Project Management

Ethics Bistro

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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
Karthik Ramamurthy
Alankar Karpe
Fabio Rigamonti
Mohamed Hassan
Valerie Denney
John Watson
Deepa Bhide
Amany Nuseibeh
Enrique Cappella
Gretta Kelzi
Albert Agbemenu

Past Contributors:

Lily Murariu

Recent Posts

Is there something called an ethical protest?

Avoiding the Alligators While Navigating Uncharted Territory

Ethics as a competence of the Portfolio Program Project Manager: a personal journey.

Workforce Ethical Dilemmas in times of COVID-19

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Is there something called an ethical protest?

Categories: volunteers

I have witnessed several protests in my city and around the world lately. These protests were against the action taken or not taken, perceived bias by the government, organizations etc.

Residents from my locality took part in these protests. When I spoke to them as why they were protesting against the government while they are not directly affected by the proposed law changes, they said that they are doing it for the betterment of the society as a whole.

And after few days, I read in the news that protesters burned public transport buses, chocked the traffic on the road and caused delays for several hours impacting commuters and causing inconvenience to the same society they want to make better by protesting!

One of the arguments given to me is that protest is their human right given by the constitution - the same constitution that explains the citizens’ roles and responsibilities. How convenient it is for these citizens to choose one side of the constitution while choosing to ignore another!

And then there is a section of general public who are not part of these protests, but they suffer greatly even when there were not faulty. For example, Hong Kong airport was shut down during the protests; there were significant property loss in India due to protest against an amendment in the existing law. 

In my view, protesters must ask themselves some questions, no matter what they are protesting for, before they bring traffic to a standstill for several hours, take over roads and buildings and cause huge trouble to the general public who has little or nothing to do with the cause of the protest.

  • If this protest is absolutely necessary and justified, considering the trouble it will cause?
  • Will the protest remain under control, not being taken advantage of, or diverted by criminal elements?  
  • Are the means of the protest, appropriate to the overall objective of the reason of protesting?
  • Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility of the consequences of the protest?
  • How innocents and general public will be affected by these actions?

A protester cannot be ethical and justify him/herself if he/she acts only in his/her own interest causing huge inconvenience to the public, loss of property and resources.

I wonder how the protest will look if we respect each other? In that case, there will not be any bad words, slogans raised; there will not be any action causing inconvenience to the public and there will be a genuine attempt to understand the concern from both sides rather than just making the rules to be followed.

Was it a fair cause? And if yes, while a protest is exercising a democratic human right, what is the starting point for a protest to change into the wrong direction?

Question remains: Will there be any protests if we, every one of us aiming to have policies and laws, ensure that these laws are fair, treating people equally and respecting the individuals?

In the end, I would like to say that the protesters also require to be responsible in exercising their democratic rights, respecting laws, fair to themselves and to their fellow citizens while expressing their rejection to irresponsible and non-fair laws while being accountable for their own actions.   

Picture from Pixabay




Posted by Alankar Karpe on: July 01, 2020 05:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Avoiding the Alligators While Navigating Uncharted Territory

Categories: Behavior, Change, Ethics, Values

2020 has been quite a year so far….. And we aren’t even halfway through it.  Individuals, families, friends and business entities have been stretched (and stressed) in new and unusual way.  For those fortunate to still have a project management job, the challenges are often related to communicating in the completely virtual environment.  Even in those organizations which had a distributed workforce before the start of 2020, things have changed. It was common to mix phone calls and zoom meetings with periodic face to face meetings.  Gone is the physical networking.  Gone are the physical conferences.  Gone are the trips through airport security and staying in hotels. Gone are the day long whiteboard problem solving sessions.   

Transitioning to a virtual environment requires a mindset change.  How tempting it is to find other things to do around the house when no one is looking.  How will the boss even know I cleaned the garage, or planted the garden, consulted for another company, or simply read a book unrelated to work during my normal working hours?

