A true conflict of interest arises when an employee’s personal interests do not compliment his or her professional interests, obligations or responsibilities.
Have you ever been put in the situation where you find out that an employee of yours has decided to work as a freelancer or part-time for a company that makes a product or a service which competes with your business? In a recent detailed report about managing conflicting interests, editors defined a conflict of interest as, "a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest." Sometimes, it is difficult to identify and pinpoint the problems within a certain situation. A true conflict of interest arises when an employee’s personal interests do not compliment his or her professional interests, obligations or responsibilities.
Take a step back and look at the overall situation. As a leader, you should know that conflicts of interest can cloud the judgement and objectivity of employees. Always ask yourself whether the personal interests of your employees in a certain situation will compete or conflict with the interests of the organisation or the people you are representing. If the answer is yes, you should educate that employee about the ethics of your business and why their action could damage the backbone of the business. Disclose the situation appropriately and make sure you consult your partners during the decision-making process.
If your business does not have policies in place for recognising and dealing with conflicts of interests, you need to create strict procedures, declare them and follow them carefully. Explain the situation with honesty and transparency and clarify how and why an employee’s personal interest contradicts with that of the business. Being open about the situation will build trust among you and your employees and will ensure that everything was done according to strict policies.
Fortunately, you can look at the first conflict of interest that occurs in the workplace as an alarm and a lesson. Your employees should not have any questions as to whether a certain action goes against their business or not. As a leader, consider all the possible conflicts that could arise, acknowledge them in your employee handbook and make sure everyone is on the same page. By laying out clear policies, collecting all the information you need from employees, and having signed documents, you can help prevent conflict of interest situations.
The key takeaway of arising conflict of interests in the workplace is recognising the most common and recurring ethical dilemmas. It is important to understand how to deal wisely with any conflicts as it will improve your overall business performance and prevent employees from making decisions based on their own personal gains. In return, you will avoid the prevalence of unethical behaviour, ruined reputations and consequently financial loss.
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