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I work in a large multinational which is experimenting in new forms of project management. We have invested a great deal of trust to an individual who is training members of staff. He was hired based on his achievements in a particular field including working directly with a Founder of an agile technique including helping to write numerous publications.

I recently returned from an industry conference whereby the founder and other agile heavyweight speakers said they have never heard of the project manager and flatly denied that the manager had ever collaborated on pieces of work.

I find myself in a hard spot because the manager now has a prominent position which he uses to evangelize agile techniques to an audience new to the Agile industry as well as name-drop frequently and openly about his non-existent experience.

He does have a verifiable track record of project management but not anywhere near the level he has been claiming. Small agile projects have been embellished as "bringing Agile to the entire FTSE 100 Organisation" etc.

The manager is in a different department from me.

I more concerned that his links to the Founder are fabricated.

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    In most workplaces, a blatant lie in your CV results in immediate firing upon discovery. – Juha Untinen Feb 11 '15 at 11:58
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    I don't think this appears on his CV. It is the content of his company-wide presentations and speaking engagements. "When I worked with the Founder we did this..." and "When I brought Agile to this organisation this is how we did it..." He is generating credibility out of thin air. – Venture2099 Feb 11 '15 at 11:59
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    It would still usually be considered at least as misconduct, possible severe or gross misconduct – Jon Story Feb 11 '15 at 12:01
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    I'm not saying you're too hasty in your conclusion, but "the founder and other agile heavyweight speakers" may have a motivation to lie about the manager's involvement with them. Some people just don't like to share credit even when it is due. You just really need to be careful when you publicly make accusations. – user15729 Feb 11 '15 at 23:32
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    @bmargulies Because when Party A says they worked closely with Party B and are personal friends with Party B and Party B claims absolutely no knowledge of Party A we have to assume the problem is with Party A who is much more likely to be lying than Party B is to be suffering from Alzeheimers. – Venture2099 Feb 12 '15 at 7:54
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The big question: what are you trying to achieve here, and what value is it going to bring to your employer? As you don't have direct responsibility for the project manager, you have three options:

  1. Do nothing. Only you can judge whether this is the right option or not - are the embellished claims causing, or likely to cause, harm to your employer? If the claims aren't going to cause any problems, then perhaps the best thing to do is just to let it be. (Note that "employing a person who's known to embellish their achievements" could well cause harm to an employer).
  2. Bring the issue up with the project manager. "Hi Project Manager. I was recently at a conference with Agile Founder, and they didn't remember working with you. Could you let me have some more details of the work you did with them?" - this is the "good faith" option that assumes incompetence over malevolence; maybe the Project Manager was just name-dropping the wrong people. It doesn't sound to me like this would be a particularly good idea in your case, but it's certainly an option.
  3. Bring the issue up with an appropriate person in your employer's management hierarchy. You'd have to work out which person is best, whether that's your direct manager, a senior manager, someone in HR or wherever else. In this case, you probably just want to state the facts - "Project Manager's presentations state that he worked extensively with Agile Founder. However, when I was at Agile Conference with Agile Founder, he denied knowing Project Manager at all. I'm concerned at the effect this could have on our company." Depending on the person you're talking to and how much you trust them not to punish you for raising what is an honest concern, you may wish to do this anonymously.
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    Despite being phrased in an "assuming good faith" way, option 2 is still pretty combative, I wouldn't use it unless I was the subject's direct manager..and even then, it's an approach I'd be very wary of – Jon Story Feb 11 '15 at 15:11
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    @JonStory Yeah, I ummed and ahhed about including that option at all. I think there has to be some way which doesn't involve running straight to management saying "this guy's a liar", but maybe that's not the right way. – Philip Kendall Feb 11 '15 at 15:56
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    I'd choose option 1 or 3. If you choose option 2 and talk to him about it directly, then if things are as you think, you're going to go with option 3 anyway. However, if he gives you a reasonable explanation and you let it slide, if the issue ever resurfaces, the PM may tell his superiors "But I talked to Phillip and he said it was cool and not to worry about it"... then you on are on the hotseat for knowing about the problem but keeping quiet and never bringing it up with management. – Johnny Feb 11 '15 at 21:17
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    I don't agree with 2. It is not the OP's role to vet a manager in another department. On 3 not even OP's role to state "I'm concerned at the effect". Let the appropriate manger decide how to handle it and the appropriate manager should treat the input anonymous. – paparazzo Feb 11 '15 at 23:03
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    Option 2 can be safer if you say something like "I'd like to know more about your work with Agile Founder", and ask for references like papers he's co-authored, or public projects he's co-managed. Then you can either do some fact checking, or it also gives Project Manager a chance to correct himself "Oops it wasn't with Agile Founder Foo, it was with Agile Person Bar". – congusbongus Feb 11 '15 at 23:16
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Although I am not surprised that a PM guru is a self-promoting BS-master, the real fault here lies with your own company's failure to perform due-diligence and check out this person's background thoroughly. I think this stems from a need that insecure organizations have for authority, they gravitate towards outside "leaders" who will just tell them what to do and accept any authoritative voice uncritically.

