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Ethics and Keeping Your Cool
I'd like to hear your thoughts on the situation described below.

The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct identifies 4 foundational values: responsibility, respect, fairness and honesty. It is so easy to name them, but living them all the time under difficult situations might prove challenging.

I'm not talking about the situations which are clear cut where almost everyone would agree an action is right or wrong. I'm talking about those grey areas, or dilemmas, which might have a number of choices on how to proceed. I'm talking about a spectrum of choices.

During COVID, PMI, like many organizations, has been giving online certification exams, such as the PMP, instead of face to face. Suppose you suspect that someone is cheating on an exam by having a third party take the exam instead of the candidate? Suppose you think or know there is a specific organization out there who sells these services? Suppose you've tried to report the individual, or organization and feel and you aren't seeing action? How far can (and should you go) to take matters into your own hand and trap those individuals and organizations? What ethical values are at stake?

The bottom line question is have you ever been so frustrated with a situation that you could convince yourself to take an action that, under other circumstances you would not?
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First a warning - I have strong views on this. Governments and corporations have been exposed for corruption and bribery resulting in damages to taxpayers, shareholders and employees. The actual culprits rarely get whats due.

If one has knowledge or strong suspicions of corrupt or criminal activity and one does not take action you become an enabler. People only do this because they get away with it and they get away with it because of the enablers.

The key words are "knowledge or strong suspicions". You may have circumstantial evidence and/or even witnesses that think the same. But you can't act on suspicion only.

I think the first step is to look at your motives - why am I concerned about this? Is it hurting me? Is it hurting anyone I care about? is it hurting my organisation, my industry? Am I clean on this or is there a hidden motive?
Second step: ask yourself; why would I get involved? Can my involvement hurt me, someone I care for?
Third step: imagine seeing the story unfold in you favourite newspaper or news channel with your name prominently attached - can you live with it?
Forth step: do a risk assessment - what could happen, what can I do about it?
Fifth: can you live with yourself if you let it slide, and
Lastly, lay out a strategy and DO IT.

As to your last question, sometimes I took action and sometimes I was an enabler.
Hi Valerie,

The virtualization of that which we previously performed via physical presence for the sake of answering “questions of accountability” is catching up to us. For instance:

- Are you who you say you are?
- Do you know that which you state you know?

I had the unfortunate opportunity to see this first hand when we hired a consultant through a very reputable agency who was executing a consultant scam where he represented his experienced-self to us virtually and in-person but substituted inexperienced proxies in his place for actual virtual work performed. When we suspected fraud, we set up multiple tests to confirm our suspicions, and after confirmation, we were able to coordinate a “pull the plug” operation to terminate and retrieve our assets.

That said, I believe it would be unethical NOT to take action to unveil such activities. With the steps we took with this scammer, the reputable placement agency put additional processes in place to mitigate such events in the future. In addition, we quickly recovered from the project misstep.

Under your setup, I would believe the paramount concern to be the long-term goodwill of our certifications and not any possible legal issues.

The PMI itself has the means to deal with this type the situations. If you think you have to take an action go to the PMI.
Valerie -

This is a great question - if there is a whistleblower capability, I'd always take advantage of that first once I was convinced that there was unethical behavior afoot. However, should that result in no meaningful action, it comes down to how strongly I feel about the violation.

At some point though: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

There should be a whistleblowing option. However, there is a difference between knowing something by fact or suspicion!
Dear Valerie
Your question is very interesting, as well as being very pertinent.

I think it is the conscience of each person that must dictate whether their behavior is always in line with the principles that govern humanity, including: Honesty, Justice, Respect, Responsibility and Integrity.

When PMI changed exam providers it was assured that fraud was impossible. Or am I mistaken?

It occurs to me to ask you. Do you have your LinkedIn profile?
Have you ever noticed that people who publish their PMP certificate (which happens in most situations when they pass the exam or renew their certification) are getting younger and younger?

In some situations I wonder how some of these people can have 36 months of experience as project managers where the chosen development approach was predictive

It was PMI that dropped, as a requirement for taking the exam, the 4,500 hours of experience as a Project Manager, that is, experience as a project management professional became less relevant

PMI has the necessary tools to ratify the information provided by people applying for the exam. Are they using them?

good question.

For me it comes down to the lack of self control if frustration makes me act in a way I would not otherwise. Self Control is a part of Emotional Intelligence and should be enhanced all life long.

As to organizations that cheat on PMI exams, yes, I have made PMI legal aware of cases if I ran into them. And yes, not in all cases, the resolution was what I expected. And yes, others pop up like mushrooms.

No frustration though on my side. Ethics cannot be improved by sanctions and prosecution alone but need a more educational and guidance approach. And there is more to ethics than the 4 values.

Should not influencing be a key competence of project managers? I try to do my part thru my presentations to Chapters.

Very difficult situation and I am glad I am not in your shoes. Obviously, as others have mentioned, you need to be able to prove it. Even if you saw it could be he said, she said. If you do have solid proof then by all means approach PMI with the evidence, otherwise move on as it will consume you.

I know of at least half a dozen individuals that did not meet the requirements when they applied yet their employer vouched for them so they wrote the exam and passed but do not have the experience required. Because of this, I had to carry quite a few of them on projects.

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