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#484: Pause (Twice) Before Delivering Hard News

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011
I am assisting a client with the streamlining of their financial reporting. From my initial analysis, her small firm appears to be quickly approaching bankruptcy. Although I might be able to suggest a number of longer term recommendations for avoiding this predicament in the future, it does not appear that anything is currently being (or can be) done to prevent this impending situation and, to make matters worse, I don't think she sees it coming. I have not been working with this client for very long. Should I discuss this with her, or should I keep my views on the relative health of her business to myself and simply perform the work I was contracted to do?

Although delivering this type of message is never easy or pleasant, you have an ethical responsibility to communicate your concerns to the client. A fundamental tenet of the IMC USA's Code of Ethics is: "I will serve my clients with integrity, competence and objectivity, and professionalism and will place the best interests of the client's organization and public welfare above all others."

Re-check your analysis, making sure that your observations appear to be sound, are based on facts, and that your concerns do not represent an "over-reaction" on your part. Calmly discuss your concerns in an open, honest and confidential manner with the client, making sure to focus on the data behind your prognosis. Make sure to fully explain the reasons why you feel it is necessary to share your thoughts on this matter with the client and be certain position your views as "your opinion." Unless you possess specific expertise in emergency turnarounds or bankruptcy/bankruptcy law, acknowledge your experiential limitations and offer to recommend appropriate specialists to the client.

Tip: Honestly communicating your concerns in a timely manner to your client regarding the financial health of her business is an ethical responsibility that, if done with care, can significantly build trust in you and increase respect for you as a practitioner.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role  presentations  recommendations 

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