Is it that ethical expectations have changed?  To that I say NO!   The expectations haven’t changed, but perhaps the change that caused a slide down the slippery slope.  Let’s take a moment and reflect. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (AKA- the Code) describes the expectations that we have of ourselves and our fellow practitioners in this global project management community. It consists of four fundamental values described below.

First is RESPONSIBILITY. I ask you, if you committed to completing a task and you just didn’t get around to it, are you taking ownership for your decisions?  Should there be consequences?

Next is RESPECT. I ask you, if you improperly account for the hours you worked and use the company laptop for a personal project during working hours,  are you respecting the resources the client has provided you? 

Next is FAIRNESS. I ask you, if you are consulting on another project management activity during your prescribed work hours, are you exhibiting fairness by using this situation for your own self-interest?

The last value is HONESTY. I ask you, if you tell your boss that the work is on track and nearly done when you know that isn’t the care, are you exhibiting honesty?

No one said change would be easy.  What if the new norm is a continual evolution? I, for one, believe it is.  Taking the time to look at the Code, and reflecting upon your own behavior during a time of change strengthens the professionalism of the global project management community.

Maybe Aldo Leopold (1887- 1948) said it best:  ethical behavior is doing the right thing when on one else is watching. This still rings true today.


Images are provided by Creative Commons.


Posted by Valerie Denney on: June 08, 2020 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Ethics as a competence of the Portfolio Program Project Manager: a personal journey.

Hello, welcome to our blog. I would like to share a personal story and some lessons learned about ethics as a new competence for Project Managers. I will appreciate your comments and feedback.

Some 20 years ago, I was recruited by a Global Corporation and was tasked to implement their Resource Management Systems for the Service Delivery Practice. I was engaged to the implementation of the Resource Management policies and systems within the Project Management Practice to achieve project success. The Resource Management program was designed to assign the right people, with the right skills and the right cost to the billable projects. At that time, the purpose was to “deliver the project and collect the revenue”. A new ethics policy was issued shortly after I began.  I was not sure why we needed ethics in an IT management delivery division. We were required to review the ethics principles and declare that we understood those principles and sign that we agree with the company code. There was a lot of resistance from my direct reports and contributors. “Why ethics?” was the common comment, and of course “it is just another unnecessary and not useful requirement on our already overcharged workload”.

Soon after we learned about the consequences in the industry and in the overall market of the Enron fraudulent case and the enacting of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)[1].  Then we understood the need for a framework to prevent incorrect behaviors (Ethics!). The ethics initiative started to make sense and we understood the need for ethics in several contexts. Since then, ethics has been a must have and my new challenge was how to change behaviors and habits in myself and my team members to do the right things and to do the things right. This was especially challenging in some countries in the Latin America (LA) region where corruption is endemic.

Today, PPPMs (Portfolio, Program and Project Managers) are challenged with new technologies, approaches and resources. They are also challenged to develop new competences that are considered critical to increase their employability. Some of the new competences are described in several papers and leading books, such as agile, communication, leadership, influencing, negotiation and others. In parallel one can observe the need for a set of new habits and behaviors that creates credibility and trust and therefore a greater leadership capacity.

Such sets of behaviors and habits are part of ethics and professional conduct. Organizations are demanding that their contributors and contractors make visible the “doing the right thing and doing this the right way”. Ethics is a competence that allows the organization to increase its sales, make sustainable deals and become an employer of choice.

In my experience as a keynote speaker in several chapter events in Latin America during the last few years, every time I talk about Ethics, I perceive that the audience are not convinced of the importance of the subject, especially young participants.  When I ask for feedback to my presentation, they tell me: “Yes, it was an interesting subject” or “Yes, I liked your presentation”, but not as enthusiastic as when I present about tools and techniques. Why is it so difficult for average participants to become attracted by ethics? Probably they don´t see the immediate use and benefits.  Maybe they perceive that ethics is for someone else and not for me. Other comments I receive are related to what´s in it for me? At other times, the comment is “Ok, ethics is important, but how can I become more ethical?”

I am convinced that it is not possible to be successful if the tools and techniques are not properly matched with a set of behaviors that convince key stakeholders that personal ethical values are not negotiable.

