Retaliation and the PMI Code of Ethics

Posted on March 11, 2010 by

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Your boss announces her plan for cutting some project costs during a team meeting though the client has already paid for the services those costs reflect.  Had she negotiated with the client and advised them of the cost cutting measure, it’s fine.  It’s business, right?

You suspect though that this planned activity cheats the client and is illegal, so you cheerfully point that out for that group. Right? Unfortunately it’s usually not so easy to raise ethical concerns. If you’re dealing with an ethical individual who would truly want to know that they are accidentally doing something they should not be, they may thank you. However, sometimes we deal with people who who know full well that what they are doing is wrong, and it can be unpleasant to say the least to have an unethical person angry with you for pointing that out. If you raise concerns about the ethics of someone’s behavior and they try to cause you harm in some way because of the trouble you are causing them, this is called retaliation. The fifth mandatory Responsibility standard in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is “2.3.5 We pursue disciplinary action against an individual who retaliates against a person raising ethics concerns.” PMI values an environment where people can raise ethics concerns without fear. If ethical people are afraid to do or say anything, unethical behavior can take root and flourish. As Edmund Burke said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” For this reason, retaliation is taken very seriously in the project management profession.

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