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Topics: Ethics and Organizational Culture, Leadership
Do Project need to pay more attention to Everyday Unethical Behavior?
Network:144



I recently read this HBR article titled "Companies Need to Pay More Attention to Everyday Unethical Behavior"
You can find it on HBR site, and you have 3 free articles/month https://hbr.org/2019/03/companies-need-to-...thical-behavior

Now, the studies show that Companies are focusing more and more on preventing gross and blatant violations of the law, ignoring ordinary acts of unethicality that are far more common in organizations.

The impact of these aggregated unethical behaviours can be harmful to the company, and this is due not to the fact that employees are unethical, but because they do not see their behaviours as such; they're not "trained".

So, the questions are:
- if these unethical acts are common in organisations and harmful for them, how do you make sure that these do not happen in your projects?
- how do you make sure your team disclosures conflict of interest?
- Do you train (and how) your team to identify and report misconduct?

Ultimately, all these aspects can harm your project, and you may be accountable for.
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Network:2015



Thank you Fabio for these great questions.
- Small unethical behaviours are common due to a number of reasons – on top of the list is a lack of awareness/understanding that these behaviours are unethical. In a recent engagement, all employees (whether permanent or contractors) had to undertake an online education course that introduces the policies and the expected behaviours as well as quizzes the participant about a number of real-life examples checking that they are aware of the most appropriate one. Should they fail to answer any of these quizzes, they will need to re-take the course again until all answers are 100% consistent with the expected ethical behaviours. The online material and the conversation it generates is a great start to foster an open environment where grey situations are discussed, unethical behaviours are called out and everyone in the team strive to do the best.
- The awareness and openness stated above led the team to point to a newly appointed director about their COI and hence resulting in an honest declaration.
- Having clear guidelines coupled with walking the talk in an open and safe environment provides a fertile ground for more transparency and ability to discuss and report misconduct.
Network:945



@Fabio, good reference, thank you for bringing these questions into the discussion.

Continue training, increase awareness, make ethics a common topic for discussion in an all-staff meeting and in all project status meetings, these are just a few of the immediate actions to be considered.
Conflict of Interest is one of many unethical behaviors that voluntarily or not individuals engage in. The lack of action from the leaders' part creates a sense of acceptance creating a false sense of comfort with this type of actions.
Disclosure of conflict of interest is very often a very sensitive matter. Team members need to be encouraged to self disclose wrongdoing and know the level of protection that the organization offers in such a situation. The existence of an ombudsman in the organization can create the necessary mechanism for project teams to use.
Access to leaders and to Human resources groups are immediate avenues that should be considered first hand.
Training, training and again training! A sustained effort that will show its benefits usually in short to medium run!
Network:1820



Thanks for posting this question, Fabio! Unethical acts, even if they are small can harm the team and organization in the long run. In one of my earlier organization, they used to run the training courses to everyone identifying the conflict of interest situations, they had an external ethics helpline where issues can be reported and a portal where reported issues and resolutions were showcased.
Network:1594



Agree with all on the strategies used. Ethical behaviour should come from within. Its difficult to keep doing policing as that will drain a lot of energy from the project manager and its teams.

While if and as needed this certainly has to be taken up, I would reflect on some basic education and awareness sessions and making them mandatory as the first step. Rewards and recognition for those who bring up such behaviours to notice would be helpful too.
Network:61



Interesting distinction that they draw, Fabio, between gross ethical breaches and "everyday" minor ethical failings. I frequently roll my eyes at ethics training that I have been required to complete, thinking "well, obviously!!" when they propose a scenario involving blatant wrongdoing like bribery or theft. Perhaps the solution is to focus the training more on whose interests are at stake and how they may create conflict, rather than the somewhat legalistic way in which such training is usually presented.

It occurs to me that there needs to be a certain level of ethical awareness on the part of the corporate world as well. A coworker and I recently were denied reimbursement of our PMI dues and PMP certification renewal fees by our employer. These fees had always been part of the training and talent management budget and reimbursed in the past (he'd been with the company for 12 years, I had been for 10, and this policy had been continued through 2 different sales/mergers of our business unit to other firms). The reason they refused to reimburse in this case was that our task orders were ending in about 6 months, the effort had been transferred by the government to a different contract that our company was not allowed to compete for, and we were both scheduled to remain with the effort (and therefore switch corporate affiliation) when the contract expired. This makes business sense for the company, as we are known to no longer be part of the talent pool they are attempting to retain, but it seems unethical to me, as it reverses a longstanding comitment to us for a purely selfish reason. It is also counterproductive, as we are both substantially less likely to accept a position with the company again after this.
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1 reply by Fabio Rigamonti
Mar 18, 2019 6:39 AM
Fabio Rigamonti
...
Thanks for sharing your story!

Most ethical issues are not black or white, but are in a grey area, where you need more information and a deeper analysis.
Network:144



Mar 13, 2019 8:59 AM
Replying to Joseph Gherlone
...
Interesting distinction that they draw, Fabio, between gross ethical breaches and "everyday" minor ethical failings. I frequently roll my eyes at ethics training that I have been required to complete, thinking "well, obviously!!" when they propose a scenario involving blatant wrongdoing like bribery or theft. Perhaps the solution is to focus the training more on whose interests are at stake and how they may create conflict, rather than the somewhat legalistic way in which such training is usually presented.

It occurs to me that there needs to be a certain level of ethical awareness on the part of the corporate world as well. A coworker and I recently were denied reimbursement of our PMI dues and PMP certification renewal fees by our employer. These fees had always been part of the training and talent management budget and reimbursed in the past (he'd been with the company for 12 years, I had been for 10, and this policy had been continued through 2 different sales/mergers of our business unit to other firms). The reason they refused to reimburse in this case was that our task orders were ending in about 6 months, the effort had been transferred by the government to a different contract that our company was not allowed to compete for, and we were both scheduled to remain with the effort (and therefore switch corporate affiliation) when the contract expired. This makes business sense for the company, as we are known to no longer be part of the talent pool they are attempting to retain, but it seems unethical to me, as it reverses a longstanding comitment to us for a purely selfish reason. It is also counterproductive, as we are both substantially less likely to accept a position with the company again after this.
Thanks for sharing your story!

Most ethical issues are not black or white, but are in a grey area, where you need more information and a deeper analysis.

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