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Ethical Issues in Project Management (& How to Deal with Them)

Published By Team AdaptiveWork

There are many ethical lines that can be crossed in project management. The bigger the project, the more opportunities arise for people or companies to compromise their ethics in an effort to bring the project in on time and on budget. However, when project managers and other stakeholders turn a blind eye to questionable activities, the results are often disastrous—blown budgets, legal trouble and even criminal charges are all too common in today’s business environment.

As a project manager, you may find yourself faced with difficult ethical decisions from time to time. Whether you hold a PMP certification or not, the PMI Code of Ethics provides a useful general guide to ethical project management and decision making. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common types of ethical dilemma in business, and how you can navigate safely through them.


When things go wrong, it’s human nature to try to avoid the consequences and place the blame somewhere else. Not only can this damage careers and reputations, it creates additional project issues by concealing the real source of the problem. Project managers should understand the importance of owning their own mistakes, and of recognizing situations in which team members or other stakeholders are attempting to shift the responsibilities for problems that arise.

Conflicts of Interest

At the enterprise level, when projects involve large numbers of people and several (sometimes dozens) of outside vendors, there are ample opportunities for stakeholders to give inappropriate preference to certain teams or companies. As a project manager, you should make sure that all parties involved in a project understand your company’s standards for bidding and vendor selection, and that the definition of a conflict of interest is clear to everyone.

Workplace Culture

While today’s workplace environments are generally more respectful and inclusive than they were a few decades ago, no organization has perfected its company culture. Project managers should be very familiar with their company’s code of conduct and should ensure that all employees, contractors and business partners understand what is expected of them. This is particularly important with projects that include team members from multiple countries, as behavior that is acceptable in one culture may be viewed as harassing or even threatening in another.

Health and Safety Concerns

On large enterprise projects, the stakes are high, and so is the pressure to get the job done. Unfortunately, this pressure sometimes leads stakeholders to ignore or even conceal issues that might jeopardize the health and safety of project team members or the public. While these issues are more likely to arise in industries such as construction, health care or manufacturing, project managers in every industry should be ready to raise the alarm any time they see a potentially hazardous situation.

Increase your business agility with Planview AdaptiveWork’s project management software

If you’re concerned that a lack of direction or organization could lead to ethical issues, consider implementing a cloud-based project management solution. With specific solutions for marketing, IT teams, professional services, and project managers, there’s a solution that’s sure to make life a lot easier and more productive for you and your team.

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Written by Team AdaptiveWork