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Project Management Ethics

Updated on September 4, 2010

The topic of ethics can be a very complex subject due to the number of variables including differences in situations, cultures, and individuals. In general, ethics are the values by which a person’s actions can judged. While some actions can be seen as positive or negative by their nature, a person’s motivation must also be considered. For example, if a person volunteers to assist in charitable work it would normally be considered a good deed; however, if the person was motivated to do so because he knew it would assist his career due to press coverage, then the deed could be considered tarnished.

These types of considerations also apply within the realm of project management. During the course of a project, the project manager may be faced with many decisions in which he must choose the right course of action. A project manager’s ethics should provide a strong guide for these decisions. For example, a project manager must not exploit resources or confidential information for personal gain. Ethics should also assist the project manager with interpersonal communication. By remaining honest and respectful of co-workers and clients, the project manager will be able to promote a positive work atmosphere.

To overcome cultural and other differences in global ethics, the Project Management Institute has published a code of ethics to serve as a guideline for all project managers. The greatest advantage of having a single code is that it provides a common ground from which project managers can operate. In addition to this main power, a project manager will benefit from adhering to a central code of ethics by nature of the reputation it will build for himself. Companies will seek out employees that can be trusted and who display transparency in their decision processes. In building trust with clients, the project manager will have a stronger bond with them. This bond could then lead to additional contracts and recommendations.

The PMI Code of Ethics of Professional Conduct recognizes four specific traits as being the most important for all members, PMI certificate holders, and affiliated individuals. These fundamental qualities are responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty. While I have already touched on respect and honesty, responsibility is also vital to project management. This third value calls for a project manager to own his decisions and not attempt to place blame on others for failures. Responsibility can also tie in closely with fairness when accepting accolades. If a project manager shares the success of a project with his team, this not only will help to build a reputation for him as a good team leader, but also it will help to build team morale. In having this central code of ethics, the PMI helps to insure the integrity of project managers and their commitment to providing their clients with the best possible services.


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      Johne956 3 years ago

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    • Michael VO profile image

      Michael VO 5 years ago from Warrenton Missouri

      A manager can manage the project for the benefit of the organization, the true job of the manager, or they can manage the metrics for their own benefit. I have worked for the former as well as the latter. Ethical management must line up with the principals of servant leadership.