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by Paul Kiser
USA PDT  [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype:kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Business ethics have waxed and waned over the centuries, but recently we have observed a severe lack of ethical conduct on a large-scale in recent years. The most recent world-wide economic crisis was triggered by years of unethical business practices that nearly put the United States in its first depression in almost a century. In hindsight the questionable business practices were often created by a subtle system of pressuring employees to take actions that were demanded by executives and managers in order to improve earnings for stockholders. This type of ethical dilemma often leaves no one person to blame, and even those involved sometimes do not realize that they are participating in inappropriate and/or unethical acts.

I have been caught in ethical dilemmas that created a moral challenge for me and in one situation I lost a stream of revenue in a seemingly no win scenario.

For a time I assisted a seminar speaker who was considered to be an expert in his field. He hired me to participate in group activities during his seminars.  Occasionally, he would ask me to update or write scenarios for his seminars. In one case I based the scenario on someone I knew, but I added the possibility of suicide.  The scenario was also combined with a possibility of doing harm to someone else.  We used the scenario in one of his seminars and it went very well.

Bigger horns make the bull seem smaller...just like some consultants

A few weeks later we used the same scenario, with minor revisions, with another client. Interestingly enough, the night before the seminar, the speaker  told me that someone else had just written the scenario. However, when I read it I realized that it was the same one I had written for him a few weeks earlier. When I mentioned to him that I was familiar with this scenario and tactfully reminded him that I had been the original author he quickly acknowledged it and moved on.

The next day exercise went well and afterward the participants were given the opportunity to discuss the activity. Participants began asking him about what happened in real life to this person.  Instead of explaining that this was a fictional scenario based on a combination of multiple real situations, the speaker began explaining that in the real life situation that the person did indeed kill himself.  He continued to answer more questions that were also fabrications, but passed off as his ‘research’.  Afterwards I did not mention anything to him about his handling of the post-activity questions.  He was hiring me to assist him, not criticize him and so I did not pursue it with him.

He had already hired me to work with two more clients in the next few weeks and at both he insisted that I stay out of the room, except during the group activity. He stressed that it was not good for his clients to ‘get to know me’ too well.  He also did not schedule me for any more work with his clients.

Later I tried to understand what I might have done to cause an abrupt end to our relationship. He and his clients raved about my work. I then realized that the sudden changes occurred after I witnessed his unethical handling of questions in the previous seminar. Apparently it had a significant impact on him that I observed his breach of trust with his client and that earned me a permanent seat on the bench.

Perhaps I should have confronted him, but I think that would have just made him mad, with the same result.  It was a good lesson: A lack of ethics by one person…sucks.

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