Let’s say you’re working for one company, but doing freelance work for a competing company on the side. Or maybe you’re the manager of a company, and all of your employees are related to you. Both of these are conflict of interest examples; when there’s a conflict of interest, a company or individual is invested in two or more people, companies or combination of the two that compete with each other or are at odds with each other. While this definition may seem confusing, it can easily be broken down.
It’s important to note that what may seem like an innocent interaction between two people can be seen as a conflict of interest. When a conflict of interest occurs, the person or people in question may lose their jobs and their good reputation. Knowing what is considered a conflict of interest can help you stay clear of these problems in your professional career.
In the Workplace
There are plenty of examples of conflict of interest in the workplace. From dating in the office to working part time for a competing company, it’s important to know what is considered a conflict of interest. After all, what may seem innocent may cause you to lose your job.
- John works for a company that is managed by his uncle Steve. John reports to Steve in order to to receive pay raises, promotions and other benefits that others in his same position do not receive.
- Stacy works for a company that sells custom window panes. In her spare time, she creates a side business with the skills that she has learned from her full time employer.
- Melissa works full time for Canon as a marketing director. In her spare time, she does freelance work for Nikon, helping to market their company with the skills she has learned from Canon.
- Nick is the manager of a company, and Sharon is an employee he has hired. The two of them realize they are attracted to each other, and begin to date each other outside of work. When Sharon wants a day off or a change in hours, Nick grants them to her not because she deserves them professionally, but because he has a personal interest.
- Rick is the manager of a landscaping company. An employee quits and he needs to find a replacement within the next couple of days. He places an ad for help and his younger brother applies. Even though he may not be the most qualified applicant, he hires his younger brother anyway.
- Laura works for two companies: one is a law firm, and one is a paper supply company. When the law firm needs to order paper, she suggests that they buy paper from the other company she works for.
- Matt works for a consulting firm. He accepts a large gift from a client in exchange for a discount on the services his employer provides.
- Randy accepts a bribe from a client in exchange for important, confidential information about his company that will help his client create a company much like Randy’s employer.
- The Board of Education wants to hold a fundraiser that will help raise money for underprivileged children to be able to receive all of the supplies they need for school. Part of the fundraiser will be the production of t-shirts that parents and children can purchase. Lance, who is on the Board of Education, owns a screen printing company and offers his company’s services in exchange for money from the Board of Education.
- The Neighborhood Council is voting on whether or not flowers should be planted around the neighborhood. Danielle works for a landscaping company that does work around the city. Because of this, she votes ‘yes’.
- A judge has to rule on a case of the daughter of his neighbor. Because he knows the parents of the accused, his biased opinion doesn’t allow him to view the case from an outsider’s perspective.
- A math teacher doubles as a lacrosse coach for the high school team. His favorite student Rachel is trying out for the last spot on team, although there are a handful of people that are better qualified for the spot. Even though there are people trying out who are more athletically inclined, he chooses Rachel.
- The editor of a popular food magazine is asked to write a freelance article for a magazine that also covers topics about food. They offer her a good chunk of money, so she accepts the job.
- The Board of Directors for a company is looking for office space, but they can’t seem to find the money to do so. Samantha, who is on the Board of Directors, is married to a man who happens to be the landlord of an office complex in the downtown area. She offers a discounted rate to the Board of Directors for one of the office spaces.
Innocent or Not?
You may think that you are simply providing a favor for someone or participating in a vote that only vaguely relates to you and your interests, but many companies don’t take conflicts of interest lightly. It’s important to take a look at what you’re doing from an outside perspective; does anything in your work or personal life conflict with each other? Are you treating specific people differently from others because they are your friends or relatives? Are you using skills you have learned from your employer for your own personal benefit outside of the company? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may be involved in a conflict of interest without even realizing it. Whether the conflict of interest is personal or financial, it may still cause you to be accused by the law.
While it’s important for employees to understand how to avoid conflicts of interest, it is especially important for the owners of companies to understand how to avoid possible legal issues and reduce the risk of a financial downfall. If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re participating in a conflict of interest, speak out! To further educate yourself on creating companies and environments free of conflicts of interest, Udemy has the courses that will help you succeed.