I leaned that it is easier to promote ethics if it is perceived as set of competences that can be developed (as many other skills and competences). This can be accomplished by creating an awareness, the desire for ethics behaviors and a plan to develop the new behaviors. The motivation and desire to develop the competencies differ according to the person´s filters. However, there is not a simple recipe for everyone. In some instances, the orientation to tasks and quick achievements will motivate individuals. In other cases, the motivation is the process, the welfare of others, or the flexibility.

Once you create the awareness and the individual is willing to develop the new habits and behaviors, they need to be able to find the tools and techniques that help them transform the ethics principles into a new set of behaviors and habits. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (the “Code”) and the Ethics Tool Kit are great resources for practitioners to start and sustain their journey. For further Information on the code and the Ethics Tool Kit, please visit


[1] In 2002, Sarbanes-Oxley was named after bill sponsors U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Michael G. Oxley (R-OH). As a result of SOX, top management must individually certify the accuracy of financial information. In addition, penalties for fraudulent financial activity are much more severe. Also, SOX increased the oversight role of boards of directors and the independence of the outside auditors who review the accuracy of corporate financial statements.[1]

Posted by Enrique Cappella on: May 12, 2020 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Workforce Ethical Dilemmas in times of COVID-19

 As Angela started her car, a thought crossed her mind on when she gets home, will she be greeted by her family?

It was a disturbing thought and so she set it aside trying not to dwell on it. Why would they not? They have been always ready to greet her with a hug as soon as she arrived from her hectic hospital duty that almost left her lifeless.

What will be different this time? She imagined her two year old Sally hugging her,  and  her husband John offering to park her car and make her coffee. She reassured herself nothing would be different and continued to drive.

These are the thoughts and emotions of our healthcare workforce as they are working on the frontlines in the COVID-19 settings in the hospitals. While we are grateful for their dedicated service, some part of us is concerned if they are carriers for the virus, infecting the family when they get home. We are privy to the universal truth that the personal protective equipment as in gown, gloves, N95 respirator plus a face shield/goggles etc. are scarce. What does that leave our loved ones with? An exposure to the risk of contracting the virus at the hospital? Will they be carrying it back home?

Cases are reported across the world around growing discrimination due to heightened fears and misinformation. Driven by authentic information, ethical behavior and health literacy, there is an urgent need to counter such prejudices and show empathy to these “warriors”.

Yet another situation seen around ethical concerns is around resource allocation. During medical emergencies, it’s important to ensure that ethically appropriate treatments are delivered. In face of scarcity of resources in treatment of COVID-19 patients and shortages of life-saving equipment including ventilators and medications; healthcare personnel often face an ethical dilemma and are forced to make difficult choices for appropriate allocation of these limited health resources. In Italy, the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation, and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has formulated the guidelines1 for the benefit of tackling such ethical challenges.

Recently World Health Organization (WHO) has established an international Working Group on Ethics & COVID-19 in order to develop advice2 on key ethical questions that member states need to address.  Let’s map these to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and see how they fit.

The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct by Project Management Institute with its four values (Responsibility, Respect, Fairness and Honesty) are all-inclusive and can be applied to any domain and situations. We urge readers to review these and keep themselves informed.

Values as per World Health Organization Working Group

What does this mean?

Value as per PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct


Refers to open and transparent communication with the stakeholders



Refers to inclusiveness around involving appropriate stakeholders in decision-making process and the decision itself



Refers to invoking decisions to be able to treat all persons in a category the same way without showing any bias



Refers to holding  those making decisions around allocation accountable for their decisions


We; as citizens; have a responsibility to ourselves and others to recognize these challenges that our near and dear ones who are front-ending the COVID-19 patients are facing. Let’s all be empathetic, responsible, respectful, honest and fair towards them and spread the word of ethical behavior in face of these challenges.

