Are You an Ethical and Trustworthy Project Manager?

In order to be respected and trusted by your team and your stakeholders, you must behave ethically. That’s easy enough to say, but what exactly does that mean? In a nutshell, ethical people understand the difference between moral and immoral behavior and the standards that govern their own behavior. They act in a moral way in order to meet those behavioral standards.

I have found over the years that ethical behavior tends to generate trust and respect in the workplace. Behaving ethically and performing your project management work should generate trust between you and your project stakeholders. The stakeholders trust you to do the right thing at the right time on the project, and to keep their interests front and center in your decision-making process. This allows you to engage with your stakeholder’s needs and act in their best interests at all times.

Here’s a story from my book that makes my point very well. During lunch one day, my best buddy Ginger overheard information that concerned her regarding the current status of an important business continuity study program she was working on for a large financial services firm. One of the new technical team members sitting at the next table was talking loudly to a group of his friends. He brings up a piece of information regarding the project’s status that is inconsistent with the current status that he just reported to the Ginger and Kim, the program manager, on an area that he is responsible for in the project plan.

“Guys, I’ve only been here six months and I’m working on something this leading edge and important. I just found out from my buddy in IT that the set of records that tracks that staff members were trained and cross-trained on critical plant operations is gone. The data got erased in a failed server transfer. Poof! No backup files. How weird is that?  Hope they have hard copies somewhere. But it’s cool. They’ll find what we need eventually.”

Ginger leans across the table and asks “Wait a minute, have you told the rest of our team about this?” He replies, “No way, Ginger. Tomorrow someone will find the hard copies in somebody’s cube, and I’ll look like an idiot. I just sent in my status report anyway. I’m not revising that thing unless I absolutely have to.” Ginger got to her feet and collected her things. “Come on, let’s find Kim and give him this update. That missing data affects our results tremendously and this can’t wait. Grab your sandwich and come with me.”

Ginger had it right, it was time to step up and get the situation corrected before that situation got out of hand.  Funny how “confronting the problem” is often a component of behaving ethically on a project, isn’t it? I have always found that being straightforward and putting all of the cards on the table can not only defuse but also correct a bad situation.

Your ethical behavior often comes into play during your project management work.  You may find yourself recognizing that a proposed solution or a particular requirement presents ethical difficulties. Ethical project managers consider the interests of all stakeholders when making decisions and are sure to clearly articulating the basis of their decisions so everyone understands. Any conflicts of interest should be promptly and fully disclosed.

Earning the trust of your key stakeholders is a linchpin of a successful project manager and perhaps the basis for a successful project outcome. It is difficult to develop a solution when folks won’t tell you what you need to know to define the best solution to meet their needs.

Susan Weese

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