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Ethical Dilemma In Project Management
  • 25

  • Course Code:
  • University: Dublin Business School
  • Country: Ireland


Project management involves planning, organizing, and analyzing the completion of a project in the company. It involves using various operations, methods, skills, and experience to achieve the project objectives and deliver a valuable outcome. This includes selecting appropriate tools and techniques, utilizing specific knowledge and skills, and managing resources effectively.

Effective project management is needed for the success of any project, and the size of the company doesn’t matter. The project manager must ensure that the project is done according to time, budget, and the standards set by the system. They are also responsible for managing risks, stakeholders, and other project-related challenges.

Conflicts of interest arise when a team member or stakeholders connected to the project have multiple interests that may influence their decision-making. For example, an employee may be interested in increasing their income and they would not focus completely on achieving the objectives of the company.

To address conflicts of interest, project managers must establish clear guidelines and policies for the project team. Ethical concerns such as conflicts of interest must be managed effectively to ensure project success and maintain the trust of stakeholders.

Concepts of Ethical dilemma in project management 

The main work of the project manager is to handle the issues and challenges which arise in the project. It is the ultimate responsibility of the project manager to focus on the team and manage their efforts (Allan, 2017). The success of a project depends on the ability of the leader to make critical decisions every day. The decisions made by the employees might not be right but the company must help them in the decision making process.

Project managers may find themselves in difficult situations where they need to make tough decisions that affect their team members and the project. Here, the project managers must adhere to the code of ethics and can provide useful guidance for making ethical decisions.

Contemporary project management involves various ethical dilemmas that project managers may face. These include conflicts of interest, misrepresentation, and violations of intellectual property rights (Kerzner, 2022). Project managers should identify ethical issues and solve them.

Effective project management involves maintaining open communication, setting clear expectations, and prioritizing ethical decision-making to ensure that the project is completed successfully.

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Accountability is the process in which the responsibility for one’s actions is taken. Being accountable means being committed to taking responsibility for one's role, actions, and outcomes (Portny and Portny, 2022). The project managers must be aware of the results and change the course of action to produce the best results.

Sometimes employees also shift the responsibility rather than taking accountability. This behavior can harm the careers of individuals and damage the reputation of the organization or company. Moreover, it can create multiple project issues by hiding the root cause of the problem.
Accountability in Project Management
Figure No. 1. Accountability in contemporary project management
(Source- Researchgate.com)

Project managers must recognize the value of owning up to their mistakes and hold themselves accountable for the project's outcomes. They should also identify situations where team members or stakeholders may attempt to shift the blame onto others. The project manager must inculcate the habit of accountability in employees.

By being accountable, project managers can build trust with stakeholders, ensure transparency in decision-making, and promote a positive project environment. As a project manager, it is important to outline the roles and objectives of a project.

Everyone must ensure that they contribute their best efforts to the team and they are responsible for the work they deliver. It is the ultimate responsibility of the manager to identify the work and assign it to the respective employees. 

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Setting expectations

Setting expectations is also important. Employees must be aware of their actions and ensure that they abide by the policies. Managers need to make sure everyone understands what they need to do. Tracking progress is not only important for the project, but for each employee as well.

Companies should have daily check-ins to see how everyone is doing and to make sure the project is on track (Heagney, 2022). This helps to hold the team accountable and create a culture of continuous improvement. By monitoring performance, managers can see what's working well and what needs to be improved.

Overall, managers need to communicate clearly, track progress regularly, and make sure everyone knows what they are responsible for. This helps to create accountability and ensures the project is successful.

Conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest occur when an individual's interests interfere with their professional duties in a project. The decisions taken by the project manager must benefit the company as well and resolve the issues. This can have serious consequences for the future of the company if not dealt with properly (PMI, 2021).

In large enterprises, conflicts of interest can arise when there are many stakeholders and outside business vendors involved in the project. Project managers and workers need to be aware of this potential issue and take appropriate measures to prevent it.
Sometimes employees are appointed through referral and this turns out to be the wrong decision. This can lead to nepotism and the individual's interests taking precedence over the company's objectives.

Another example is when someone starts a company that provides the same services as their full-time employer and fails to disclose the conflict of interest. These actions can cause significant ethical dilemmas for project managers who must ensure that all parties involved in the project understand their company's standards for vendor selection.

Project managers must set clear objectives for the employees to follow. Clear communication of expectations is also essential to prevent conflicts that may arise from unclear priorities. Project managers must monitor progress regularly and hold daily check-ins and updates to track each employee's progress in completing the project.

This helps create a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. Here, conflicts of interest are a potential threat to the success of any project. Project managers must remain vigilant and take appropriate measures to ensure that all parties involved in the project adhere to ethical standards and put the interests of the project above their interests (Lester, 2021). The project manager must also ensure that the objectives of the company lead to success.

Associations and partnerships: The connections which the project manager forms with customers may often lead to conflicts of interest. Hence, the project manager and the team must be careful enough to ensure that they work accordingly and fulfill the criteria of doing business effortlessly. 

Vendor gifts: Multiple companies offer vendor gifts to their vendors as a token of appreciation and this is essential to build vendor relations. However, there are restrictions on the amount of money spent on the gift. This is particularly important when dealing with governmental agencies, as there are often legal restrictions on giving or receiving gifts above a certain value.

Stakeholder influence: Stakeholders have the main power in the company. The primary duty of the employees is to ensure that the stakeholder's needs and wants are satisfied. This can lead to conflicts of interest that can negatively impact the project's success (Allan, 2017).

