Outsourcing

Ethics: When telling the truth to the client hurts everyone

When a firm gets the majority of its business as a third-party consultant with a large vendor, it sometimes finds itself placed in the position of having to do what is best for the vendor and not the vendor's clients.
 Editor's note: This article was originally published June 26, 2003. Knowing the truth and not being able to tell it places any consultant in a difficult position. TechRepublic member Ms. Dilemma recently told us of a situation in which her firm, which contracts almost exclusively with a single vendor (we'll call it Big Vend), was brought in as a third-party consultant to help a Big Vend client.

When Big Vend secretly went against the wishes of its client, Ms. Dilemma was in a quandary. If she informed Big Vend's client that it was defying instructions, Big Vend would likely lose the contract. If that happened, Ms. Dilemma would also have lost the current contract with the Big Vend customer, and Big Vend would likely have found another consulting firm to use with its clients.

Here's how Ms. Dilemma handled the situation.

Background

Ms. Dilemma's firm was founded in the midst of the Internet boom as a software vendor. Even in the Internet heyday, her firm, full of people more adept at coding than sales and marketing, found the environment less than lucrative. Instead, the company began offering consulting and customization work. At about the same time, it began partnering with Little Vend, a small software company that needed assistance installing and customizing its products in other areas of the country. Business began picking up for Ms. Dilemma.

When Little Vend was acquired by Big Vend, Ms. Dilemma's firm found itself in a good position: Big Vend needed a consulting firm that understood Little Vend's products and that could perform customization and consulting work when Little Vend's customers eventually decided to upgrade to Big Vend's products, which they often did. While Big Vend initially hired Ms. Dilemma's firm only for engagements in her town, Big Vend eventually began using her firm for contracts all over the country. Business boomed.

The situation

In one engagement, Big Vend hired Ms. Dilemma's firm to work with a financial company, Top Dollar, which was upgrading from BV VER 2 to BV VER 3. Top Dollar liked BV VER 3, but it made it clear that -- because it had concerns about the size of its database and possible problems introduced by a manual upgrade -- it didn't want any customization work done to upgrade its database. "Just use the standard upgrade tools that were being used for all other customers," was the request.

Instead, Top Dollar would wait until any bugs in the upgrade process were resolved before upgrading to BV VER 3.

Big Vend assured Top Dollar that nothing special would be done. After all, Top Dollar was also Big Vend's biggest hosting customer and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each month for the service. Why would Big Vend threaten its relationship with its biggest customer?

Big Vend knew that its conversion utility couldn't handle Top Dollar's 10 GB database. In truth, Big Vend's VER 3 product was probably not the right fit to accommodate Top Dollar's growing business. But to keep from jeopardizing its hosting contract and all of the revenue that came with the upgrade, Big Vend -- during a period in which no new data was being added to the database -- had the database sent to another location where a manual upgrade was done.

Pregnant pauses

This move placed Ms. Dilemma and her firm in an uncomfortable situation. She knew that Big Vend, although forbidden by Top Dollar to do anything custom to upgrade the database, had gone against the client's request. Although Ms. Dilemma and her other consultants knew what had happened, they were told not to say a thing about it and avoid talk of the issue. She felt that while her loyalty was to Big Vend, she had serious concerns about its action on this engagement.

And, as always happens, the truth began slipping out from other sources. For example, during conference calls between Big Vend, Ms. Dilemma's firm, and Top Dollar, loaded questions were asked about the database upgrade. It seemed as if Top Dollar knew what was being done.

But, following the wishes of Big Vend, Ms. Dilemma would let long pauses elapse when asked about the database. In essence, she wasn't lying to Top Dollar, but she wasn't being forthcoming either.

"I really didn't know what I should have done," Ms. Dilemma said. "It puts you in an awkward position, to say the least. We try to do the best for both the vendor and the client, but the vendor makes it difficult sometimes."

What would you have done?

Ms. Dilemma's firm ended up having to eat dozens of hours worth of work because it couldn't disclose the fact that it had to deal with problems introduced by Big Vend's database work. Top Dollar ended up keeping Big Vend for its upgrade to BV VER 4, which addressed its earlier problems dealing with Top Dollar's large database. (Ms. Dilemma's firm was brought in to consult for that work as well.)

While smarting from that decision, Ms. Dilemma's firm is still the first choice for Big Vend's customization and consulting work. But Ms. Dilemma said that similar situations emerge with other Big Vend customers. She also contends that this kind of situation -- a vendor going against the requests of its clients -- happens often and that third-party firms are caught in the middle.

