Project Management

7 Ethics Tips for Project Managers

Project managers are not buying and selling information that could break the economy, but they have a duty to remain ethical in their actions all the same. Ethics are important in any job, from fast food worker to CEO. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Elizabeth Harrin shares seven tips that project managers can use to stay on the up and up:

  1. Disclose your interests.
  2. Don’t use assets from your last job.
  3. Don’t leave information out deliberately.
  4. Be brave.
  5. Challenge decisions.
  6. Don’t ask your team to do unpaid work.
  7. Don’t play favorites.

The Good Manager

If anyone is trying to secure a contract with your business with whom you have an existing personal relationship, you should remove yourself from having any say in that process. This way, no one can make accusations of favoritism later. Another thing not to do is to keep using assets from a previous job in a new job. What you can do instead is apply the knowledge you gained from those old assets and redeploy them in a context that honestly agrees with your current position. As Harrin says, you “can’t unknow what you know,” so find ways to use your knowledge with integrity.

About deliberately leaving out information—a.k.a. lies of omission—Harrin gives this example of why it is wrong:

… if you are asked if your project is on schedule, you could reply: “Right now we’re sticking to the plan.” That gives the client the impression that all is well. However, if you know that there is a huge risk coming round the corner that’s probably going to push you off course next month then you’ve deliberately left out information that would give them the complete picture.

This isn’t honest or transparent and you are better than that. It’s giving your clients a poor service and doing a disservice to your team as well.

Her next two tips, being brave and challenging decisions that warrant dissent, are pretty straightforward. Assuming no extreme circumstance is afoot, not asking the team to chip in unpaid overtime is pretty understandable too. And lastly, when it comes to playing favorites—refrain. If you go out to eat with one particular subordinate too often, for instance, it may create resentment in the rest of the team, or make them feel like that other person enjoys elevated business status. If you cannot find ways to “spread the love” among the team, then maybe bring less love.

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