In this series we confront readers with ethical dilemmas and ask what would you have done?
These are based on a series written in the mid-1990s by Paul Lynch for Management Consultancy magazine, in which he posed ethical dilemmas that might confront management consultants and asked readers what they might have done in those circumstances.
The dilemma described last month was more complex than normal. It included two personal dilemmas for Antonia which contained conflicts between client interests and client staff interests.
In the first case a key employee, Ronnie, had confided in Antonia that he had misgivings about his future with the client. Antonia had subsequently found out that Tom, the managing director, actually held Ronnie in high regard and saw his future with the company as being very bright. Antonia was placed in the position of being confidante to the parties concerned and knowing that they had conflicting views.
She decided in this case that her client’s interests were paramount and encouraged Tom to disclose his high opinion to Ronnie. In this way the client could retain the services of a sound and reliable employee and provide him with a career. Easier said than done! Ronnie also had to overcome feelings of mistrust in the light of the cost reductions envisaged. It is to Tom’s credit that he succeeded. Ronnie stayed on and played a vital role during the rest of the assignment.
In the second case one of the directors, Graham, had proved to be obstructive to progress. He was not only incompetent – he was positively dangerous to the business. Many of his actions could not be justified and often they were not only impractical but also costly. To retain this man would result in a loss of credibility and jeopardise the success of the entire project. Having decided that it was in the best interest of business that Graham be asked to leave, it was discovered that he had unusually good contacts that were important to the company. Under these circumstances it felt necessary for a severance package to be offered that would be exceptionally attractive; in this way, perhaps the business could retain his goodwill. The package would be worth far more than that offered to other redundant stuff; this did not seem equitable.
In this case Antonia decided that the potential damage which could be caused by Graham’s continued presence as an employee must not be allowed to happen. The cost of severance was an inexpensive way of avoiding open ended costs and loss of credibility. Accordingly, Antonia strongly supported the proposition that Graham be asked to leave at almost any cost. She spent some time looking at alternative career opportunities and offered Graham some discreet counselling.