What is the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Project Managers?

What is the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Project Managers?

For project managers and project teams, ethics plays a major role in the day-to-day operations and behaviors. Ethics enables all parties to feel comfortable working together knowing everyone has subscribed to the same way of doing business.

Project Managers have taken this a step further by agreeing to abide by a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct which has been developed for just this purpose. It was developed by the Project Management Institute to set standards for the way certified and non-certified project managers will conduct business. It addresses several aspects of ethical and professional workplace behaviors.

Ethics plays a role in project management in many ways:

  • It elevates the profession and raises standards.
  • It improves business relationships at all levels.
  • It promotes fair decision making.
  • It reduces project risks.
  • It provides a greater chance of success.
  • It reduces anxiety and stress and ultimately turnover in projects.

At the US federal level, the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act was enacted in 2016. This law is designed to enforce that project professionals involved in government programs make the best choices for taxpayers and foster increased transparency, trust and ultimately success. Like the PMI code, it maintains strict rules and even goes so far as to designate positions responsible for its oversight:

  • A program Management Improvement Officer developing a five-year plan to improve project management at the federal level
  • A Program Management Policy Council responsible for the improvement of program and project management practices.
  • A Personnel Management Office which is responsible for developing standards for competencies and skills among project managers and identifying new career paths.

As you can see, the value placed on ethics and professionalism couldn't be higher.

So, what does the PMI Code of Ethics mean for project managers? Here is a snapshot:

  • PMPs have a responsibility to hold themselves accountable for their decisions and action, successful or not and the fallout.
  • Being respectful and demonstrating a high regard for oneself and others is essential.
  • Fostering business excellence through mutual respect, trust, confidence, cooperation and diversity.
  • The views of everyone involved are encouraged and valued.
  • Always practicing fairness in making decisions and remaining partial and objective.
  • Demonstrating honesty in every way.

So, what does the PMI Code of Ethics mean for project managers? Here is a snapshot:

  1. Use Newly Created Assets
    If you are new to a company, you may not know how to find the restroom, must less how to jump into a new project. The temptation will be great to fall back on the tips and tricks that served you well at your previous job. Nope. The templates and systems that your previous employer used took a lot of time and personnel to develop and perfect. They are not yours to bring to a new situation. You can use any knowledge or experience gained from previous employment but that’s it.
  2. Notify your team about conflicts of interest.
    Projects Managers routinely work with many suppliers, contractors, customers and fellow employees. If you live in a smaller town, it might be hard to get away from a friend or relative bidding on a contract for a project on which you are working. Transparency is the key in these situations. If the circumstances mean you must remove yourself from the decision-making in the situation, then that’s what happens. Notifying your coworkers and supervisors will allow everyone to consider the situation and what needs to happen.
  3. Provide full disclosure
    Any conversations or communications with coworkers, customers or contractors must be disclosed in full. Not talking about a situation because there’s a problem or you are going to look bad isn’t acceptable. Keeping everyone up-to-date whether the news is good or bad is critical.
  4. Speak Up
    A common phrase these days is, “See Something, Say Something”. It could never be truer than in the project management workplace. Corruption, harassment, unethical decision-making or bullying has no place in any business setting. Even if it’s difficult or involves someone you know, it’s your duty to speak up.
  5. Pay people what they are owed
    This may not be something you’re directly involved with but if you are in a management position it’s extremely important. Your team should always be compensated for their work. Asking your team to work nights or weekends “off the clock” because a project is running over budget just isn’t acceptable.
  6. Take personal bias out of your management style.
    Again this is a tough one because we are the sum total of our personal experiences and biases Managers and team members must treat each other fairly and equitably at all times. Even if one is more interesting or you have more in common with one coworker over the others, none of that should factor into assignments or operations.

As you can see, none of these expectations are in any way going to prohibit getting the job done. It just solidifies the conduct expectations and does an end run around problems.