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Ethics? Morals? Why?
If I called you a liar or a cheat to your face, would you be angry? If I told you about someone who stole things from other people, would you condemn them? If I showed you a way to get much of your work done for free, would you ask me for the details?
Anyone who answers "yes" to all of the above might want to reexamine how they are running their life, but my interest today is in the third question - getting something for free. I like to receive gifts, particularly free gifts, but not everyone, it seems, is as honest as me. You see, I make sure that anyone giving me a gift knows that it is a gift, no strings attached.
This is not the case with every manager in town, or even every worker. It seems that, moving on from taking office stationery or telling lies about being "sick" so that they can do something else, people in the region are becoming even less honest in their business dealings.
What evidence do I have? Consider this: a colleague of mine - a consultant for a well-known local firm - was asked to enter into discussions with a potential client. As the topic was one with which my colleague was very comfortable, and knowledgeable, he agreed. He was asked for an outline of the work involved, which he provided. At the next meeting, he was asked to fill in some of the major details and he was assured that "the management" were very interested in his ideas and a contract would be forthcoming. However, could my colleague provide just a little more detail on certain issues, to be provided at the next meeting.
This went on over a period of a few months, with more and more details being researched and provided to the "manager", who, when the project had been fully outlined, suddenly became unavailable. No amount of telephoning or calling could reach him, and it was only when my colleague went to one of the senior managers (an acquaintance who my colleague had deliberately avoided involving to prevent any sense of "undue influence") that the truth came out. The manager involved had managed to complete his Master's Degree thesis using - you guessed it - all of the material supplied by my colleague.
There never had been any project, my colleague had wasted many hours of his time and the company was embarrassed about the issue but could do nothing. The really sad part is that, if the manager concerned had had the honesty to say what the real reason for his interest was, my colleague would have gladly provided the major points and helped the manager to carry out his own research and so learn considerably more about the subject. Now, every senior manager in the company has a very clear knowledge of the morals and ethics of at least one of their local managers, and his career may well suffer for it.
I wish I could say that this was a rare occurrence - a manager asking a consultant to give some advice and then ripping the consultant off by stealing his or her ideas and presenting them as their own. An example from my own past concerns a similar case with an Abu Dhabi-based firm, with me providing ever more information and detail until I found out that the company had given all of my work to a competitor who then bid for the project at a price less than mine - which they could do as they had no research to do, I had done it all for them! They got the contract, and I will ensure that I never work with anyone from that company again.
Who loses? Sure, there are many consultants in the region, but how many who are professionally trained, qualified and internationally experienced? And what do you tell your boss when he learns (and he will!) that the only reputable company in a particular subject area will not even come to a meeting?
If you really do want something for nothing, personally or professionally, you might be pleasantly surprised at how helpful people can be if approached openly, and you might be very unpleasantly surprised if, in attempting to get something for nothing, at how small a "village" the region really is!
What's your opinion?
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