Resolving a Conflict of Interest Situation

I’m in a real pickle. I’m in a situation where I’m about to have a conflict of interest. It’s a situation I’m about to make even worse. It’s a situation where it’s not easy to determine what is best for the customer. I’m trying to determine how to give a customer more information that they need without swaying them too much toward doing something that could be to my benefit. Now what?

Well, normally when I run into a conflict of interest situation, I just clearly declare what that conflict of interest is to the customer. I tell the entire team that I’m working with so they can all be aware of it so that, if they ever felt I was trying to unduly influence them, they could put me in check or fire me as their consultant if they felt I’d done something extreme that they couldn’t tolerate.

So far, no-one has bashed me about nor fired me based on a conflict of interest so I think I’m probably not doing a bad job of trying to keep them fully aware of any bias I might have. But in the current situation, I have a suggestion for the customer that I truly think would be best for them BUT that would also clearly make me more money. I can’t refrain from suggesting it, as I’m required to operate in their best interest, so I’ve considered trying to recuse myself from the situation afterward and finding someone else to do the work if they follow my advice.Then, again, I’m not sure it would be so easy to find someone else, either.

What To Do?
So, what do I do, now? Do I sit here and cogitate this to death? Nope. I’ve made a decision. I’ll ask around among some other consultants and customers that I’m close with and get their advice.

There are two real points to this blog post. The first is that conflicts of interest will come up and you have to deal with them in the most ethical and clearest manner possible. The second point is that you will never know everything. You’ll always need help from other people in the industry. This is why networking is important. There will come a time when, no matter how long you’ve been doing whatever you’ve been doing, you’ll need a little advice. Make contacts and keep them. They might ask you for help, too, so make sure you answer them when that happens so that, if you ever need them, they’ll hopefully be there for you, too.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

2 responses on “Resolving a Conflict of Interest Situation

  1. If you are truly focused upon what is good for the client then you do not have a conflict of interest. The conflict is whether to do right or do wrong.

    If you are going to recommend a solution that is best for the client and that will cause you to lose money, is that a conflict of interest or simply a stupid move on your part or is it that you are simply taking the high ground? That is of course for you to decide.

    Likewise, if you are recommending a solution that is best for the client and that earns you more money, is that a conflict of interest, a smart move on your part or just a lucky break? Again that is for you to decide.

    However, if in your work, you are always recommending what is best for the client, then I think you are clear to say that a conflict of interest simply does not come into the equation regardless of how much or how little money you make out of it. You just have to be honest about what is best for the client and let the chips fall where they may. If you still have trouble, then give the client the extra money you make and you will feel good but poorer.

    This just does not sound like a tuff decision to me but all the facts of the case have not been presented.

    • I did actually think about presenting the facts of this case and putting it to readers to consider what they would do as an ethical exercise. In the end, I decided I wanted to stress the networking aspect – that you make a variety of contacts in this business for a reason and you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out when you want to bounce ideas of someone.

      My rule of thumb is this – I figure out what I think is best, then I sleep on it. If I wake up in the morning with a feeling of calm and peace, then I probably didn’t miss any important aspects. But if I wake up feeling uneasy, then I know I’m probably either missing some aspect that I should address before making my decision or that there is just some reason I haven’t yet identified as to why I won’t be satisfied with the decision in the long term.

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