Ethical-challenges-happen when you work to transform how companies do business.
Kitchener (1984) has identified five moral principles that should be considered as the cornerstone of ones ethical guidelines.
1. Autonomy – Principle that we all have the freedom of choice and action. As professionals we have a responsibility to act in the best interest of our customer.
2. Non-maleficence is the concept of do no harm. Some consider this the most important of the five moral principles though Kitchener intended that they be considered of equal weight.
3. Look out first for the benefit of your customer, be proactive and prevent harm whenever possible.
4. Be fair in your dealings with others. If someone receives unequal treatment there should be rational behind the difference.
5. Customers must be able to trust that you have their best interests in mind with all of your decisions and actions. Be loyal to your customer and honor all of your commitments. Don’t make commitments that you cannot keep.
Following is a simple model to assist in making ethical decisions.
1. Identify the problem. Determine if the problem is an ethical, legal of professional issue. If the problem includes a legal question, always seek the appropriate legal advice. Make sure to identify any potential personal conflicts of interest with respect to the issue and potential courses of action.
2. Apply the Project Management Institute (PMI) Code of Ethics. Is there a mandatory course of action or are there aspirational guidelines that you should consider? Sometimes the course of action would be obvious at this point in the decision consideration cycle, if not proceed to the next steps to further decompose the issue.
3. Consider both the PMI Code of Ethics values of respect, responsibility, fairness and honesty along with the moral principals identified by Kitchener in the previous paragraph. If any of the principles conflict in making the decision you will need to decide which one has a priority in your particular case. Discuss the issue with your colleagues and your management to make sure that you have all the relevant information. Sometimes additional information may change your perspective and make the decision less complicated.
4. Make a list of potential options.
5. Carefully consider the potential consequences of each option making sure to clearly understand how this will impact your customer.
6. Order the options by your understanding of the desired outcomes and it would be helpful to review this with a peer and possibly your management.
7. Execute your plan to solve the ethical dilemma.
There is usually no “right” answer with respect to the course of action chosen to solve an ethical issue but using this type of framework should keep you on the right side of the law and make it possible for you to justify your actions in the future should they be questioned.