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Ethics and Project Management by Ralph L. Kliem, PMP

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Ethics and Project Management
e subject of ethics, of course, is not a new one. It has been around for
many centuries. Like the topic itself, circumstances dealing with ethics
continue to resurface everywhere, oen with disturbing repetitiveness.
at goes for the project environment, too. Whether managing a large,
medium, or small project, project managers will have to confront ethics
on an ongoing basis.
1.1   WHATISETHICS?
ere are many dierent denitions of ethics:
“Ethics refers to a systematic study of the norms and values that
guide how humans should live their lives.
*
[Ethics] is the activity of understanding moral values, resolving
moral issues, and justifying moral judgments. It is also the discipline
or area of study resulting from that activity.
[Ethics is] a branch of philosophy dealing with values that relate
to the nature of human conduct and values associated with that
conduct.
*
Joseph Desjardins, An Introduction to Business Ethics, 2nd ed. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006),
p. G3.
Roland Schinzinger and Mike W. Martin, Introduction to Engineering Ethics (Boston: McGraw-
Hill, 2000), p. 8.
David P. Twoney and Marianne M. Jennings, Law and Business (Australia: Cengage Publishing,
2008), p. G9.
2  •  Ethics and Project Management
“e study of ethics generally consists of examination of right, wrong,
good, evil, virtue, duty, obligation, rights, justice, fairness, and so on,
in human relationships with each other and other living things.
*
“Ethics involves judgments about the rightness or wrongness of
human behavior.
ese denitions seem to center around certain characteristics that are
addressed by the topic of ethics in general:
Determining good from bad. Frequently, that means choosing right
from wrong. An example is determining when a particular action on
your part or that of a team member needs to be addressed.
Judgment. As a project manager, you oen have to decide whether to
make a decision about an ethical situation or whether to take action
and to what degree. An example would be determining whether to
elevate an ethical situation to higher management for resolution.
Behavior. Ethical beliefs are exhibited values that are reected
through action. In other words, beliefs and values inuence behavior.
You and your team members reect ethics through the ways you and
the others make decisions and how you go about executing them. An
example would be whether an ethical decision is made unilaterally
or through the consultation of other team members.
Ethical situations. Some of these situations involve dealing with
adverse topics, adding a level of complexity that other project man-
agement topics address. For example, calculating earned value is
straightforward; addressing a situation that injures a persons repu-
tation is not that black and white.
Determining the appropriate response to a given situation. is
requires looking at a number of options and choosing the right
one that eectively resolves an issue. Determining an appropriate
response requires wrestling with issues like fairness, integrity, objec-
tivity, honesty, and appropriateness. Tied closely to judgment, proj-
ect managers must respond in such a manner that requires taking
the high road, which in this case is choosing a response commensu-
rate with the circumstances. An example is bringing attention to an
*
Joanne B. Cuilla, Ethics: e Heart of Leadership (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998), p. 4.
Craig E. Johnson, Ethics in the Workplace: Tools and Tactics for Organizational Transformation
(ousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007), p. xxii.

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