Conflict of Interest–The Second Aspirational Fairness Standard in the PMI Code of Ethics

Posted on February 26, 2010 by


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Conflict of interest situations can be commonplace, and have been regarded as one the biggest problems in the field of project management. The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct contains comments on some standards, and the second aspirational Fairness standard includes the comment “the subject of conflicts of interest is one of the most challenging faced by our profession. One of the biggest problems practitioners report is not recognizing when we have conflicted loyalties and recognizing when we are inadvertently placing ourselves or others in a conflict-of-interest situation.”

The standard drafted to confront this problem is the second aspirational Fairness standard: “4.2.2 We constantly reexamine our impartiality and objectivity, taking corrective action as appropriate.” This standard does not simply say what we will or will not do like many other standards, but consistent with the problem that project managers may not even realize that they are in a conflict of interest situation, it states that we “constantly reexamine.” For example, a relative to the person making the procurement decisions may submit a proposal. If coming under-budget for a project is rewarded financially, decisions may be made to reduce costs in a way that compromises the quality of the deliverables. What appears to be a gift may be a subtle bribe. Many situations can arise in which we have multiple interests, so project managers first of all need to maintain awareness to assure that they act in a fair manner.

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