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#525: Understand How to Apply Ethics Principles, Not Just Know Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011
I just learned that one of my client's key employees is planning on leaving to go work for a key competitor in a few months. I like and respect this person and feel that he is a real asset to my client's firm. What do I do?

The IMC Code of Ethics provides us some pretty clear guidance, based on sections 5.0 of the Code, "I will treat appropriately all confidential client information that is not public knowledge, take reasonable steps to prevent it from access by unauthorized people, and will not take advantage of proprietary or privileged information, either for use by myself, the client's firm, or another client, without the client's permission." and section 8.0 of the Code: "I will refrain from inviting an employee of an active or inactive client to consider alternative employment without prior discussion with the client."

Where key performers indicate that they are unhappy and are considering leaving your client, help your client to recognize and better utilize their potential. For instance, if you can see that an employee could be of greater value in another assignment, suggest reassignment.If you believe that they are likely to take key information with them, you have an obligation to not be a party to that action that may damage your client's interests.

For whom do you really work? Where is your obligation? Did you receive this information second-hand? Was there any confidentiality involved in the receipt of the information? Here are two strong guidelines you should always apply to situations like this:
  1. Remember that your primary obligation is to your client's organization.
  2. Do not receive information in confidence unless you can first ascertain that it will not prevent you from serving the best interests of your client.
Tip: Let's say one of your client's employees approaches you and says "I would like to discuss something with you confidentially." Stop them before going any further and simply say "I'm very sorry, but I cannot receive any information from you in confidence that would be potentially detrimental to my client (in this case, your firm is my client)." This might not be obvious to you but discretion, and a nuanced understanding of how best to apply the Code in various situations, is more useful than just "knowing" what the Code says. This conversation is probably best held between the employee and their supervisor - if the employee doesn't want to have this discussion, it is likely that you don't want to be involved either.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  ethics  intellectual property  reputation  roles and responsibilities 

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