Whistleblowing—The Second Mandatory Responsibility Standard in the PMI Code of Ethics

Posted on February 24, 2010 by

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BURLINGTON, MA - DECEMBER 4: Human Resources a...

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“Isn’t it enough that I don’t do anything unethical or illegal at work?” In a word—no. An earlier posting described how we are also to make it easier for others to behave ethically (standard 5.2.5 “We strive to create an environment in which others feel safe to tell the truth”).

Now we go even beyond that and turn to what we ought to do when someone else is behaving unethically. The second mandatory Responsibility standard from the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is “2.3.2 We report unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management and, if necessary, to those affected by the conduct.”

The consequences of bringing attention to someone else’s wrongdoing can be quite negative. The problem may be as simple as having an HR manger explain to an uninformed employee that some of the questions they asked while interviewing an applicant were illegal and they must not ask them again. Or it could be as difficult as reporting to a government agency that the leaders of one’s organization are involved in fraud that has stolen millions of government dollars. Because of the complexity and consequences surrounding whistleblowing, there are specific laws and policies concerning it (http://whistleblowerlaws.com/index.php). This particular standard in the Code of Ethics is probably one of the most difficult to follow because it is so easy to look the other way rather than bring attention to something negative and face the repercussions.

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