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.