How would you have handled such a situation? Do you think Ms. Dilemma did the right thing? Should she have told Top Dollar about Big Vend's work to the database and risked her firm's stability, or should she have kept quiet? Share your thoughts in the discussion.

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43 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Just because someone tells the truth doesn't mean that the following action has be "bad."

csyst
csyst

couple points to royhayward "And exposing the dishonesty of others is not always ethical. " When isnt it? The cruelest lies are often told in silence. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

busonab
busonab

Say it the way it is...

buyer
buyer

MS is caught in a common problem and needs to decide who her customer is, TD or BV - not both. If her business is to help software vendors implement software, she toes the BV line. If her business is helping clients implement software as business solutions, she stands by TD and tells BV they need to address the issue (or as Cactus Pete aptly put's it "I can't speak to that. I can refer you to Manager X at Big Vend."). It's a tough choice and, with others depending on her for their livelihood, not always an easy one to make. The debates on ethics and honesty are all well and good, but the point does not change. In order to deal with this, a person needs to decide what's best for their company, because some situations you just can't win. If MD earns her business helping the end client (TD), she helps them convince BV to wait until they get the bugs worked out. If MD earns her business partnering with software vendors, she does just what she did, which is dance the fine line of ethics and honesty - all the overcomplicated stuff used to justify our actions. The real ethics and honesty come with what MD does after this engagement. Sticking with a partner such as BV that makes you put your personal ethos in conflict, with the added salt of eating hours, would be the wrong thing for me. Either find new software vendors to be your customers (and plan on handling these scenarios, as you will always be between your customer and your customer's customer), or find more clients to help work with software vendors (and plan on what to do about the unlicensed software you are bound to run into). Most of us are honest and ethical, and like to sleep well at night. Some of us just need to convince ourselves by working out what it means so that it matches with our actions. In business, the market will let us know.

kserritt
kserritt

I see where Locrian_Lyric and Chip are coming from. I can also see royhayward's point. Without knowing specific details of the situation it is impossible to answer what I would do. But I know when you have nothing on the line you can easily come here and say the "right" thing and put I would always, without a doubt be honest even if it meant death to my company. Really for me most of everything would come down to did I knowingly take this project with the knowledge of I was going to have to do work that the client specifically didn't want done. If BV contracted me then my obligation is to serve them. If I took the job knowing that then if the client asked me for status on the project I would put that off on BV as the "project manager". I would simply provide BV with truthful details of the project and let them continue how they wish. It is not my responsibility to be the honest police it is only my responsibility to be honest.

reisen55
reisen55

If my relationship with any of my accounts is threatened by a conflict, I opt on the side of my customer, period. THEY are the ones who pay my bills and offer me a chance to grow my business, indeed they ARE my business. If ethical questions EVER come to light at a later date, that trust, that relationship is totally shattered. No brainer. No matter the cost elsewhere

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

The answer is as varied as the people who face it. I became a consultant so that I could follow my own path. I have a reputation for the short brutal truth and I get hired by companies that want to hear it. Other people follow the beat of different drummers. It takes a great amount of courage to live fearlessly and most people are not up to the challenge, and have to live another way; in what I see as the dirty mire of politics and compromise. One of my last positions are an employee is instructive. I was working on a project doomed to failure for a number of reasons. Because of the importance of the project no one was willing to cry "The emperor has not clothes." I was and did. For about a day or so people were avoiding me not wanting to be caught in a cross-fire, feeling that my end with the company was near. Being a "go for broke" guy; I went right to the president and set out my case. After reviewing and investigating what I said, he waved his magic wand and fixed the situation and then I was the "hero of the hour." I could have lost this "fight" for a number or reasons from a loss of integrity by the president to a host of other considerations. If you live fearlessly you have to setup your life to lose as well as fail and I have failed often. But, I would not live any other way.

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

A simple "I can't speak to that. I can refer you to Manager X at Big Vend." or some variation would relieve you of any problems on either side.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Speaking from a DBA standpoint, when the database is moderately large or bigger, I've never encountered a database conversion that didn't require some manual work to successfully complete the conversion. The instruction to, ???Just use the standard upgrade tools that were being used for all other customers" shows that BV either didn't tell TD that factor, or that TD wasn't capable of understanding it. Ms Dilemma could have said the same thing without violation of her contractual obligations to BV, but that might have fallen on deaf ears too. In either case, as long as the working database was not affected, there would be no possibility of an adverse event affecting TD, and no reason not to subject a copy of the database to conversion testing, regardless of TD's instructions to the contrary. Similar circumstances happen in healthcare every day. A patient is supposed to be informed of any treatment and give consent before being treated. Sometimes the patient isn't competent to give consent. If the patient obtains their own advocate (consultant), that consultant is ethically required to do their best to keep the patient informed, and to make decisions based on the patient's wishes. If the patient has no advocate, a group of physicians (equivalent to Ms D) at the hospital (equivalent to BV) makes the decision based on the policies of the hospital (and any legal statutes). If you are the consultant, your first loyalty is to your client, the people that hired you. If it doesn't break the law, you do what they want you to, or you tell them why you can't and recuse yourself.

