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Topics: Communications Management, Ethics, Leadership
Ethical behavior in project management: who does the Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct Apply to?
The Project Management Institute is serious about ethical behavior and responsibility in the project management profession. Ethical choices diminish risks, enable positive results and long term success while building a positive reputation. Without ethical responsibility, you really can’t have effective leadership.

To enable confidence in the profession and help individuals make good ethical decisions, the PMI publishes the Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct (referred to as “the code” (

Who DOES “the code” apply to and why? Who SHOULD “the code” apply to and why?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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Feb 22, 2020 8:44 AM
Replying to Albert Agbemenu
Thanks Valerie for this thought provoking topic.

As per the purpose for the publication of the code, it applies to all PMI members, PMI certification holders and non PMI members who volunteer to the organization. This is so because PMI established it for that purpose.

Having said so above, the code in my opinion should be applicable to all project management practitioners including PMs, team members, sponsors and all major stakeholders within a project environment. In my opinion, considering the intent of this code, it must even be applicable to all persons within the governance structure of every organization.

Sticking and working within this code will definitely make the world a better place for all mankind. We will definitely not have any justification for most of the wrongs we perpetrate in this world if we all agree to live and work within scope of the code.
I think PMI can take charge of this process and make a big case out of it as a global issue. It will not be an easy task but once we start by engaging the big players in the project management fraternity, gradually we can make a huge impact and make it work.
Feb 24, 2020 3:39 AM
Replying to Albert Agbemenu
I kind of agree with the latter of Valerie's response. I think it would be great if we should have PMI advocating for the code to become sort of an oath with some legal binding so it can bite. This can be tested starting from the United States making it a legislation and once its making positive impact, the rest of the globe would adopt it gradually.

My thoughts...
Perhaps it is a "deformation" due to I worked to help some other organizations similar to PMI to define certifications and get it recognized by international organizations. If an organization creates a certification and like it to be recognized by international organizations in the matter then some requisites have to be fullfil. One of them is taking a code of conduct. But when you search in the real requisites to have a discipline recognized as a profession, like medice/laws/engineering, you will find that a higher level is requested. For example, to create a code of conduct which is legally actionable then the professional have "to pay" just in case making actions agains the code. As in medicine for example. My position is: ethic is something that have to be other framework of debate. As I mentioned as an example: what about the certified PMs that are working creating massive destruction weapons? Are they against the PMI´s Code of Ethics? I am not against those PMs, because ethics is something that start for everyone, but here is when subjectivity comes.
In my opinion, the code applies to the PMI members and anyone holding any PMI credential or aspire to have one.
Dear Valerie,

The problem with codes of ethics is because they are normally voluntary, people do not take them seriously and ask the question does this apply to me? If you need to ask this questions then the function of a code of ethics has already failed at the first hurdle.

After witnessing first hand some serious breaches of morals and secondly ethics in the workplace I think the role of a code of ethics has diminished and diminished increasing over the years. The only thing that people take seriously these days is repercussions that will either effect their quality of life or their reputation.

As you start to peel the layers of the structures of some organizations you start to see some serious failings that a band aid solution is not going to fix.

So until accountability and transparency in the workplace becomes a reality and people do actual become responsible people and learn what it is to be moral sound and ethically compliant then all we are doing is faffing in the wind.


Thank you for your question.
The first part of your question is already covered in the Code.
As for the second part, it would be great to extend the Code to apply to PMI staff and bodies that interact with PMI such as RCPs, REPs. This will ensure that a standardized set of values and behaviors are understood and adopted.
The tricky part is how would the Code be enforced beyond the current complaint process ensuring that unethical and unprofessional behaviors are not accepted.
Once you have peeled all the layers the only person accountable is the person themselves. No other can truly enforce a code of ethics. This is voluntary. Note that legal requirements which may apply to doctors, legal profession or engineers are not "codes of ethics".
1) Too many jurisdictions to consider legal enforcement
2) The person has committed to themselves and PMI only
3) PMI could void any certification and cancel membership BUT PMI itself would be subject to claim for damages thus would have to have a very onerous process to investigate and action such cancellation.
4) As a PM you cannot enforce a code of ethics on your team nor anyone else
5) Code of ethics cannot be a condition of employment, There are legal requirements affecting employment in most jurisdictions. Termination for breech of 'code of ethics' is subject to legal action.

So again, this is a personal commitment, implementation is through convincing others of its value rather than threat of enforcement.
That being said, the PMI 'code of ethics' can be a basis for establishing a project or team code of ethics, possibly in the Project Charter.
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