Ethical Decision Making Workshop


This guide describes an approach for presenting an interactive, ethics‐based decisionmaking workshop to PMI members and certification holders who want to enhance their leadership skills. Ethics is part of the leadership leg of the PMI Talent Triangle™. The workshop provides participants the opportunity to leverage their ethical knowledge to strengthen their leadership skills, raising the odds of project success. In addition, the workshop:

  • Exposes participants to the importance of ethical behavior through optional prereading
  • Provides the opportunity to work in groups
  • Develops an ability to apply the Ethical Decision‐Making Framework (EDMF) to address a realistic, fictional ethical dilemma
  • Extends the experience through optional participant homework on ethics‐related dilemmas that confront PMI volunteer leaders

Background and Context

This workshop has been successfully delivered at Leadership Institute Master Classes and is now more broadly available. It is intended as a two‐ to three‐hour session. If an additional hour is available, the optional pre‐reading and homework can be included as separate activities before and after the workshop.

Primary User and Audience

The primary user of this workshop guide is the instructor. The instructor can be a member of the PMI Ethics Insight Team (EIT), a region mentor, or an individual sufficiently experienced with teaching ethics and ethical dilemmas.

The primary audiences for this workshop are the attendees at PMI events, where sufficient interest and time exists in connecting the topics of leadership and ethics, including, but not limited to: Leadership Institute Master Class, PMI® Global Congresses, leadership meetings, regional leadership conferences, regional and chapter professional development events and conferences, and chapter classes and workshops. The intended workshop size is between 10 and 30 participants.


This highly interactive workshop is conducted by the instructor through brief lecture, facilitated class discussion, group exercises, and group discussions. The process helps to:

  • Identify an event with a suitable venue, sufficient time, and target participant audience
  • Identify a suitable primary user (instructor)
  • The instructor then:
  • Arranges the workshop date, time, and facilities with the venue host
  • Makes decisions, in consultation with venue host, about including optional pre‐reading and optional homework
  • Performs the preparation necessary to conduct the workshop
  • Distributes and assigns the optional participant pre‐reading if desired
  • Forms participants into groups to engage together during the workshop
  • Distributes workshop reading materials and conducts the workshop
  • Distributes and assigns the optional participant homework, if desired
  • Inspires the participants to make a positive connection between ethical behavior, leadership, and project success


This workshop uses a mix of materials as follows:

Provided documents: Hardcopies for each of the participants will be provided during the workshop.

  • PMI EDMF Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study (1 page)
  • PMI EDMF Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study (1 page)

Case studies provided below

Agenda and Instructor Notes

The instructor of the workshop should follow the agenda provided below and use the instructor notes to engage participants in critical thinking and facilitated discussion about the intersection of leadership and ethical decision making.

As noted above, the workshop is two to three hours and if an additional hour is available, reading can be done before the workshop and homework can be done afterward.


The following facilities are needed:

  • A room sized to fit the total number of participants; nominally 20ft2 (2m2) per participant
  • A room arranged with tables and chairs sized for participant groups of 4‐8 participants each, with an instructor table at the room front
  • An easel with flip chart and markers for instructor
  • An easel with flip chart and markers for each participant group

Expected Impact

Participants in the workshop are expected to increase their awareness and appreciation of the value of ethical behavior, advance their understanding of the connection between ethics and leadership and project success, improve their ability to address ethical dilemmas, and identify opportunities to apply what they have learned.

Professional Dave/Amy Dilemma Case Study


Dave is a young, aggressive Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification holder working for a major software development company and this is his second job since becoming certified. He was hired into a group of elite project managers, each with varying degrees of experience. His peers had been divided on whether or not he should join the team. Amy, in particular, was uncomfortable with what he listed as accomplishments on his résumé and had questioned his level of experience.

After a few months, it became evident that Dave was significantly more immature than his peers. He talked over people and shouted them down, turning every meeting into a battleground. He soon alienated part of the team and Amy, coming from a different cultural background, found his behavior highly disturbing. On the other hand, Dave appeared to doing his job adequately, if not very well, and he seemed to have the full support of the director.

After a particularly difficult meeting, Amy overheard Dave disparaging another project manager who had challenged him. Soon, rumors about that project manager were flying around and Amy had the impression they all began with Dave. The atmosphere in the office was also changing and Amy perceived a higher lever of competition and conflict among peers, but Dave had his supporters.

Although she was not directly involved in his projects, Amy started taking a closer look at Dave’s job. She noticed that when he met with executives in the company, he regularly took credit for his team’s work. He did work late and put in some hours on weekends, but Amy was convinced that he was grossly exaggerating his effort and, moreover, there was no evidence that his projects benefited from all the extra hours.


What is Amy’s position as Dave’s peer? And, as a more senior manager in the company? Should Amy look more closely into Dave’s projects? What could happen if she approaches the director about the problem? What will happen if she does not say anything?

Task description:

  • List which facts you consider relevant to clarify the situation.
  • List which alternative options for taking action that you consider significant and prioritize one.
  • Describe the impacts your choice might have.
  • List the questions that you find relevant to recognize and assess the ethical dilemma, even if the question is not listed in the PMI EDMF.

Volunteer Andy/Sarah Dilemma Case Study


Andy is a contractor in Sarah’s training and consulting company. He likes his job and he has developed a good relationship with Sarah; he trusts her and he values her competences and leadership skills. He was hired six months ago and his contract will expire in six months, but Sarah’s business is growing fast, and more and more frequently, she gives him names of potential clients to develop. Andy feels that he might soon get a permanent job in the company.

Sarah and Andy are both Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification holders and are volunteers at the local PMI chapter. Sarah is vice president of membership and her sales and communications skills have helped to significantly increase the membership numbers. Andy is a director‐at‐large and serves on the event management team.

Sarah stepped down as vice president of chapter membership after only ten months in the office, citing a growing business workload. At the same time, she recommends Andy for the position and the board accepts. In his new volunteer role, Andy soon discovers that the chapter’s membership list is very similar to the lists of potential clients that Sarah had given him at work. Andy suspects that the two lists might be related or might actually be the same.


What is Andy’s position as a volunteer? And what is his position as an employee in Sarah’s company? What will be Andy’s professional perspective if he blows the whistle? What will happen if he doesn’t say anything?

Task description:

  • What is the ethical dilemma presented, if any? List which facts you consider relevant to clarify the situation.
  • List the options you consider significant for taking action and prioritize one.
  • Describe the impacts your choice might have.
  • List questions that you find relevant, even if not listed in the EDMF.