Angela reached home to find Sally and John waiting for her with basket full of flowers that they were eager to shower on their “brave” mother/wife. Angela’s eyes were wet with tears as she approached her home, facing another ethical dilemma – As much as she wants to shower her family members with hugs and kisses, as much as she’s aware of the risk that she is exposing them to. If you were Sally, what would you do?

References and helpful links

  2. International working group on Ethics & COVID-19 -
  3. PMI’s Ethical Decision-Making Framework -
  4. PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
  5. Note: You can find a rich set of Ethics resources such as the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, Ethical Decision Making Framework, Ethics-related Tools, etc., in many world languages at

Names are changed to protect identity

Posted by Deepa Bhide on: May 09, 2020 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Effective communication in COVID-19 crisis needs responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

Enrique Cappella, PMP.


Organizations and people are struggling to adapt to the new “normal” work environment and obtain high performance and quality. Working from home in a remote fashion using technology is becoming a powerful tool for business continuity. New concepts of teamwork and social interaction are emerging and the role of the Project manager as a Team Leader is changing. The challenge is to reduce the impact on the new policies (remote meetings, home working, etc.) to handle the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on performance and operations, however it is also an opportunity for preparing the teams to work on hybrid contexts (remote and face to face). The Hybrid Teams bring isolation of the members in remote environments at home or at a work location away from their social support and means a change for people and not all accepts such change. I assist organizations on Strategic Management and one of the Key Success Factors is building and maintain high performance teams that help the organization to achieve their expected results and contribute to the business strategy. Strategic management is already a challenge itself and it is now increased due to the need to protect people and obtain productivity from hybrid teams. It is a change for which not all leaders in the organization are ready for and this gap might impact negatively on team performance and achievement of targets and goals.

I experienced recently the breaking down of a team in a global company. The team was built during the last 3 years, because its leader did not have the skills to communicate effectively the new way of working and to satisfy the team members expectations and needs. A global team of 5 people, running a critical role for the company, lost 3 members and the remaining 2 members are demotivated and their targets are not being achieved.

Leaders need to be aware about their role in this new challenge brought by the global Corona Virus COVD 19. They need to prepare their teams to use new technologies, to adapt to the new reality, and to run meetings and control performance in a virtual fashion. The leader will not have the visual clues of motivation or conflict and need to be available to answer new questions from the team. The new leader needs to learn how to provide for constructive feedback and motivate people using a set of new tools provided by technology different from traditional face to face work schemes. Workers will feel that they are losing connections with the persons that help them during work hours and many will need to adjust their habits and discipline along with keeping self - motivated and work at home where distractions are permanent.

The leader in my example above is not trained or skilled on interpersonal relationships and was not prepared to help the team members to become self-aware of their motivations and strengths needed to understand the change and how to prevent and manage their interpersonal conflict. And nothing was said in preparation to understand other member´s motivations and to learn a communication style for virtual high team performance. The result was that 3 members preferred to leave the company.

Leaders need to develop a new set of values and behaviors and also they need to be honest to recognize that a new set of skills and competences are needed to help teams to overcome uncertainty and build trust and motivation to perform on the hybrid context. I had the opportunity to talk to the team members that left the company and the three of them decided to leave mainly because their manager (supposedly their leader) was not able to keep them connected to the organization. I remember the book “It’s the manager” I recently read by Clifton and Harter[i] which I recommend because it stresses the importance of the role that the manager plays to connect people.

PMI Ethical Values  helps leaders to remember that our team members are people that perceive threatens that will drive them into conflict if they don´t understand their leaders and the new challenges; and once they are in conflict, they will forget about the organization and might get to the point to think only about surviving. Leaders must keep in mind that people need to be Respected and treated Fairly to keep their well-being and also they need to become aware of the Responsibility to develop a new set of behaviors that will motivate and connect their team members. Leaders should be Honest with themselves and their teams about his/her strengths and weaknesses and develop team agreements that help them to build high performance teams.



[1] Clifton, Jim and Harter Jim, It´s the manager, Gallup Press, 2019.

Posted by Enrique Cappella on: April 02, 2020 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.

- Anonymous