Expedient versus Ethical

Article excerpt

Employers expect their credit departments to run effectively and efficiently. Credit managers must achieve goals and objectives, and every employee must have high ethical standards and conduct themselves accordingly.

In the real world, ethical problems are not conveniently labeled and solutions are rarely obvious or entirely satisfactory. One fact is clear: If we don't think about the ethical aspects of what we do, we are likely to fall into the trap of doing what is expedient rather than what is right.

Do You or Don't You?

A collection agency (or another supplier of goods or services to your department) offers you a bottle of wine during the holidays. Would you accept it? What about a case of wine? Most companies consider it acceptable for a vendor to buy you lunch once in a while. What about lunch once a week?

If you are uncomfortable telling your manager you accepted the gift, you should decline it. When in doubt, ask your manager or your personnel department for guidance. Gift giving is a tradition; just because a supplier offers you a gift does not mean he or she has an ulterior motive. However, employees must avoid accepting gifts of more than nominal value because the supplier might misinterpret the action.

Do You Play "Merrill Lynch?"

While on a visit, you learn that your customer is looking for an outside investor to make an equity investment in their company. You know someone who is looking for a company in which to invest and this may be a good deal.

The more your friend or relative invests in this company, the more you're going to want it to succeed. As credit manager for one of the company's suppliers, you can help the company succeed by making sure it has an uninterrupted supply of your company's goods or services. Avoid the potential conflict of interest by not recommending the stock to your friend or relative.

A New Job with a Competitor

You're considering taking a job with a direct competitor of your employer which has almost the same customer base. Photocopying the financial analysis worksheets you've completed on your major customers would save you a lot of time and trouble in your new position. Do you do it?

Those worksheets are proprietary and confidential information--just as a customer list would be. Taking them would be stealing.

If your new employer is not a competitor and you ask your present employer to photocopy only financial worksheets on publicly traded companies, then it would be ethical if he or she agreed. …