Should I Do Business With Someone Hit By Harassment Allegations? Ethical Dilemmas In The Workplace.

4 October, 2021

In every workplace there will be ethical dilemmas and moral quandaries. In this Boss magazine column Dr Matt Beard, ethicist and Program Director of the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship, addresses readers’ challenges – some of which may be familiar to you.

The first dilemma revolves around whether to do business with someone hit by harassment allegations: A major supplier to my company has recently been subject to widespread boycotts because of allegations of harassment against their chief executive. The CEO denies the allegations, the company has chosen to stand by him, and no charges have been laid. A couple of businesses have terminated their contracts and an online campaign is pressuring us to do the same. I don’t know the CEO or any of the details, and I’m not sure it’s any of my business. What should I do?

Beard advises you to look at your options. You might decide to cut ties because it’s in your business interests to placate the protesters and move on. Or you might decide it’s better for your business to ignore the allegations and continue to work with this supplier. He encourages you not to make this decision based on what is better for your business at all. Make this decision based on what you think is right and decent. In the column he offers advice on how to frame the issue.

The second dilemma looks at the impact of your work on your world: I’ve spent a long time working in OH&S in the mining sector, but I’m really concerned about climate change and how mining is contributing to it. Should I seek work elsewhere?

Beard frames this in a straightforward way: whose safety should you be concerned with? Typically, as an employee your responsibility is toward everyone to whom your organisation has a duty of care, and we often think about that in quite a narrow sense.

The core challenge you’re facing is that the industry you work in is unsafe on a global scale. Matt says this creates a fundamental tension in the purpose of the work you’re trying to do.

However, you’re not alone in this challenge. People in a wide range of industries are having to wrestle with the fact that while their work is often important – even essential – it is also contributing to a growing crisis. Like all climate action, this isn’t a problem you alone can solve, which can make walking away seem like a pointless gesture. But staying can also feel like becoming complicit. So what’s a useful way to think about this issue?

Find Dr Beard’s full responses to both these issues in the column here.

via BOSS Magazine, Australian Financial Review, 1 October 2021. Read the full column here.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2 day Executive Ethics, 6 day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and tailored corporate programs. Find the right program for you. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash