Contributing Factors to Ethical Violations: What Makes Otherwise Ethical Project Managers Make Poor Decisions

PMI East Tennessee Chapter

Gary is an experienced project and program professional, and an avid contributor and volunteer with the Project Management Institute.

Abstract
Project management practitioners and organizations alike must understand the key drivers that can lead individuals to make unethical decisions. Once these drivers are known, project managers and organizations can begin to mitigate the risk associated with poor decision making.

Introduction
Globally, organizations are increasing the amount of resources devoted to ethical training, not only for project managers, but also for all employees. This statistic is supported by the National Business Ethics Survey (NBES) 2013 report. The NBES numbers are quite compelling; the percentage of companies that offered employee ethics training went from 74% in 2011 to 81% in 2013 (ECI, 2013).

Has this increased focus on ethics had a positive impact on the number of reported violations? Not as much as one would think. In fact, the report showed a historic low of 41% of employees observing and then reporting misconduct in the workplace in 2013 (ECI, 2013). Let’s take a moment to reflect on that number. 81% of all employees took formal training, yet only slightly more than half of those same employees who subsequently observed unethical workplace conduct reported it. Why is there not a more direct correlation between the numbers of employees trained in ethical behavior and the observed and reported incidences of misconduct?

Many factors must be considered when analyzing …

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