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#2: Ethics is Critical in Down Markets

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Down markets place tremendous pressure on managers to cut corners to keep their companies afloat. What is the right amount of emphasis I should place on ethics in my consulting services?

I infer from your question that you are concerned that you may jeopardize your engagement if you push ethics on a client who is inclined to cross the line. This is a misinterpretation of your obligation as a consultant. As with most professional services acting in the public interest, consultants have a responsibility to uphold the highest standards of ethics and professional conduct. You should feel that your ethical sensibilities are more important than ever in times like these. As Edmund Burke famously said, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

The IMC USA Code of Ethics, paragraph 11.0, states that, "If within the scope of my engagement, I will report to appropriate authorities within or external to the client organization any occurrences of malfeasance, dangerous behavior, or illegal activities." This means that you have an obligation to participate in assuring ethical behaviors, both yours and your clients. It is unclear how you would be proud to facilitate unethical behavior on behalf of your client.

Tip: Your ethics can be a source of your greatest value to a client. You can serve as an antidote to the pressures that can lead to an ethical lapse. Consider how, when you may be tempted to transgress, how important it is to be reminded of your responsibilities by others. Talk to your client and candidly discuss how you recognize how much pressure there may be on anyone in the company and that you bring a strong commitment to ethics as part of your value. This is another situation where having a CMC (Certified Management Consultant) gives this argument solid credibility.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client service  ethics 

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