Project Managers: Ethics and Conduct

I have just read that Penny Goldberg, World Bank Chief Economist, has resigned. It was the second resignation in two years.

One of her many projects at the World Bank has been to develop a study on the possible relationship between WB development aid and the level of savings deposits in the countries concerned – but outside the country itself (Switzerland, Cayman Islands and this type of fiscal paradise).

The result of the study has not been made public by the World Bank, but everything points to the existence of important indications of this continuous relationship.

This has made me think about the importance of ethics in all professions and especially in project management.

The PM2 methodology includes an appendix on the Ethics and Conduct of Project Managers, even though I would have liked it not to be the last of the appendices (because of its importance)

It is essential to be aware that ethical behavior is the first and fundamental virtue and value of a project manager.

The PM2 Code of Professional Conduct details that the principles that must drive the activity of a project manager are:

  • Independence: staff conduct, and decision-making should be determined by the need to serve the common good and public interest, and never by any other interests whether private or as a result of, for example, political pressure.
  • Impartiality: staff members should be unbiased in any decisions they are called upon to make.
  • Objectivity: any conclusions drawn by staff as part of the project work should be balanced and based on a thorough analysis of the facts and legal background.
  • Loyalty: loyalty towards the organisation is essential for maintaining its independence and achieving its objectives. It is also necessary for the functioning of each service.

The key principles can be summarized as Integrity, which means consistently adhering to ethical principles and making sound decisions based on them.

Most project management methodologies always refer to skills and competences. However, it is interesting to link these competencies to the personal values of the project manager. The behavior of any professional is the result of the practical use of his or her personal principles and values.

There’s a huge list of personal virtues. Among them are the following: Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity, Honesty, Humour, Temperance, Calmness, Courage, Humour, etc. All of them make possible not only a better professional but also a better person.

Howard Gardner, a well-known AI Researcher said:

«Bad people cannot become excellent professionals. There will never be so. They might have technical expertise, but they won’t be excellent…..You cannot achieve excellence if you don’t go any further than satisfy your ego, your ambition or your avarice….Without ethical principles you become rich or technically good, but not excellent.»

As stated in PM2, all virtues are required for the application of professional competences, however, the intellectual virtues of judgment, prudence and insightfulness need to be transversally applied for their development.

There is a very important relationship between professional competences and personal virtues. The following table shows the strongest relations of moral virtues to key professional competencies (by PM2).


Key Virtues

Leadership All
Relationships and engagement Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity, Honesty, Humour, Temperance
Self-reflection and-self management Calmness, Courage, Friendliness, Honesty, Honour, Temperance
Change and transformation Calmness, Courage, Friendliness, Generosity
Personal communication Calmness, Friendliness, Generosity, Humour
Resourcefulness Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity, Honesty, Honour
Results orientation Honour, Generosity, Magnanimity, Magnificence
Teamwork Calmness, Courage, Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity, Honour, Magnificence
Negotiation Courage, Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity, Honesty, Honour
Conflict and crisis management Calmness, Fairness, Friendliness, Generosity
Personal integrity and reliability Calmness, Courage, Fairness, Friendliness, Honour, Temperance
Culture and values management All virtues

Ethical behavior is the foundation of any good professional. It is also essential for their work and prestige to be recognized by the society.

For this reason, the training of project managers, methodologies and certification processes should always bear in mind the codes of conduct and personal values to ensure good professionals.

Personally, from now on I will include in my project management courses an initial lesson in ethics and personal values.