It is a question inspired by the one about handing the bribe: What should a project manager do if he/she is asked to pay a bribe?

Mine is a bit different. You're a project team member in the middle of a project and you accidentally overhear salesperson talking with the client in the way which clearly indicates there was bribery involved to get the project. You personally wouldn't hand the bribe out even if directly asked by your superior. Anyway, no one asked you about that and no one got you involved in that. You didn't get your hands dirty - you only learned about the situation. What should you do?

4 Answers 4


If one does not do anything about it, (s)he is in collusion and it is exactly as if (s)he took the bribe directly. Blow the whistle. That said, I think we need to open a discussion on how unbelievably difficult that really is. We have relationships with those with whom we work; our livelihoods are attached to this; there is a ton of uncertainty of how it would all play out.

Few of us can truly predict with any degree of accuracy our future behavior when faced with stressful events. We like to think we can but it has been shown too often we stink at it. It is far too easy to turn a blind eye, justify/minimize it away, wait for the next guy to blow the whistle, and even distort the events in your head to remove the dissonance one might feel after witnessing it.

We all know what should be done, but the real question is how. How do you drum up the strength, how do you resolve the fear of the unknown results, how do you really take that first step?

  • Yes, exactly. Corruption could be just by one or two, or systemic through the entire system. Whatever you assume, the bottom-line is you do not know and therein lies your risk and source of fear. Mar 25, 2011 at 15:08
  • And how do you know your supervisors don't know about it... I think it's safe to assume in such case that the higher levels are in the loop more or less as someone is giving out the $ and it's probably not the sales person from his/her own payroll...
    – RnR
    Mar 25, 2011 at 15:09
  • The safest bet might be to pretend you didn't hear anything ;) - until you speak/say anything NO ONE can prove otherwise...
    – RnR
    Mar 25, 2011 at 15:11

Report it to your boss and let the stuff go uphill that route.

If you have a company lawyer, let them know.

Take the two-pronged route because your company may have a thermocline of truth. That is, there is almost always some level in a corporation where the truth stops going up.


I support what Tangurena says completely. I think it is just important to add, that anyone with a PMP is obligated to do this because of our code of ethics.

It's not an often talked about part of the PMP, but I've met senior business people that think that the PMP code of ethics is one of the things that makes hiring PMPs so valuable. Especially in larger corporations, the fact we are bound by ethics is something that creates value and trust.

If we don't uphold it, not only do we do ourselves harm, we do every PMP holder harm.


All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Edmund Burke

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