Professional Responsibility on the PMP Exam

Posted on February 5, 2010 by

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As project managers study for their PMP exam, they often read their PMBOK® repeatedly and memorize key aspects of it. However, too often people pay little or no attention to PMI’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct upon which 9% of their exam questions will be based. This is unfortunate as the Code of Ethics is not time-consuming to learn and also because PMI members have agreed to abide by it so they should have a good understanding of its contents. There seems to be a common attitude that people believe they already know how they ought to behave, so studying the Code of Ethics is unnecessary. However, people have often told me that either practice or actual professional responsibility exam questions were not at all what they expected.

Let’s examine a specific section of the code that falls under the category of Responsibility: “3.2.1 We inform ourselves about the norms and customs of others and avoid engaging in behaviors they might consider disrespectful.” So in order to avoid being disrespectful, we first must understand the culture of the people with whom we are interacting. There are many ways to educate yourself. Perhaps you can get advice from a team member who has worked with people having certain customs or buy a book about the country that you’ll be visiting. Although “others” could be people from a different part of the world, it does not have to be—it could even be a group of people from your hometown that happens to have different social norms. Perhaps eating or drinking certain things is offensive to your client, so when dining together it’s best to avoid ordering those items off the menu. Certainly do not go as far as pretending that you’ve adopted the religion of your new client, as that in itself is dishonest. But do be aware that there are many small things you can do that can go a long way in demonstrating respect for the other person.

In summary, it’s a good idea for members of PMI to familiarize themselves with the Code of Ethics and understand how it can apply to their everyday work.

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