Project Management

Project Management Central

Please login or join to subscribe to this thread

Topics: Ethics, Leadership, Organizational Culture
Why is Ethics a boring topic?
Why is Ethics a boring topic?
Don't get me wrong, I ask this in all sincerity, considering it of utmost importance to our profession. Nevertheless, being involved in the field, I see and feel the reluctance in accepting it as a discussion topic. Why do you think this happens?
Sort By:
Page: 1 2 3 next>
Simona -

I think the concern is the gap between "what should be happening" based on codes, standards and so on, and "what is happening" in the real world.

It is rare that there would be arguments on "what should be happening" when a theoretical situation is presented. That's one of the reason why most of the PMP candidates I had mentored back when there was an explicit focus of some of the exam questions on PMI's Code of Ethics had no problems answering the questions correctly.

But take those same folks and drop them into a real world situation where doing the right thing could be a career limiting move, and it gets a lot murkier.

Kiron
...
1 reply by Simona Bonghez
Apr 20, 2020 6:30 AM
Simona Bonghez
...
Thank you, Kiron, indeed this is my experience as well: theoretically we follow what we know that is socially desirable, the practice however proves to be much harder :) This is why I consider that it is the responsibility of the project manager to keep emphasizing ethics and professional conduct among the team members, so that, when they face a situation, the socially desirable answer to that situation is well rooted in their minds.
Apr 19, 2020 5:13 PM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Simona -

I think the concern is the gap between "what should be happening" based on codes, standards and so on, and "what is happening" in the real world.

It is rare that there would be arguments on "what should be happening" when a theoretical situation is presented. That's one of the reason why most of the PMP candidates I had mentored back when there was an explicit focus of some of the exam questions on PMI's Code of Ethics had no problems answering the questions correctly.

But take those same folks and drop them into a real world situation where doing the right thing could be a career limiting move, and it gets a lot murkier.

Kiron
Thank you, Kiron, indeed this is my experience as well: theoretically we follow what we know that is socially desirable, the practice however proves to be much harder :) This is why I consider that it is the responsibility of the project manager to keep emphasizing ethics and professional conduct among the team members, so that, when they face a situation, the socially desirable answer to that situation is well rooted in their minds.
...
1 reply by Kiron Bondale
Apr 20, 2020 8:03 AM
Kiron Bondale
...
To add to my first response, to make it less boring would require focusing less on "apple pie and motherhood" theory and more on pragmatic principles and guidelines which PMs can use to navigate complex ethical situations.
Hi Simona,

yes, your observation is what I see too. Ethics is perceived as boring.

There was a survey beyond people who said ethics is 'important'. Only about 50% could name specific steps they take to make it important to their work and life. So there is a lot of lip service and/or an inability to use ethics as an enabling tool.

Another aspect is that ethics in many organizations is a compliance thing, a set of principles, values, behaviors you and others are expected to adhere to. Then you might have a position you can escalate to in case of perceived violations. These are negative, punitive connotations. It is not fun and does not make happy and feel good to apply ethics (except for the many who use it for revenge).

A code of ethics is seen as a kind of law, and who thinks laws are fun and not boring? Ethics must not be seen as a regulation but rather as a means to become a better professional and human.

A missing part of the ethics systems of most organizations is that part that educates about how to use ethics for yourself. And support in getting better at it. And maybe rewards if you use it and get better at it (annual ethics award).

One of the reasons may be that ethics as compliance tool requiring confidentiality is managed by the legal department. Ethics as a driver of culture and a handrail to processes should be led by the Board.

Rule setting and sanctioning should not be the core of ethics.
Apr 20, 2020 6:30 AM
Replying to Simona Bonghez
...
Thank you, Kiron, indeed this is my experience as well: theoretically we follow what we know that is socially desirable, the practice however proves to be much harder :) This is why I consider that it is the responsibility of the project manager to keep emphasizing ethics and professional conduct among the team members, so that, when they face a situation, the socially desirable answer to that situation is well rooted in their minds.
To add to my first response, to make it less boring would require focusing less on "apple pie and motherhood" theory and more on pragmatic principles and guidelines which PMs can use to navigate complex ethical situations.
...
1 reply by Simona Bonghez
Apr 21, 2020 11:28 AM
Simona Bonghez
...
I love when I learn new things: "apple pie and motherhood" is a new idiom for me, thank you :) I perfectly understand your point: probably we need to guide our ethical discussions not towards generally accepted values, but towards concrete situations and/or using ethical tools that are designed for specific situations.
Is not a boring topic. Is a topic that is not correctly debated. Prehaps just for me because I worked a lot on discipline definitions where certifications and code of ethics are involved. For exaple, project management is not a profession if you see all related inside the PMI, if we debate this in the framework of how a profession is defined formally. Neither the PMI Code of Ethics. For example, what about a project manager that is assigned and is leading a project where massive destruction weapons are created? Is that ethic or not? What the PMI has to say about that?. Then, is not a boring topic. Is a topic that can be debated in different layers of abstraction.
...
1 reply by Thomas Walenta
Apr 20, 2020 4:32 PM
Thomas Walenta
...
Good point, Sergio.

