards. Credibility and reputation of the project management profession is built through how everyone of such professional behaves.

The code defines four categories or aspects of the professional behaviour that is expected to meet certain standards. These apply to aspects of behaviour that include responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty. Each has mandatory standards that must be met and additional aspirational standards that every individual aspires to meet and  tries continuously to meet by improving self. Mandatory aspects of responsibility includes such issues as whistle blowing. Since the code aims to improve the standards of a community some means of complaints against persons not meeting the standard is essential. However, such whistle blowing cannot be frivolous. Violations must be borne by facts and attention of appropriate authority should be drawn to such incidents. It is wise to alert the persons affected by such violations. What individuals themselves must meet are that individuals are responsible to be aware of and uphold the policies, rules, regulations and laws about the volunteer or professional work carried out. Aspirations need to be directed at making decisions and taking actions based on the best interests of society, public safety, and the environment. It require s that the person take on assignments that fits his background, experience, skills, and qualifications.

Respect related mandatory requirements cover negotiations in good faith, not to exercise power to influence decisions for personal gain, not to be abusive and respect property rights of others. What the manager then must aspire are trying to understand others, discuss directly with whom conflict/ disagreements exists and behave professional even when they may not be reciprocated. Mandatory fairness standards require full and pro-active disclosure of any conflict of interest and a voluntary action not to participate in decision making in such situations. Favouritism, nepotism, bribery, discrimination are all strict no-nos. Apply rules of the organization without any bias. Aspirational aspects require complete transparency and constant examination of self to improve the sense of fairness. Honesty in all its manifestation, including not to do things for personal gain or at the cost of others, is demanded of a project manager. Seeking truth, being truthful in all communication and conduct, providing accurate and timely information, making commitments and promises in good faith and to create an environment where people feel safe to tell the truth are the aspect the project manager should aspire for. Overall that defines the ethical responsibilities quite clearly.

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