A conflict of interest arises in the workplace when an employee has competing interests or loyalties that either are, or potentially can be, at odds with each other. A conflict of interest causes an employee to experience a struggle between diverging interests, points of view, or allegiances. Conflicts of interest are generally forbidden in company codes of conduct and / or employee handbooks.
Examples of Potential Workplace Conflicts of Interest
These are examples of situations in which an employee might experience a conflict of interest.
- A relative or close friend reports to a supervisor who affects their job responsibilities, pay, and promotions.
- A male manager dates a female employee who reports to him.
- A lawyer represents a client in a civic dispute while accepting fees from litigants who hold the opposing point of view.
- A purchasing agent hires his brother-in-law to provide vending services to the company lunch areas.
- An employee starts a company that provides similar services to similar clients as those of her full time employer.
- An employee who is a member of a company employee selection team fails to disclose that he is related to a job candidate whom the company team is considering for a position.
- A manager provides paid consulting services on the weekend to a company customer or supplier.
- An employee works part time in the evening for a company that makes a product that competes with the products of his full time employer.
- A member of the company board of directors accepts fees and provides advice to a company that is in direct competition with the company on whose board of directors he sits.
- An HR director decides to investigate a charge of sexual harassment, using internal resources she controls, against a fellow corporate executive whom she has known and worked with professionally for years.
In a recent article about business ethics, some of my additional examples of lapses in business ethics may surprise you as they range from the catastrophic to the tiny little decisions that employees make when no one is watching and no one will ever know. To spice matters up a bit, I have also supplied an opportunity for you to add your stories and examples to business ethics gone awry.