Is speaking up your responsibility?

From the Ethics Bistro Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
We all tackle ethical dilemmas. Wrong decisions can break careers. Which are the key challenges faced? What are some likely solutions? Where can we find effective tools? Who can apply these and why? Dry, theoretical discussions don't help. Join us for lively, light conversations to learn, share and grow!

About this Blog


View Posts By:

Kimberly Whitby
Simona Bonghez
Fabio Rigamonti
Lily Murariu
Karthik Ramamurthy
Alankar Karpe
Angelica Larios
Amany Nuseibeh
Deepa Bhide
John Watson
Mohamed Hassan
Dr. André Onana
Valerie Denney
Enrique Cappella

Recent Posts

An approach to ethics for Digital disruption projects

Vacation time...

Can empathy turn the tide in a project?

Caustic Comment Causes Cultural Crisis

Respect @ Workplace

If yes, then what other values or attributes should we include when exercising this responsibility?

Recent articles and discussion questions on were about lying and cheating and the difficulty in talking about ethical issues.  Research indicates there is an increase in unethical conduct and a decline in the reporting of it. The evidence indicates there is a correlation to an absence of speaking up.
Speaking up goes beyond ethics.
Would you agree this could include but is not limited to things that need to be said to stakeholders about your projects and with your relationships, personally and professionally?
Another source  indicates there is an increase in complaints over ethical issues which are not based on unethical conduct. There often seems to be a rush to a misguided judgement and action taken on perceived ethical infractions, when it may be a personal issue, a disagreement over a decision, or a simple misunderstanding, only to mention a few of the possible reasons.

Have you ever had a colleague or friend, speak up in detail with you regarding an ongoing problem they are having, only to learn they have not shared any portion of their concerns with the people involved or the source of the dilemma?

There are at least two sides of seeing something and saying something.
If you see something good, how often do you show your appreciation and gratitude?
If you see something that gives you concerns, how do you validate your observation?
Do you become curious of one’s intent or possible consequences before you speak?
How well are you listening? Does it give you an awareness of when to speak or when not to speak?
What is your listening style, apathetic, empathic, sympathetic, or pathetic?

Speaking up is not just telling, it could be asking and perhaps that is the better way through respectful questioning and curiosity. It can provide you clarity and a better understanding. It helps to acknowledge what is known and identify what may be missing.
Are you sparking the fire of fury or creativity?

Speaking up is not just saying something. Do you really make your words count?
Do you think complaining or criticizing without data is whining?
When is the point it becomes important enough for you to say something?
Does it have to threaten one’s wellbeing or safety, your values or your principles?
Why and when do we speak up, and why and when don’t we?
When does this happen to you?
What is your level of intolerance?
What is your tolerance of silence?
Understanding that in certain cultures, it is disrespectful to speak up. What examples or recommendations do you have for this situation?

If you don’t think it is your responsibility to speak up, who should?

If you do think speaking up is your responsibility, speak up, speak out, and speak well!
Pick the right time, the right reason and do it with fairness, honesty, and respect!

Is there anything you want to say!?!


Posted by John Watson on: December 12, 2018 01:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (24)

Page: 1 2 next>

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Speaking up is a critically important part of the social and ethical responsibilities for project managers. That doesn't mean it is always easy to do. I often approach dilemmas by asking a lot of questions to get the root of the issue before allowing myself to make judgement. Once we get to the truth, we must be able to share both the milestones/successes as well as the challenges, issues or concerns with our stakeholders. PMs must be known for giving a true representation of the project at any given moment.

I think that if we see an unethical situation we should speak up and share our concerns. However, we should be able to provide an explanation of why we find the behavior unethical and if possible suggest alternative courses of action. I understand that some cultures consider it disrespectful to speak up. Many of those cultures also are plagued with rampant corruption and lots of action that would be considered unethical elsewhere.

Thank you John for reminding us the importance of speaking up! Sometimes speaking up could also offend some higher ups but as PMs, we have a code to live by and we must share the true picture of project all the time.

Important of meeting is brought out in simple eau

Thank you for sharing John, I agree Alankar, we must share a true picture

Great points. And absolutely!

John, you touch on a very sensitive and important subject. I believe speaking up in the right way is everyone’s responsibility as part of being ethical especially if they see something wrong.

So, to be clear.... saying nothing constitutes guilt by omission.

And John, the comments about approaching difficult conversations with the right heart is well made, well taken, and applies not only at work, but everywhere in our lives.

Speak up but it will be more effective if you separate the people from the Problem. Discuss the problem in detail , discuss measures to mitigate risks and issues, try not to point fingers at the individuals

Well if you are into transparency, which all Agile projects are suppose to be, then yes. But in all projects truth and transparency should prevail.

You are nice.

Speaking up is one of the most sensitive parts of human life, it's not about a project or corporate affairs, we are to speak up when we are to.

Speaking up is to be nicely.

Well done John! My favorite part is when you said speaking up may not be telling, it could be asking. Using a coaching process at the same time as speaking up is invaluable

Thanks for posting, John, Speaking up is such an important topic. Often we know what is "right" and want to make it happen, but lack the skills (or the confidence) to voice that opinion. Standing up for what you believe, particularly when in a high stress, high conflict environment can be especially difficult. One my favorite phrases I heard doing my research is that individuals need to not only know what is right, but have the "moral fortitude" (guts!) to make it happen.

To me, speaking up is not only a responsibility, but an obligation! That doesn't make it easy to do.

Lori Wilson, Excellent comment. I couldn't agree with you more.

John, you make some very insightful comments. I am sick of people who speak up in detail about a problem EXCEPT with the people involved who could solve it or be held accountable. As you note, asking thoughtful, respectful questions with an open curious mind before rushing to judgment is vitally important. Then, after the real facts are known and understood ACTION becomes a personal responsibility.

Speaking up is an art and a science. Its not just about speaking but speaking up for a cause is critical for a PM. Emotional Intelligence essentials are key to get to the right relationship and answer too. Asking other questions to know their point of view is critical to get the outcome as well as maintain a right relationship for a long term success.

Thank you John for speaking up about speaking up! Speaking up is about being true and honest to yourself and those around you. It's not easy depending on the culture of the organisation, the hierarchy and the ability to deliver a message that is respectful, honest and aiming to influence a fair action. It is our responsibility as PMs, leaders and influencers of change to speak up. We might choose to brain storm with those whom we trust about the message construct, delivery and approach to ensure we remain respectful aiming for positive influence. Happy New Year 2019 - may it be a more ethical year!

Great topic John. My 2 cents -
Being an enabler is NOT to be silent whether you approve or not approve. It reinforces.
Its a good way to get the feel of what others think.
Shows commitment.
36% of passengers wouldn't ask a driver to slow down if they were speeding. 28% of those don't want to be rude and 12% are just too embarrassed.
Lets not endanger any passenger. Best wishes for the year 2019.

Think before talking. Be respectful, fair and honest with yourself. Then speak up when you have to, using the values stated before.

Page: 1 2 next>

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


A cat is a lion in a jungle of small bushes.

- English proverbs