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The important role played by ethics in project management is something which is quite often overlooked when considering the responsibilities of a project manager. Not only is a PM responsible for the various budgets, deadlines and deliverables of the project but they should also be highly aware of both the company’s code of conduct as well as broader ethics regulations. Ignorance is never a valid excuse when it comes to ethics failures and they can represent project risks.

So, what are the project and project management ethics you need to know and what effect are they likely to have upon your project? We’ve decided to take a closer look.

Conflicts of Interest

One of the most common problems faced by projects, especially larger ones that require outside contract is conflicts of interest. It is naturally in an external vendor’s best interests to foster relationships with industry contacts. This can become problematic however when team members or stakeholders attempt to influence a decision based on their close relationship with an external contractor. This does not always arise out of something as straightforward as monetary benefit, such as consultancy roles or free gifts. It can also be due to a prior relationship like being alumni of the same university or family connections.

For project management ethics, each team member involved in a decision-making process should be obligated to make full disclosure about a contractor they are recommending. Having an inside track isn’t a problem in itself, so long as everyone is aware of the connection and can take that into account when deciding on a contract.

Responsibility vs. Accountability

Another major issue is that of responsibility and accountability. Office politics can extend from the bottom to the top of any organization and shifting blame when problems arise or withholding information or assistance to the detriment of someone’s ability to complete a task can have an extremely negative effect on a team’s morale and its ability to cooperate to achieve project success.

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A PM, to ensure the safeguarding of their project management ethics, should be very clear about assigning responsibility, so that all team members are aware of what is expected of them. It is not always easy for people to admit to faults and accept the share of blame that is theirs, but by fostering a culture of trust and transparency, starting with the PM themselves, the team will be the stronger for it.

Health & Safety Standards

In every workplace there are regulatory requirements which extend beyond the basic code of conduct laid out by the organization. These employment rights and health and safety standards must always be taken into account in project management ethics, as failure to adhere to them can lead to government fines and individual lawsuits. Following proper procedures and ensuring all team members are afforded all the rights they are due according to law is vital to ensuring smooth project progression.

Ethics in project management are always a very important consideration and unethical behavior has the potential to seriously derail any project. A good project manager will always be aware of the ethical obligations of their organization and their individual project. If you are unsure of what these are, it may be a good idea to research ethical guidelines or consult your legal department.