The project managers must decide and frame clear policies to avoid conflict of interest. Here the project manager must make sure that they define the expectations and create a strong relationship with stakeholders. This would help the company to reduce the conflict in the company and create opportunities to improve the objectives of the company. 

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Workplace Culture 

The culture of an organization plays a significant role in shaping its ethical dilemma and character. Workplace culture can impact how employees work and interact with one another. Any company needs to have a workplace culture that encourages the necessary behaviors, attitudes, and ways of working to achieve its calculated goals.

Today's workplace environments are much more respectful and inclusive than they used to be a few decades ago, yet no company can perfect its workplace culture. Project managers must be aware of the workplace culture and the code that governs it to ensure that all business associates understand the expectations. This is particularly important for multinational companies that usually employ people from diverse cultures (Nieto-Rodriguez, 2021).

Values play a critical role in shaping workplace culture, and management is responsible for defining and encouraging them. According to the contingency theory of leadership, several factors could influence a leader's productive value of a team, including the relationship between employees, boosting employees' morale, maintaining work schedules, and proper behaviors.

Values need to be encouraged at every opportunity, and employees who demonstrate the importance of those values should be rewarded for their effort. However, changing an organization's work culture to support project management is a challenging task.

workplace culture  
Figure 2.0-Workplace Culture in contemporary project management
(Source- Ceopedia.com)

There are several specific cultural traits that can influence progress, such as:

Communication: Open communication is essential to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and is on the same page regarding the project's goals.

Collaboration: Employees should work together in a collaborative and supportive environment to achieve project goals.

Innovation: A culture that values innovation and encourages employees to come up with creative solutions to problems can lead to successful project outcomes.

Trust: Building trust among employees and with project stakeholders is crucial to ensuring successful project completion.

Accountability: A culture of accountability ensures that everyone takes responsibility for their actions and works towards achieving project goals (Allan, 2017).

The progression of culture emphasizes the future: The organizations which are new to managing a project use previous results as a way to know the future. This could work in situations where 8 the future has similarities with the past, but in the constantly changing environment, this is not going to work. In short, there is no execution plan is available to achieve the goals.

Progressive and static cultures on authorities: Forward-thinking organizations grant project managers the appropriate authority to make decisions that benefit both the project and the customer. Conversely, in organizations with a static culture, even minor decisions must be approved by higher authorities who are not present on the floor and lack direct involvement with employees.

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Health and Safety Concerns

 Large organizations often face ethical dilemmas when they manage high-stakes projects. These situations can put pressure on project managers to conceal problems that could endanger the safety of team members or customers (Marchington et al., 2021).

It can be noticed in the construction and manufacturing industries where safety is the topmost priority. Most of the time project managers are not responsible for workplace health and safety, but they are accountable for tracking and recording safety incidents related to their project. 

To ensure that targets are met in a project, managers must closely monitor their team's progress and make improvements where necessary. Regular meetings should be conducted both weekly and monthly, which are a great way for managers to stay informed about any incidents that may have occurred on the project.

The project manager must remember that any incidents that occur under a project manager's watch will reflect on their project management skills. Project managers must prioritize safety and ethical considerations in every decision they make. The strong support of the project manager for maintaining transparency and commitment is required. By prioritizing safety and ethical considerations, project managers can help ensure that their projects are completed successfully and without incident.

Project implementation phase

During the budgeting of the project, the managers may face ethical dilemmas when they discover that the budget is insufficient. This creates an opportunity for them to divert leftover funds for personal gain. However, the level of transparency and honesty displayed by project managers towards stakeholders can raise concerns about their intentions. Evaluation techniques can be used to manipulate outcomes in favor of the project or organization, as well as to benefit suppliers.

As such, project managers need to maintain their integrity and ensure that all financial decisions are made with the best interests of the project and stakeholders in mind (Marchington et al., 2021). This starts with setting clear priorities and creating effective communication with team members and stakeholders.

Additionally, project managers must be transparent about any financial challenges that may arise. Here, the project managers can avoid the issues by managing their ethical standards and maintaining the trust of those they work with.

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In project management, ethical values are integral for the better success of the project. These values can lead to highly productive employees and a successful organization. It is not just the project manager who must consider ethical considerations, but also the higher authorities who oversee the project and ensure that everyone follows the proper code of ethics.

All employees need to be aware of the importance of a code of ethics and how it can impact contemporary project management. Ultimately, the goal is to maintain the progression of the project while adhering to ethical principles that will benefit the organization in the long run. Therefore, ethical values must be incorporated into the code of ethics of project management organizations to ensure that everyone involved follows the same principles.

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Sourced from DBS Library
Allan, B. (2017). The no-nonsense guide to project management. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Facet Publishing. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=61317&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Heagney, J. (2022). Fundamentals of project management. 6th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). HarperCollins. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=61441&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Kerzner, H. (2022). Project management: a systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling. 13th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=60989&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Lester, A. (2021). Project management, planning and control: managing engineering, construction and manufacturing projects to PMI, APM and BSI standards. 8th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=61015&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Marchington, M., Wilkinson, A., Donnelly, R. and Kynighou, A. (2021). Human resource management at work: the definitive guide. 7th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). London: Kogan Page. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=58129&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Nieto-Rodriguez, A. (2021). Harvard Business Review project management handbook: how to launch, lead, and sponsor successful projects. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=61090&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
PMI (2021). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) and The standard for project management. 7th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=60223&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 
Portny, J.L. and Portny, S.E. (2022). Project management for dummies. 6th ed ed. [online] Library Catalog (Koha). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Available at: https://books.dbs.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=61253&query_desc=kw%2Cwrdl%3A%20project%20management 

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