Code of conduct guides employees around conflict
THE public has been conditioned to think that conflict-of-interest issues only apply to politicians and other government officials held to high ethical standards. But the truth is that these issues are relevant to every workplace and affect all employers and employees.
Whenever an employee finds themselves in a situation where their interests are at odds with their allegiance to their employer, it is considered a conflict of interest. While most employees will thankfully never engage in bribery or other forms of illegal behaviour for their own personal gain, they may one day come to an ethical crossroads and not know whether to turn left or right because they don’t understand the principles of conflict of interest.
Some examples of situations where there may be a conflict of interest:
A supervisor begins dating an employee who reports directly to him.
An employee starts a side company to provide similar services for similar clients as those of her main employer.
A manager gives a family member or close friend a contract over a more qualified or more favourably priced vendor.
A member of the board of directors accepts fees or provides professional advice to a direct competitor of the company on whose board she sits.
In short, a conflict of interest arises when an individual’s personal interests (or those of their family or a business associate) sway their workplace decisions and impair their ability to act in the best interests of the organization. Because of the risk such conflict poses to a company’s reputation, employers have a responsibility for ensuring employees understand the ethical standards by which they must abide.