Facilities Management (Managing Assets)

Ethics in Facilities Management

Our FM life is not what it used to be. Of course, nothing is. We are enveloped by information about digital technology, sustainability and global warming; the effect that national and local politics may/will have on us; and the unknowns associated with our workforce-in-waiting. It is easy to put aside certain values that, in fact, should always demand much of our professional (and personal) attention.

One of the most challenging topics to discuss with students wanting to become FMers has been ethics. It is not that they don’t believe in it; most of them do. Like the rest of us, they have trouble wrapping their minds around what it is. In these days of digitalization and social media, it is easy for management and employees to lose touch with ethical values.

There are a kazillion publications and articles that explore ethical values in a wide range of professions. There is a paucity of such articles pertaining to ethical behavior among/by facility managers and their employees. I suspect that at least one reason for this absence is that facility management was not considered and respected as a true profession until a relatively short time ago.

Let’s Start the Discussion

I think it could be interesting to bring together a dozen or so respected facility managers representing various educational market segments to discuss this topic. I would ask them to identify behaviors that would typify a high degree of ethics among facility management organization. Perhaps they would come up with a non-prioritized list that might include the following:

  • To treat all employees fairly and consistently, regardless of religious preference, ethnicity, places of origin, etc., as stipulated in every type of local and national legislation that describe unwanted, inappropriate or discriminatory behavior.
  • To react immediately and appropriately to all violations of discrimination or harassment regulations, regardless of the position of the alleged offender. Ditto for building occupants (e.g., we treat a part-time clerk with the same level of respect that we treat a dean or a well-funded researcher).
  • To apply all resources made available to us as a senior facility manager in such a way as to support the mission and vision of our institution/agency.
  • To treat vendors, contractors, etc., fairly, without prejudice. (This means getting them paid on a timely basis.)
  • To place priority on the needs of the teaching/learning process.
  • To avoid using our employees for personal gain — financial or otherwise.
  • To stay current on professional trends in facility management and apply them to our own situations, as appropriate.
  • To treat facility management as a complex business.
  • To make sure that we do the right thing at the right time, to the benefit of our institution.
  • To provide a learning and living environment that is safe, secure and free of health hazards for everyone who comes in contact with our campus.
  • To be respectful of our neighbors and the surrounding community.
  • To assure that employees are fairly compensated, and to assure that compensation or promotions are based on relevant skills — not personal relationships — anywhere in the organization.
  • To communicate openly; up, down and laterally.
  • To avoid implementing change just for the sake of change.
  • To remember that our employees have lives of their own, and that they deserve our respect — regardless of their positions in our organization.
  • To avoid pitting one employee against another, or sharing confidential knowledge.
  • To provide the tools and resources necessary for our staff to do their work, and then get out of the way.
  • To be totally committed to sustainability and respectful of the environment.
  • To complete, regularly, fair and constructive performance assessment specific to the individual.

I recognize that is easy to come up with a list such as this. It is much more difficult to consistently live by it. In larger organizations, it is even more difficult to assure that all levels of management and supervision have adopted these values. I recognize that as seniorlevel leaders, we may not always be aware of what is happening throughout the department. Managing by walking around and developing a level of trust with our employees is one way. But even if we don’t learn about it until HR contacts us, we must correct the situation. If we don’t, we are only inviting additional transgressions.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at petevanderhave@msn.com.

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