As a business consultant, you are often privy to sensitive information about your client’s businesses.
While you could choose to operate in an unethical manner, your business would not last very long, as word would get around quickly!
Types of Ethical Issues
The issues you face with regards to ethics as a consultant will be as varied as the types of clients you will service, or the types of consultants that exist.
Ethical issues can result from misunderstandings with clients, unrealistic timeframes, or you may have to deal with a demanding and difficult client.
Whatever the issue, there is, unfortunately, no golden rule. Nothing is written in stone, and you will have to develop your consulting business’s ethical standards as you go along.
When it comes to issues that relate to your successful completion of a project, you will have to communicate these swiftly to your client, so as to avoid delays that could affect the overall success of the project.
General Business Ethics
When it comes to opening and running your own consultancy, you, as the owner and manager, will have to define your own moral standards and ethics.
Basically, your ethics are where you draw the line between acceptable business practices, and those you cannot accept.
This may vary from the behavior of clients and their staff, to the type of project you are willing to undertake. Things like confidentiality agreements with your clients also fall under the ethics umbrella, and should not be treated lightly.
Once you have defined your ethical standards, stick to your guns. A high level of business ethics garners respect. Flexible ethics and questionable morals however, will damage your reputation, so do not venture onto that muddy ground.
When It Is Out Of Your Hands
There are times when the business of ethics is out of your hands. For example, if you discover that one of your clients is breaking a law, you will have to make some tough decisions.
While you may not necessarily have to go as far as alerting the authorities, depending of course on the nature of the breach, however, it is in your best interest to remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.
It is better to lose money, or even a client, than to find yourself embroiled in a cover up of illegal activities! Moreover, once you are aware of those activities, you are no longer able to claim ignorance.
Use your own moral compass as your guide when conducting your consulting business. While you can’t necessarily define your approach to each situation that arises before hand, you will know when something feels wrong. Follow your gut and you should be fine.
For example, I know a firm of communications consultants, who specialize in writing. They will take on any writing project, except to write papers or essays for students. It’s easy to see why, since those students are being assessed on those papers, and they should, ethically, write them themselves.
Ethics and morals, when it comes to business can be that simple, and at the end of the day, you will be the one to draw the line.