Mind the Ethics for the PMP

It is not in the PMBOK, but The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is on the PMP exam. This is often referred to as the Social Responsibility section of the PMP.  Many folks take this part of the PMP exam for granted and do not study it. The few pages of content seem logical at first glance, but when exam day comes you would be very glad to have covered this in your studies. As you may or may not have heard, the PMP Exam can ask some tough questions.
After signing up for the PMP exam online, PMI sent me a small booklet with a few pages called Social Responsibility and Ethics. This booklet can also be found online in .PDF format or within the PMP Handbook. The booklet opens up to talk about to whom the guidelines pertain to and then about four chapters of importance with sections of Mandatory Standards and Aspirational Standards.
Basically, the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (neither a Knowledge Area nor a Process Group) applies to anyone affiliated with PMI. So in example, even if a nonmember without certification volunteers for PMI, they are subject to uphold the code.  


        Mandatory Standards

        Aspirational Standards


  • Take the high road with laws and ethics. 
  • Protect whistleblowers.
  • Consider best interests of society, safety, & environment.
  • Take ownership of mistakes.
  • Fulfill commitments.


  • Protect property rights.
  • Negotiate in good faith.
  • Don’t abuse others or positions of power.
  • Conduct activities in a professional manner.
  • Resolve conflicts directly.
  • Value other people, cultures, and opinions.


  • No favoritism or discrimination.  
  • Avoid or disclose conflicts of interest.
  • Be transparent in decision processes.
  • Periodically assess your impartiality.
  • Provide equal access to information.


  • Maintain an atmosphere of non-deceit.
  • Never partake in dishonest gain.
  • Promote an environment of truth.
  • Provide accurate information.
  • Ensure truthful communications.
In regards to test scenarios, there are more things to keep in mind. For example, always keep in mind that bribes are wrong. There will be a lot of scenarios that ask for your response on situational awareness. The best answer is probably the one that resolves the situation directly, quickly, openly, and fairly. Of course, don’t answer with what you would do, but how should the PMI boy/girl scout project manager resolve the situation?
The Appendix with Glossary:
The review of the chapters is not all that needs to be known. In the back, there is an Appendix A and Appendix B. Appendix A talks about the History of the Ethics Standard and the Process used to create the standard. I don’t know if that could be tested, but it is less testable material giving a backdrop for why this ethics standard is in place. Appendix B comes after this and it is a glossary with 8 terms. One of those terms could be on the exam. Here are the terms:
Abusive Manner, Conflict of Interest, Duty of Loyalty, Project Management Institute (PMI), PMI Member, PMI-Sponsored Activities, Practitioner, PMI Volunteer
The exam could ask about what a conflict of interest is, since a long definition is given, or might ask about a practitioner in a certain situational scenario.
Pop Quiz:
After reading this paper, it wouldn’t be fair to let you go without a Pop Quiz!
Scenario: If you, the PM, are in a foreign country when a government representative asks for money in order to expedite the project, what do you do?
  1. Insist for documentation
  2. Seek legal advice
  3. Make the payment
  4. Don’t make the payment
Did you guess the answer? Could this be a bribe? Maybe, or maybe not! Sometimes payment for processing quickly is legitimate, such as with postal carriers, so #4 doesn’t complete our concern. If it could be a bribe, you don’t want to make the payment #3. Insisting on documentation #1 doesn’t resolve the situation, so it isn’t a good answer candidate. Seeking legal advice #2 is the answer because it is a direct approach to solving the situation.
Good luck in the PMP journey and keep doing good things!

Author - Gregory Morrow

About Author
Peter Taylor