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Topics: Ethics and Organizational Culture, Stakeholder Management
Ethical considerations in project role during internship as a student
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Mary is an intelligent student and is doing her internship at a company. Her agreement does not allow her to get a complete access to the project artifacts. The project manager is aware of this. The project manager, who is short staffed wants her commitment to the project and is ready to give her complete access to the project’s resources/artifacts. He also finds her suitable and fit for the role. Mary is interested in the work but also knows her limitations. Over time she has also grown to be a key resource for the project.She approaches the project manager with her dilemma.

Do you face this dilemma in your projects? What is the right approach in such cases? Would like to hear from the group on your views.
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I believe that the agreement must be respected first of all. If the project manager is interested in Mary working fully for the project and considering that she is doing her internship, they should review the company's regulations and assess whether they can offer Mary a work contract either for the project time with you look at your permanent hiring. This could heal the dilemma that Mary as a trainee does not allow her access to key project information. After all the legal figures of the companies and countries are very diverse and must be carefully reviewed to make contracts especially when confidential information of the project and the company is at stake. Thanks for this post ...
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It comes down to the company's policies and ability to get exemptions on those policies. In some companies, an escalation to a senior leader (e.g. VP of HR) might be sufficient to get such an exemption which might take the form of having Mary sign additional NDA-type documents. However, in others, the policies might be fixed with no exemption options.
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We have in these situations before, but as per compliance rules, in such cases we have background checks and NDA signed to provide access to our interns.
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The agreement will need to be revised.
Depending on the nature of the additional information given access to, a background check might be required.
Would the additional access to artifact impact the internship?
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Knowing your limitation and communicating them to your peers is an honourable practise but it also limits you development as a Project Manager. Maybe your calling is as a Business Analyst as apposed to a Project Manager. I would not be an advocate of fail fast in Project Management as this profession is about a collaborative approach would also effect the project team. Instead I would draw up a Personal Progression Plan with your team leader or manager ans detail the necessary skills and competencies that are testable that you would need to possess in order to assume more responsibilities within the project team. Nobody wants to set anybody up for failure so some foresight and thought should be use when developing this individuals career.
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In my case is simple. In my actual work place we have a code of ethics then we have to adhere to it. The situation you describe is a risk to the project. I record the risk and I assign it to the proper person. That´s all from my side.
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The agreement must be respected at the first place, interns should not have full access because their stakes are low and they are not internal to the organization. Any intern would love to learn as much as possible. These situations should be avoided even though project is short staffed.
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In Public Sector the security check is conducted for the security level initially assigned to the work duties of the job. The security level is also part of the initial employment offer and any change would require security, HR, and the hiring authority agreement.
Access to documents with no sensitive nature is one aspect versus access to protected B or secret/top secret documents; this is always done based on the "need to know" basis. This is a practice that presents a risk to the project as Sergio here indicated, and also a risk to the intern by exposing her to information for which she does not have the proper clearance. A matter like this can be brought up in an open discussion between the intern and the manager, and can be escalated to the next in line manager/director and / or to HR /Security office.
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I agree with Lily that the reason behind why the agreement does not allow the intern full access is a critical consideration. If it is the company's own information protection policy, then they may be able to waive that policy depending on who has the authority to do so. In other cases it may involve government regulations which the company has no authority to waive.

In addition to security clearances, there are other legal factors that may prevent sharing information. Information which may have a military application for example may not be shareable to foreign persons even if the project is using that information for strictly civilian purposes. Export laws not only restrict the transport of physical items, but also to sharing information to foreign persons, or US citizens employed by a foreign entity (a conversation may be an export under the law). Government acquisition requirements may prohibit sharing information such as costs even to different organizations within the same corporation due to the business structuring, and regulations intended to make the contract award process fair.
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Hi Deepa, Policies and procedures should be scalable and not be restriction/impediment to the dynamic work. Interns play a valuable role, have fire in the belly, do a lot of ground work. Having set of procedures which are scalable helps both interns and project alike. We loosen up a bit, whenever we see there is an impediment to good work.
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