When an individual forms a relationship, personal or professional, he may begin to desire and work towards certain goals. For example, a parent might wish for her child to get good grades. If two or more relationships have incompatible goals, the individual may make decisions that benefit one side over the other. This is called a "conflict of interest." While it is not always possible to eliminate conflicts of interest, the frequency and gravity of such situations may be lessened through mitigation.
The best way to mitigate conflicts of interest is to avoid them in the first place. Don't accept roles and responsibilities that are incompatible with your existing interests. Provide employees with professional development opportunities that increase knowledge on ethical issues. After a conflict has occurred, work to extricate yourself from one obligation or the other to mitigate the problem.
Avoid hiding your roles and responsibilities. Disclosing your interests in a public forum enables potential partners to determine the course of action for them. For example, if you have a known policy that prevents you from accepting gifts, you are less likely to be offered compromising presents. By making your position public, you also develop an audience to which you are accountable. This transparency is particularly important for government agencies.
Organizations and governing bodies create extensive procedures and guidelines for the management of conflicts of interest. This documentation may include rules and lists of prohibited activities. For example, city employees in New York must refrain from using city equipment to perform volunteer activities. Make this standard available to all employees. Consider making it available to all potential clients as well.
Organizations caught within a conflict of interest may seek assistance from an impartial third-party. This is because their professional integrity has been compromised by the conflict. Non-profits, religious and city agencies can often secure such legal counsel for free.
Be aware of your roles and responsibilities. By acknowledging your position and interests, you cement your commitments to uphold certain beliefs. Review all legally binding agreements before signing to ensure you consent to all the terms and conditions outlined. Re-read contracts periodically to verify that no recent actions have violated the agreement.
Keep your varying interests separate whenever possible. Do not discuss personal, religious, social or political views at work. Never ask employees prying personal questions. In the event that information must be secured to ensure the safety of individuals or a business, consult with a lawyer or medical professional. (e.g.,You suspect an employee who suffers from bi-polar disorder has made ill-advised business decisions.)
Sylvia Cini has written informative articles for parents and educators since 2009. Her articles appear on various websites. Cini has worked as a mentor, grief counselor, tutor, recreational leader and school volunteer coordinator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Clark University of Worcester, Massachusetts.