Case Study: Resolving Ethical Dilemmas Copy

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) at a large bank invites an Information Systems (IS) consultant to meet with him to discuss a merger of his bank with another of about the same size. The CIO serves under the new COO on a committee that is planning the   merger of the two banks’ technology and IS departments. He is looking for a consultant to work with the committee. It is potentially a large and profitable engagement, which the consultant needs, because his firm has just completed a similar project for another bank and has a number of consultants who are unassigned.

After a positive two-hour discussion, the CIO shows the consultant to the door, saying that he has to get to another meeting. As they shake hands, he says:

“By the way, as we discussed, the merged IS department will be much smaller than the two separate departments that exist now. A lot of people’s jobs are at stake. As we go through the process of deciding who will work best in what job, I want you to remember that you work for me.”

The consultant is not sure whether the CIO is trying to protect his own job or those of people who work for him, but he is certain that he is being asked to compromise his objectivity. The CIO does not let go of his hand and looks him steadily in the eye, apparently seeking confirmation.

The consultant feels that to say yes would be unethical. But to state simply that he cannot compromise his objectivity will probably cost him the engagement and result in the layoff of several members of his practice. Instead of taking either course, he returns the CIO’s gaze and says:

Of course, we are obliged as professionals to recommend what is best for the bank, and I’m sure that’s what you want us to do. And I want to say how deeply I appreciate your thinking about us for this engagement. It’s exactly the type of work we want to do and if we get it, I know it will be because of the interest you showed in us.

While driving home, the consultant reflects on what he said, He has finessed using the artificial link and realises that the CIO could draw several messages from this juxtaposition of two unrelated thoughts, including: “I’m your man” or “I must maintain my professional objectivity, but I’m a reasonable person and I’ll do what I reasonably can” or “I’m deliberately finessing you, and if you’re smart you will only listen to the first half of this statement.” He is not sure if he was ethically right in using finesse.

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