I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. On the face of it, it was about conflicts of interest but in reality it was about the unnecessary fear of wrong doing.

My friend explained that his wife Jennifer worked for a multinational that regularly employed freelance IT contractors. My friend is a partner in a small IT company and is always looking to build business with new clients. He asked Jennifer if she knew how he could approach her company with the idea of developing business with them.  He was a little surprised when she told him that should could not give him that information as it was a ‘conflict of interest.’ Jennifer does not work in procurement or in HR, she does not appoint contractors nor does she have any involvement in the payment or any connection with suppliers.

Jennifer is protecting her position and I cannot fault that. But is she going too far? I can see that she wants to be beyond reproach and that she would not want to be accused at any point in the future of favouritism.

Personally I feel that in this case, if Jennifer declared her interest from the start and that she leaves any decisions to procurement or her business colleagues, I cannot see an issue.

What concerns me is has this fear of being accused of any wrong doing, gone too far and is it healthy for business growth? After all it is the intention of the IT company to supply qualified people, at a competitive rate, to a company with a free intake decision process.

Could Jennifer be accused of not helping her husband for fear of being accused of wrong doing?

I believe that fundamentally people are honest and that it is important for business to be more than just transactional. After all business is all about people.

There was a time when taking a prospective client out for dinner was the norm. Not only did this build trust, it also built an important relationship between the client and the customer. This sadly is becoming a thing of the past. Fear of corruption and bureaucratic nonsense is hindering progress.

Let’s allow people to use common sense, even to make mistakes.

What do you think?

Until next time.