Project Managers - How to Make Ethical Decisions?

Dr. Purushothaman
December 13, 2013

Let's look at the below fictitious conversation between two managers that take place during the lunch break.

"Hi Srikanth, you did not come to the project go/no-go meeting yesterday. We were going through the status of all the projects for next release" Ram says.
"Yaa Srikanth. I was off yesterday; Watched the live India versus Pakistan Semi-finals" Ram replies.
"Is it. How did you get the tickets? I tried but could not buy?"" Srikanth asks.
"You know Srikanth, this time, one of the vendor who supply resources for my project offered tickets for me and my family including dinner coupons" Rams says.

This event contains possible ethical violation. When I did a quick Keyword research to see how many times " ethics" has been searched on the Google, I found that approximately 15,00,000 times in a month, this word has been requested. Likewise, the phrases including "ethics definition", "code of ethics", "professional ethics", "ethical dilemma", "ethical issues", "business and ethics" and "ethics in business" have been searched several hundred times on the Google Search Engine and this shows that people all over the world want to know more about ethics.

In 2009; National Business Ethics survey conducted in the US by a non-profit organization reveals that non- ethical behaviors including company resource abuse, abusive behavior, Lying to employees, Email or Internet abuse, discrimination, employee benefit violations, employee privacy breach, improper hiring practices, falsifying time or expenses, customer privacy breach and even misuse of company's confidential information is happening in organizations. In summary we know something unethical is going on in organizations. Since lack of ethics can lead to project failures, how do we behave ethically? Let's discuss about it now.

Ethics is a set of standards that tells us how we should behave and understand the differences between right and wrong in our day to day life. Also, the ethical principles such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship are ground roles for our life. Every organization must have a code of ethical guidelines, and must provide the framework for employees to make ethical decisions when they are unsure of what to do. Hence adhering to the organization's ethical policies would help one to follow the ethical guidelines in their day to day work life.

Ethics can often be situational and organizational ethical policies won't cover guidelines for all situations. In this type of situations, ask yourself lot of open-ended questions to get the facts. Few questions including "What is right? What's wrong from an ethical standpoint? Am I accepting responsibility for my actions? Can my decision protect my team from physical and mental harm? Am I willing to pay the price for making an unethical decision? Am I willing to sacrifice my pride, integrity, reputation and honor by making an unethical choice?" would help you make an ethical decision and if you still unsure of what to do, take the choice that will produce the most good for your organization and less harm for the most people.

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