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Ethics Are Everything When Businesses Restart the Economy

By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Public University

In some states, it’s time to reopen businesses and restart the economy. In others, it’s imperative to keep businesses closed to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. With citizens, business, and politicians drawing a line in the sand, it’s hard to see a realistic – or ethical solution –  to two polar opposite opinions on the same topic.

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Regardless of your opinion, there are ethical considerations to every decision we make when it comes to the livelihood of our daily actions. Ethics are everything, and it’s important to see issues from an ethical business perspective.

What Are Ethics in Business?

Ethics are a prominent aspect of all business transactions. Ethics are a code of moral principles that governs the behavior of people or groups with respect to how to conduct themselves in the workplace.

Ethics involve the study of proper business policies, practices and procedures to address socially responsible issues. High ethics are based on core values that affects thoughts, actions and behavior.

Ethics also have several characteristics and values that ultimately lead to more successful projects and ensures that contracts, business decisions, and day-to-day operations are executed responsibly. As a result of my 20+ years of managing projects, I can offer a few of the characteristics that I believe make up highly ethical teams:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Equality
  • Transparency
  • Fairness
  • Respect
  • Confidentiality

Recognizing a Lack of Ethics

Most people can recognize ethical considerations when there is a misstep or lack of ethics. For example, have any of the following ever happened to you while working?

  1. Cost-cutting — purchasing cheaper products to maximize profit
  2. Overcharging the customer and padding expenses
  3. Providing an unsafe or unhealthy environment for team members
  4. Withholding information from stakeholders or team members
  5. Failure to make adjustments to the project
  6. Failure to equally provide opportunities for sub-contractors

Ethics affects businesses, data and team members. Ethical considerations are beneficial and profitable for the stakeholders, team members, and ultimately for the company. Unethical behavior can be addressed by creating a climate of responsibility, respect, trust, fairness and honesty.

Companies often include ethical considerations in the project charter, vision or mission statement. Over time, many profitable companies have attributed their success in part to having high project management ethical standards, which include:

  • Elevating the profession and raising future standards
  • Increasing the faith and trust others bestow on the organization
  • Imprinting on individual moral mindsets and behaviors
  • Improving business relationships at all levels
  • Promoting fair decision making
  • Reducing project risks
  • Providing a greater chance of success
  • Reducing anxiety, stress and ultimately turnover in projects

In 2016, Congress enacted the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act. The law requires government project professionals to make the best possible decisions for taxpayers and increase transparency, trust, and success.

Also, the law reinforces ethics and improvements through stringent new program management rules. To accomplish these goals, the following need to be established:

  • A Program Management Improvement Officer to develop and implement a five-year plan intended to improve the roles of program managers in the federal government
  • A Program Management Policy Council (as the principal interagency forum within the Office of Management and Budget) aimed at improving program and project management practices
  • A Personnel Management Office responsible for personnel, program, and project manager competencies/skills, for developing a new series for program and project manager job series or updates, and identification of any new career paths

Ethics are critical in each and every business, which is why project managers are compelled to follow ethical standards. Ethics promote collaboration and high social and moral standards, and they ensure trust and transparency in projects.

What is needed ethically to reach a solution regardless of the topic is trust on all sides. Trust will start the conversation and develop a viable solution that creates buy-in. Two polar opposite opinions on the same topic are inevitable, but trust, ethics and cooperation are essential in organizations.

About the Author

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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