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:

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

Recent Posts

A differing view- Of what we see and hear

Is speaking up your responsibility?

Why sometimes, good people are found lying?

Ethics and Trust: The Case of the Miraculous Program Recovery

A Tale of Two Friends

A differing view- Of what we see and hear

Have you ever had an ah-ha moment because of something that just happens to you?

As I sat at my desk preparing for a Skype call with a colleague from across the globe,  I watched the sun rise as it kissed and glistened the morning dew.  While sitting in front of a pair of windows, I noticed the one on my right had taken on cloudiness in the glass, and the window on the left is perfectly clear. And yes, the azaleas are still blooming, and the mock cherry is starting to light up!

Since I sit right in the middle, and with a slight turn of my head I could go from a crispy clear view to a not so clear view. 

As the phone rang, a multitude of thoughts were racing through  my head, including several  quotes, “if you change the way you look at things the things you look at change!” – Wayne Dyer.

“Good leadership requires the ability to imagine life through another’s eyes”- Seth Godin.

And then I checked on a definition of Empathy- Being able to appreciate and experience emotion from another person’s perspective.”

This led me to think about the many ways we view the world, and how often we have differing interpretations or views of the same idea or situation, whether it be a problem, an opportunity or a solution.  We tend to view the world and our impact through our own lenses.  I wondered how much we could benefit and learn from other perspectives  and how my   friend was seeing the world today.  

So, I asked…., and here is a small portion of our conversation. 

Although we did not achieve the intended purpose of our call, what we did accomplish by better understanding each other and growing our relationship was much more valuable.   

While this happened by accident, we imagined how many of our  relationships that would  benefit from having more of these types of conversations, intentionally! 

We discussed the critical importance of clarity.  What is crystal  clear to one person may not be so clear to the next person.  And within that difference, with its presence or absence, therein lies the opportunity for conflict, creativity, and growth.  And among other things, also the breakdown or building of Trust!

What is the difference between those two outcomes?

If we can so easily  become  vulnerable to see things differently, how often do we  understand the things we hear differently from intended?   Or how often do  two or more of us  hear   the same things, and walk away with a different understanding of what was said?

How often do we take the time to look at things through the other person’s lenses, and make a sincere effort to try and understand what, why or how they see things? 

Empathy is a leadership competency.  Practice putting yourself in the other persons shoes, see it and hear it from where they stand, and see if you can find a common ground to build on.

Discovering clarity on our different perspectives increases our understanding, capacity and ability to find the best solutions and outcomes for whatever we are trying to do.

If you think that is important, how might we make achieving clarity a shared responsibility?

Please join our conversation, we welcome your perspective. Where do you stand on this?


Posted by John Watson on: February 10, 2019 09:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

Is speaking up your responsibility?

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)

Why sometimes, good people are found lying?

Categories: Ethics, Human, Leadership

Why sometimes, good people are found lying? 

It is a very pertinent question because of the general assumption that liars are not good people, and that everyone must tell the truth at all times. This is what we learned during our school daysor even earlier and continue to believe till today. Despite this fairly universal belief, we sometimes find good people lying and find ourselves thinking that it might be fine to do so.

Good people sometimes tell lies to people they care about. In many cultures, we are told about the selfless mother who tells her kids she is not hungry so the children get a higher share of food. Also, we often read about leaders telling their staff they are doing a great job to keep them motivated despite knowing well that the work done is far from being great. We have all learned about entrepreneurs who are warding off bankruptcy but keep telling their buyers that business is good and can get even better in days or weeks to come. We salute the veterans who were captured and tortured to divulge positions of their platoon mates but misled the captors. Many of us “fake it till we make it” often lying to our own-selves to improve our prospects of success. 

So the mother who is in fact hungry but sacrifices her own needs for her children, leaders who are trying to keep their staff motivated to keep trying, entrepreneurs who are taking great personal risks to generate money just enough to pay salaries, the officer relying on deception to protect his soldiers, people who keep themselves energized through fantasies of being on the right track – actually telling lies? If these people are indeedtelling lies, how do we treat such false assertions? Is this type oflying good or bad?

It seems there are lies which are told for personal gains and lies which are told to protect others from harm. I have always advocated the universal belief that lying is unethical under any circumstances, but I also wonder why well respected people are found telling lies. Your thoughts on this seemingly controversial question are welcome.

Posted by Mohamed Hassan on: November 11, 2018 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Ethics and Trust: The Case of the Miraculous Program Recovery

By Dr. Valerie Denney,  EMAG member

In this blog, I encourage you to comment on this hypothetical, but realistic case, that describes a program that had an apparent miraculous recovery.

Trust and ethics…. Two powerful, yet common words.  Do we just use the words as slogans without stopping to think about what they really mean?

“Trust, but verify.”

“In God we trust.”

“Got ethics?”

Free vector graphic: Business, Idea, Style, Concept - Free ...

Let’s begin with a simple definition for ethics:  the rules of conduct for a particular culture or group. Using a thesaurus yields words such as integrity, morality, honesty, and conscience. For trust, let’s use reliance on the ability, integrity, and surety of an individual or institution.

Covey, in his bestseller, The Speed of Trust, describes trust with all stakeholders as a key leadership competency. Project managers, as with other leaders, build trust by the manner in which they make ethical decisions- those which make the best possible choices while working within the constraints and expectations of the environment. Leadership is inextricability linked with ethical choices.

