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Professional ethics in construction industry

1.1 Background

In the complex and hectic world of work, it is becoming harder to live and work by values and behaviors based on integrity and principles. Pressures are placed upon professionals of the construction industry, where they do not always act the way they should, and matters are seldom black and white. Even though professionals are trying to the right thing most of the time, "grey areas" do exist. With ongoing ethical misconducts blasted daily in the media, especially within construction industry, construction players must acknowledge that the need for professional ethics is increasingly obvious. Negligence, conflict of interest, fraud, unfair conduct, confidentiality, bribery, and violation of environmental ethics are among the commonly unethical conducts in the construction industry.

The practice of profession poses challenging ethical questions for which a working knowledge of ethics and professionalism is critical to the construction players. Professionals have the fundamental right to perform with responsibility and accountability in their line of work. Professional ethics should be driven by personal ethics, where a balance of both the requirements of the client and the impact on the society should be maintained by the professionals when making decisions. It has been suggested, however, that professionals in general tend to believe that their obligations to their client far outweigh their responsibility to others, such as the public (Johnson, 1991, p. 28).

1.2 Problem Statement

Construction players may refer to standards such as the professional code of ethics; however, the cases are not intended to provide absolute answers nor are they resolution, standard operating procedure, or policy for ethical problems. The purpose of a code of ethics or set of ethical principles is to define a standard of conduct that reflects the values of the organization or profession. They are designed to guide about one's personal reaction to ethical dilemmas. But when it comes to ethical dilemmas, construction players may not have the skills or competencies.

Individual implicit ethical knowledge and practice need to be amplified into the profession, turning implicit ethical knowledge into explicit that leads towards the development of ethical professional ethics. However, it seems doubtful that professionals can always rely on own personal ethics as they find themselves working with diverse cultures, values and expectations. Professionals are often left to make tough decisions in the face of extremely chaotic and complicated ethical dilemmas.

Scholarly publications have offered little help in terms of offering solutions to ethical dilemmas whereas practitioner publication have been ineffective for helping professionals reinforce their moral character. There will always be cases when professionals struggle between what they assume the profession expects and what the moral character tells. Even though majority of organization have their own ethical codes of conduct, the curbing of unethical conduct is difficult. Despite having professional code of ethics in the organization, professionals of the construction industry had directly or indirectly experiences some degree of unethical conduct.

1.3 Aim

Dignify and elevate the professional ethics among professionals in construction industry.

1.4 Objectives

1. To determine the factors affecting participant's behaviours in professional ethics

2. To identify the impacts of unethical behaviours on the project cost, safety and quality of work

3. To evaluate the awareness on the importance of professional ethics in construction industry.

1.5 Research Question

1. What are the significant barriers that limit professional and ethical behavior?

2. Why ethical issues occur in the construction industry practice?

3. What should be done differently to improve professional and ethical behavior?

4. How do ethical principles apply to the current construction industry?

1.6 Scope of Research

The scope of the research will be focus on assessing the professional ethics in construction industry. Prime attention is taken on the consultant firms at Klang Valley area only due to time and cost factor. The targeted respondents for this research will concentrate on the consultant quantity surveyors as observed from the working title, within the areas selected for the study.

1.7 Research Methodology

1. A literature review was undertaken to study the current issues of professional ethics in the construction industry, types of ethical misconducts and impacts of unethical conducts to the consultant quantity surveyors.

2. Questionnaire survey will be directed towards consultant quantity surveyors concerning their views and experiences on a range of ethical issues surrounding construction industry activities. The survey will be conducted through postal mail and personal interviews.

3. Case study of ethical issues in the construction industry will be set up.

1.8 Significance of Implications of Study

The outcomes of adhering to the professional ethics among professionals are highlighted in this research. These outcomes will be cornerstone for encouraging the professionals to comply with the principles of ethics, so that their works meet the clients' expectations and that their obligations will be carried out in professional manner in the future. It is important for professionals to practice the knowledge of ethics using applicable codes or standards. The more the professionals practice their responses to ethical dilemmas, the more likely it is to make the right decision when the pressure is on. What is more, implementing the ethical conducts gain professionals significant credibility and respect from the clients and these professionals will win further in the long run. This study also suggests that professionals better understand why professional ethics is critical to be successful in the field.

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