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#208: Ethical Disagreement With Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2009
My client claims that she won't do something I am recommending because she feels it is unethical. I don't think it is ... how do I convince her?

The foundation of this discussion with your clients is both the strength of your own ethical sensibilities and the trust your have built up with them. Start by saying "I would never recommend doing anything that I feel is unethical, nor recommend you ever do anything you feel is unethical ... so therefore, let's not do it as long as you feel it is unethical." And then listen for their response. And then probe to find out why she feels it is unethical. Feel free to use the IMC USA Code of Ethics as a basis of your discussion, making sure that the client understands your adherence to that Code.

If she convinces you, let her know you agree and hadn't seen it that way until she explained. And repeat "I would never ask anyone to do anything they feel is unethical, even if I disagreed." And then (and here's the real secret here) see how others faced with similar issues are dealing with the perceived ethical issue. If you feel you have a worthwhile counter argument that will withstand the rigor of her examination both by example and logic, then and only then, re-present your recommendation and say "I see where you are coming from ... let me provide both examples and the logic behind it."

Tip: Every nuanced difference of opinion about ethical issues is an opportunity to expand your ethical sensitivities. Even though you came easily to a conclusion about an ethical matter, the same one you always came to when faced with the same situation in the past, new circumstances or evolution in business culture may mean you need to evaluate the situation anew. You may be surprised about how your "obvious" conclusion does not always hold true.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  ethics  professional development  reputation 

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