Work ethics for management

Don’t let unethical behavior jeopardize your projects and reputation!

The collapse of a 17-story apartment building in the recent Taiwan earthquake, causing the death of more than 40 residents, has exposed the use of tin oil can fillers, instead of solid concrete, inside some of the walls of the building.

Some of the reinforcing bars in the lower floors were also found to be thinner, too short or too few. This has led to the arrest of three executives of the building’s developer.

In 2006, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), Singapore’s largest NGO, suffered a ruined reputation and the loss of its many large benefactors after mismanagement of funds was revealed, the most glaring being the installation of a tap made of gold in the CEO’s office.

I was in Singapore, attending a fundraising workshop, when the scandal broke out and many NGO representatives in the workshop lamented the backlash of the scandal on their own organizations. People started believing that other NGOs behaved in the same way and refused to make donations like before.

These are just two big examples that made headlines of how unethical behavior could affect the aftermath of projects or an organization’s image and reputation.

Every day, people involved in the planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of projects, consciously or unconsciously, commit what could be considered as unethical behavior.

Those whose consequences are huge and become public knowledge, could be punished and suffer the consequences.

Many more, like, not admitting wrongdoing, calumny, blaming somebody else for a project’s failure, disrespect/violation of co-workers’ rights, nepotism, favoritism and bias, inflating one’s accomplishments, doctoring project reports, making shady deals, cheating on project expenses, and many others are not caught, get unnoticed or are just plain ignored.

All organizations have the responsibility to inculcate professional ethics in all aspects of the organization. This could be done through defining a set of organizational values and principles, creation of a code of ethics/conduct, incorporation of these principles in policies and procedures, orientation of new staff to the code, staff retreats and training.

All of us have our own moral compass of what is “right” or “wrong”. However, what is “right” or “wrong” becomes “relative” when it concerns us or when it is “justifiable”, or gray when confronted with an ethical dilemma.

Ethical decisions lead to reduced illegal behavior, corruption, litigation and fines; better products and project results; and a reputation that is a plus for future projects.

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