The PMI code (and those of other organizations like IPMA or APM) look at the how we behave as professionals and not what the projects achieve. As we move more from project to product, the what could also get into the scope of the code.

That is a problem other professions may not see, like doctors, lawyers (though they may bailout criminals ethically) or accountants, journalists.

Would the planner of 911 been able to become a PMP?
Apr 20, 2020 3:43 PM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
Is not a boring topic. Is a topic that is not correctly debated. Prehaps just for me because I worked a lot on discipline definitions where certifications and code of ethics are involved. For exaple, project management is not a profession if you see all related inside the PMI, if we debate this in the framework of how a profession is defined formally. Neither the PMI Code of Ethics. For example, what about a project manager that is assigned and is leading a project where massive destruction weapons are created? Is that ethic or not? What the PMI has to say about that?. Then, is not a boring topic. Is a topic that can be debated in different layers of abstraction.
Good point, Sergio.

The PMI code (and those of other organizations like IPMA or APM) look at the how we behave as professionals and not what the projects achieve. As we move more from project to product, the what could also get into the scope of the code.

That is a problem other professions may not see, like doctors, lawyers (though they may bailout criminals ethically) or accountants, journalists.

Would the planner of 911 been able to become a PMP?
...
1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Apr 22, 2020 7:45 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
The other thing is project management must not be consider a profession. But doctors, lawyers, yes. In the formal and accepted definition that have been stated by governments and others. For example, one of the requirements for a discipline to be consider a profession is to have a legaly actionable code of conduct as a key component of the professional registration. Because it is a real profession a medical doctor (to take an example) can not execute their profession in a different country than she/he obtained her/his professional registration. Just in case she/he like to do that a predefined process to revalidate the credential must be follow. So, the only way people can consider project management a profession is because they are using the boarder definition of profession which is something like "a paid occupation".
Thank you, Sergio, for your comment. I understand your concern for correctly using the terms (according their definition). So I will rephrase my question: why is Ethics, as a topic, avoided? What can we do to spark the interest for debates around different ethical concepts?
...
1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Apr 21, 2020 11:47 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
You are welcome. But my comment is not about the use of terms. Just to put in the same context for me debating about ethic without the appropiated framework is boring and it has no sence. Ethic is a topic that as you know has been debated from greek. So, as many other things at least in my case, if we have do not take into account the basement and with the knowledge and understanding of the basement to debate on that, in my case, is a waste of time.
Apr 20, 2020 8:03 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
To add to my first response, to make it less boring would require focusing less on "apple pie and motherhood" theory and more on pragmatic principles and guidelines which PMs can use to navigate complex ethical situations.
I love when I learn new things: "apple pie and motherhood" is a new idiom for me, thank you :) I perfectly understand your point: probably we need to guide our ethical discussions not towards generally accepted values, but towards concrete situations and/or using ethical tools that are designed for specific situations.
Apr 21, 2020 11:19 AM
Replying to Simona Bonghez
...
Thank you, Sergio, for your comment. I understand your concern for correctly using the terms (according their definition). So I will rephrase my question: why is Ethics, as a topic, avoided? What can we do to spark the interest for debates around different ethical concepts?
You are welcome. But my comment is not about the use of terms. Just to put in the same context for me debating about ethic without the appropiated framework is boring and it has no sence. Ethic is a topic that as you know has been debated from greek. So, as many other things at least in my case, if we have do not take into account the basement and with the knowledge and understanding of the basement to debate on that, in my case, is a waste of time.
Hi Simona,
very good question, and no, the ethics is not boring. However, the ethics is something that should be thought and learned by example from childhood, at school and in the family. I do not see it as something that can be imposed by any Code of Ethics or books. I see it as principles or/and behaviour that we should follow as humans in our daily life. And then the Code of Ethics comes as a simple reminder to the practitioners that is important in our profession.
Can somebody who has not been raised with the simple ethical rules and behaviour to follow in the daily life, suddenly switch to being ethical in the his profession or projects? Or being able to recognise what is not ethical - it was mentioned by Sergio the situation when a PM is engaged in "non-ethical" projects?
...
1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Apr 22, 2020 7:36 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
I like "comes as a simple remainder". It implies that ethics is much more than a code.
Page: 1 2 3 next>  

Please login or join to reply

Content ID:
ADVERTISEMENTS

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

- Mark Twain