<strong>Trust</strong> Quotes - Brain Quotes

As project and program managers, we have an obligation to comply with the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The code embraces four global project management community values including responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty. In context to this topic, respect is our duty to show a high regard to ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us. Honesty is our duty to understand the truth and act in a truthful manner in all that we do.

Consider the following situation with respect to ethics and trust.

You are the program manager of a high technology contract that has significant risk. There were a number of bumps on the program in the first 9 months including key personal issues, supplier problems, design errors, and late contract deliverables.  Since then, everything seems to be going well… at least according to your chief engineer.  Apparently program recoveries can come true!

You haven’t heard of any significant problems since this new chief engineer came to the program 5 months ago.  In fact, the weekly test metrics are excellent and far better than they were 4 months ago.  According to last week’s report, we are meeting, and in some places exceeding, the test completion plan. 

Last week a government auditor was at our facility for the annual review of the program. She and the chief engineer are good friends and served in the military together.  They go back at least 15 years. As friends, the chief engineer and the auditor went for an evening on the town. The chief engineer bragged “I have found a foolproof way of keeping the program on track.  All I need to do is estimate the results of the simple tests. I am positive everything works so actually I am being efficient and saving time and money.” The auditor gave a puzzled look, but continued the reunion that evening.

The next day, the auditor continued the review and stumbled across some problems with the way the test data was recorded.  Some of the detailed evidence seems to be missing.  A few days later, the auditor meets with you, and reveals a number of deficiencies, including issues with the test reporting.

You are shocked. How is this possible? There must be some mistake.  The chief engineer assured you that everything was great and you believed it to be true.

You meet with the chief engineer for clarification. The chief admits that there have been shortcuts, “but only on the tests that don’t really matter.  We all know those simple tests work, so why waste our time and money on a formality?”

The meeting ends abruptly. You trusted the chief engineer to be a leader and a technical expert?  You ask yourself “how could this happen?”

discussion Archives - Pro EcclesiaPro Ecclesia

What action(s)  would you take now?

What lesson(s) can we take from this scenario so we don’t encounter similar situations in the future?

In the end, performing ethically allows us to execute projects and programs successfully while acting in a manner which is consistent with our personal, company, and professional associations. Simply stated O’Brochta (2016) wrote that “ethics lead to trust, which leads to leadership, which in turn leads to project success.” This hypothetical case allows us to continue to explore this statement.

For more ethical resources please visit:

O'Brochta, M. (2016). Why project ethics matter: Leadership is built on trust. If the foundation is cracked, a project's future is in doubt. PM Network, 30(1), 29.

Posted by Valerie Denney on: August 14, 2018 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

A Tale of Two Friends

Julio and Martin were best friends in graduate school. Since then, their careers had taken them to many cities around the world. They now worked in the same city and shared the same profession, project management.

The duo would often meet for lunch every few weeks at their favorite Italian bistro. Over these lunches, they readily shared their personal and work experiences.

This week, Julio sensed that something was bothering Martin. Even over the phone in the past weeks, Martin had not been his cheerful self.

Julio asked, “What’s up buddy? You’ve seemed out of sorts for some time now.”

Martin was indeed troubled and badly wanted to talk. Julio was the one person he could really trust. He said, “You’re right. I’m having a tough time. My customer doesn’t trust me. Even worse, my team members seem to hate me. I’m under attack on several fronts!”

Friends sharing lunch at Italian Bistro

In an empathetic tone, Julio said: “That’s tough. Tell me more.”

“In my latest customer status report, I didn’t disclose a delay with a critical work package. A key AutoCAD expert suddenly fell sick. I didn’t want to panic my customer since I was sure we could catch up before the next report. The status column had a green icon when it should’ve been yellow. The AutoCAD guy didn’t recover in time. The work got further delayed. Someone from my team told the client that I was misrepresenting progress. My customer now questions every minor detail in my reports!”

Martin paused to sip his drink and continued: “I’m terribly understaffed and behind schedule. There’s no option but to drive my team very hard. I’m often rude, sometimes even mean. On Wednesday last week, I overheard two team members say that I was the worst boss they ever had. My woes seem endless!”

Julio realized that the situation was worse than what he had originally assumed. He reassuringly said, “I’d feel the same way if I was in your place. I’m very sure we can work this out.

“You know me. I don’t sermonize, but it’s obvious that you have a serious trust issue with your client. I too have made the same mistakes of reporting inaccurate progress. While each seemed like a small untruth, they soon cascaded and resulted in broken trust.

“I quickly realized that it's better to be completely honest with stakeholders. But don’t just go to them with issues. Explain your plan to get back on track. Believe me: They start to trust and respect you.”

Julio recalled a leadership workshop where the trainer had spoken about the importance of project managers being completely transparent and respectful to all stakeholders. He had referred to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct1 which stressed four important values: responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty.

“Pushing your team members overly hard plus being rude and mean to them may fetch short-term results. In the long run, many team members may push back or quit. You will lose valuable time in finding and training new personnel.

“Take responsibility for your behavior. Don’t blame the schedule. Invest time in team building. Explain the challenges of your tight schedule and request their help. You’ll get their buy-in and better results!”

Martin thanked Julio for his practical advice.

Now that he had a way out of his troubles, his favorite lasagna seemed to taste so much better!


Posted by Karthik Ramamurthy on: August 12, 2018 01:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

- Mark Twain