On the other hand, your organization should consider whether or not the training is as effective as expected. If it is not, he should be sent packing ASAP. However, if the training is WORKING and people are demonstrably getting something out of it, it could be harmful to fire the consultant because of the disruption and mistrust such an action would cause among the trainees.

It would not be the first time a high-profile person embellished their past achievements.

As for what to do, what "skin" do you have in this game? If it is not your concern you won't do yourself any favors by alerting anyone.

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    No real skin other than a sense of moral unease. – Venture2099 Feb 11 '15 at 14:54
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    I like this answer for the simple reason that it is results based. If the employee is not achieving the results then digging deeper into their claimed background is one way to easily move them out the door. However, if they are achieving the desired results then I wouldn't give it another thought. Yes, he's lying. Will he likely lie about other things? Probably. Does it matter? Probably not. – NotMe Feb 11 '15 at 15:38
  • From the description it sounds like maybe the person is lying (or over-embellishing) just to get buy-in to his ideas. Maybe he thinks if it is just him saying "do it this way" then he'll have a hard time getting buy-in. But if he says "the founder" did it this way or "at company xyz we did it this way" then it'll make getting buy-in and training go easier. So he is lying to be able to do his job more effectively, which may actually be benefiting the company. I wouldn't do it, but I can see how others might think the end result justifies the means in this particular case. – Dunk Feb 11 '15 at 18:39
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    @Venture2099, perhaps a carefully worded email to the founder being cited as a colleague would be the best course of action. Such people are typically protective of their reputation and if it is a problem he/she could easily put an end to the not-quite-truthful citation by contacting the consultant directly. This approach would keep you from putting anyone in your organization on the spot and would allow you to address the unease. – teego1967 Feb 11 '15 at 21:59
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    @NotMe, it is not Venture2099's position to make the call as to the exaggerations/lies being helpful/harmful to the company. That is a call that should be made by the management above the individual stating the exaggerations/lies. – Makyen Feb 11 '15 at 23:26
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What means "helping to write numerous publications"? Either he's a co-author, and is recognized as one, or he is in the "thank you, this work wouldn't be possible without section." Otherwise his help was not that important. That's an issue that can be checked objectively, and you should be careful and limit yourself to claims that cannot be easily denied.

It is also relevant to know in what position you are. If you are in HR, then it's your job or of your department to perform a due diligence before hiring people. Since this went wrong, I think you are required to correct this mistake.

If you have a share in the company, this "guru" could be damaging your business, and so you'll have a good reason to fire him with legal backing. If he uses the name of your company for any purpose, including his linkedin profile, people will start to associate you with his type of behavior too.

Otherwise, what you know can be used as an easy way to get rid of a work colleague that could be on your way, if you think he's damaging for your career too.

But all in all remember, if he's the liar, and the company is taking damage from him, nothing should be on your way to reporting him. The company is your source of income, and keeping mute makes you an associate of this fraud.

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One of the benefits I find of belonging to the Project Management Institute is that in situations like this there is a clear code of ethics that can be consulted.

In this case there is a mandatory standard that provides a clear and unambiguous response.

This is part of the Responsibility standard.

2.3.2 We report unethical or illegal conduct to appropriate management and, if necessary, to those affected by the conduct.

Under the Honesty standard there is additional direction.

5.3.1 We do not engage in or condone behavior that is designed to deceive others, including but not limited to, making misleading or false statements, stating half-truths, providing information out of context or withholding information that, if known, would render our statements as misleading or incomplete

These are mandatory directives, not optional nor aspirational, that every member of the PMI is bound to.

Following these directives it is clear to me that if a person has a genuine belief that a colleague has fabricated their experience, there is no choice but to bring this matter to the attention of management - it is a Code of Ethics violation not to.

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