I’m Ethical…Are You? It Depends on How You Look At It

PMI Southwest Virginia Chapter +1

Michael O’Brochta, PMI-ACP, PMP, is a retired CIA project manager who currently works as President of Zozer Inc., a project management consulting company, and volunteers as Chair of the Project Management Institute's Ethics Member Advisory Group.

I would like to provoke some critical thinking by claiming that I am ethical, and then asking if you are. This simple statement and question can lead to complex considerations. For example, recently while attending an event with two dozen professionals, I asked each person to use a five-point scale to score their own ethical behavior, and then to score his/her perception of the ethical behavior of others in their profession (five points was the most ethical). Interestingly, the average of the individual self-assessments for ethical behavior were quite high, an average of 4.5 on the scale. And even more interestingly, the assessments of others in the profession were much lower, an average of 2.8 on the scale. Mind you, the same people giving themselves high ethical scores were being given much lower scores by their peers.

How You Look At It
I have concluded that ethics is one of those subjects that can depend on how one looks at it; not unlike the duck versus rabbit conundrum illustrated in the picture. My conclusion stems from a lifelong interest in the subject of ethics; I am currently serving as the Chair of the Ethics Member Advisory Group for the Project Management Institute. My thinking is that being ethical and being perceived as ethical are critical factors in project success; a successful project requires leadership, which requires followers, which requires trust, …

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