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I totally agree - in my opinion ethics comes first: even if you might get fired just saying the truth about project scores, risks or results at the end you should be in peace with yourself by doing the right thing in a brave way.
There is such a thing as a “healthy fear,” and that is bidirectionally true in difficult messaging situations, wherein [A] you fear the consequences of telling the truth (as you stated), and [B] you fear the consequence of redacting the truth, as it always promises unforeseen circumstances; in likewise manner, we should fear “window dressing” as it clothes us in compromise and promises the same.
At the same time (as stated in the Code of Ethics), being truthful in our communications requires us to take appropriate steps to ensure that the information we are providing is accurate and reliable. Although suggestive, this guidance (in my opinion) asks us to be “mindful” of our delivery; otherwise the message (although truthful) may suffer some degree of information loss.
Bottom Line: Adopting principles (e.g., the Code of Ethics) coupled with having a healthy fear of consequences, will provide one a path when faced with ethical dilemma situations.
Thank you Simona for posting this very pertinent question. In one of my earlier organization, the term 'bad news first' was very popular which means that earlier we share the bad news, better it is to digest and mitigate risks associated. And I have seen benefits for this like client increased trust, long term profits. But this happened with the support of leadership. So in my opinion, Ethics is for the brave people who not only know what will happen but also ready to face it because they know that they are right.
Very interesting your question
Thank you for formulating it
- "What you say" is key (message content)
- "How to say" (paralanguage) is as important (there are researchers who say it is more important) as "what you say"
On the other hand the sender is responsible for the communication.
That is, the message receiver must be taken into account.
Today we live in a global world, it is very important to take into account the cultural reality of the recipient
Finally, over time I learned that there are no truths, there are only perspectives, ie points of view.
Having said these considerations, it is essential that we express our point of view clearly and that we are open to hearing and understanding other points of view (perspectives).
If the project has not achieved its objectives (as long as they are clearly and previously defined) it should be stated clearly, and as project manager:
1. Take responsibility
2. Analyze the reasons why the projects did not achieve the objectives
3. Contribute to the organization's knowledge by creating and sharing a document with lessons learned.
If I have a really bad news, as a Project Manager I would say the truth but I would also immediatly come with some solutions to the problem.
The problem with not being transparent is that the truth is eventually going to come out specially if things are not going as they should on a project. I think it is critical to tell the stakeholders what the issue is and get everyone on board to to tackle the issue.
This goes back to the prevailing culture of the organization, department & team. If there is an appropriate level of psychological safety within the system where the message needs to be delivered and if radical candor is appreciated then the level of fear/risk is low.
Otherwise, it comes back to which is more important to the individual: being true to a set of values (including the Code of Ethics) or playing it safe. Over my career, I have had no concerns with speaking truth to power even if it means talking myself out of a job as I'd rather be able to look at myself in the mirror!
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