Are you ethical?
Unfortunately, many businesses carry out unethical practices. Contractors and the construction industry are often viewed as being unethical. Regrettably, there are many contractors who are unethical, but equally, there are many clients who also engage in unethical practices and don’t pay contractors the monies they are due. But not all contractors are unethical, and nor are all clients unethical.
Why are ethics important?
Being ethical sets the tone of the relationship between the contracting parties. As soon as one party partakes in unethical practices we see the relationships begin to break down, often causing the project to suffer. When unethical behaviour is uncovered it leads to a breakdown in trust. The other party is left wondering what other unethical behaviours have been concealed and haven’t been noticed.
But good ethical practices are an essential part of a company’s reputation. Who wants to work for a client that is unethical? Who was to employ a contractor that engages in unethical practices?
Unfortunately unethical behaviour is sometimes contagious. If management engages in unethical behaviour you can almost be certain that their employees also engage in unethical practices. When one party is unethical we sometimes see an unethical response from the other party. When someone engages in an unethical practice we often find they get caught-up with more unethical practices. Once someone has paid, or received, a bribe it’s easier to repeat the offence in the future. If management are corrupt in their dealings with the client, or contractor, they sometimes engage in other unethical practices, even stealing from their own company.
Our ethics, or lack of ethics, express who we are, and define our dealings with others.
What behaviours could be viewed as being unethical?
Unfortunately contractors are sometimes accused of being unethical for reasons I don’t believe are unethical. I realise that some may disagree with some of the points below.
Being ethical is about how we deal with the client, how we deal with our employees and how we treat our suppliers and subcontractors. It's about how clients treat their contractors.
Unethical behaviour can lead to a loss of reputation, which impacts future work. It can be costly and contractors have faced lengthy legal battles and suffered large monetary fines for unethical behaviour. It could even mean that contractors are barred from working for some clients.
But equally, clients need to be ethical. When clients have a reputation for unethical behaviour then contractors will avoid pricing their projects, or will add on additional monies to their price to compensate for the problems they know they’ll have when they deal with the client. Ultimately the client will be paying more for their projects. In the same way contractors who engage in unethical behaviour with their subcontractors and suppliers may also find it difficult to find suppliers and subcontractors to work for them in the future.
Contractors who mistreat their employees will inevitably find that productivities on their projects aren’t what they should be, which costs them more. In some cases unhappy employees have been known to deliberately damage equipment, materials and completed work, or even steal from the project. (I’m sure we have all heard stories of disgruntled workers allowing concrete to get into plumbing pipes?)
Ethical behaviour is about being honest and fair in all of your dealings. It means not compromising safety or quality. It means complying with the conditions of the project and paying what is due and fair. It’s about not profiting from someone else’s misfortune.
I’m sure we have all been guilty of being unethical at some stage – but is this the way you always operate?
What unethical behaviours have you encountered on your projects?
Are your behaviours always ethical?
This article is adapted from information in the author’s popular books: 'Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide' and 'Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide' and 'Construction Project Management: Tips and Insights'
'Construction Claims: A Short Guide for Contractors' has just been published. These books are available on Amazon and other online book stores.
Paul publishes articles regularly on LinkedIn and his website.
Paul writes regular articles for other websites, gives lectures, mentors, and is available for podcasts and interviews.
© 2017 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.
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Copyright 2016 - The attached articles cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes without the consent of the author.
The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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