Ethical_Loner
Ethical_Loner

Big Vend has no ethics, Top Dollar has no ethics and yet the little Ms. Dilemma is concerned about all of this? Yes, the Ms. should have responsible ethics. So should the rest of the world. And the upshot is she can be pretty much alone or she can join the rest of the world in trying to screw over the rest of the world. If the bottom line is only about money, and it is here, then she should keep on doing what she has already done - bend to the will of money holders and forgo such a silly notion as honesty and ethics. Seems she has already made the choice and is looking for someone or something to salve her guilt while still taking the dough.

jsbell
jsbell

Money comes and goes. The only thing you can take with you when you go is your integrity, i.e., your soul. If you think you are doing someone wrong, most of the time you are. Here, Big Vend is breaking a term implied in all contracts, fair dealing, which encompasses honesty on all material issues, not to mention a material breach in the performance bargained for, and Top Dollar therefore has a winning suit against them. For Ms. Dilemma, as a third party, to witness this and yet to hide it from the party being injured, is not strictly illegal in itself, but it is morally wrong. It is one of the reasons the legal profession, as one example, has gone to such great lengths to set up formal systems that are designed to anticipate and prevent conflict of interests up front, and to allow people who get in awkward situations to have a safe exit. The IT consulting model is different. There is no formal ethic governing these situations. Sometimes, the only way to prevent injury to an innocent third party is to absorb the injury yourself. Here, the second-best method would have been to just be honest before the harm was done. Yes, there would be a price to pay, a loss of income, perhaps a change of profession. Is that really so bad, considering the alternative? But the first best method is prevention, which can take several forms. First, any two parties can anticipate these situations and lay out a plan for handling them IN THE CONTRACT. That way, the contract becomes the enforcer of the best ethic, not some "ad hoc" ethic that you stumble into during the run of the contract. Second, a consultant who establishes a reputation for authentic concern for the best interests of all parties will certainly have an edge in marketing his or her wares. Abe Lincoln had something like that with criminal cases. He would not take someone as a client that he himself did not believe was innocent. Good rule. It limits your business, but it frees you to do your best work. That's a decent trade. Third, the profession needs to consider establishing a formal canon of ethics that can be used as a neutral referee in difficult situations. For the legal profession, it's not a perfect solution, but it helps to have something you can point to and say, see, this is how it ought to be done.

royhayward
royhayward

There is really only one question to ask. "Who am I working for?" This is generally answered when you get your pay check. If you are hired by the Vendor, you represent them, and your words are there words. If they tell you to not talk about something, then you don't talk about it. I have been in this situation. Consultants don't have a corner on this problem. You have to either do the long pause/change subject strategy, or you answer the question as if it was one that you could answer. For example: TD: "So how is the upgrade going?" MD: "We are on target." TD: "Um, so what are you doing right now?" MD: "Well, we are in process. I expect that we will stay on target for this upgrade." TD: "OK, but what specifically are you doing?" MD: "Well, there are many technical details that I can't get into on this call, but we are proceeding with the upgrade plan and are on target." TD: "So..... We are ok." MD: "Sure." Is TD going to know something is up? Maybe. MD may even say, "Well... We are working for BV to help them complete the contract." Just to remind the people at TD that they aren't paying for the truth. And you, the consultant, aren't being paid to provide it. Or to paraphrase, "A Few Good Men": "You want the truth? You didn't PAY for the truth!" If TD wants to get the truth, they need to pay the consultants directly. Those people are called employees.

Semiotic
Semiotic

Very difficult to say if the third party was being unethical or not through ommission but the choice made meant that the dollars are still rolling in. I effectively made the other choice recently and the dollars are drying up. Possibly a lesson that the good duys don't always win. I am currently a sub-consultant to a consultant whose client is a large player in the legal industry. I am working on a project for the client and they are very happy with my performance so far. A few weeks back the consultant phoned me and indicated that they wanted to offer me to the client as a temporary CIO whilst the client was undergoing significant change (the consultant were still intending to take a 40% cut of the fees collected for my time so they are not being altruistic). The consultant then indicated that my being offered in the role was conditional on my promising to recommend that all IT work was to be routed to the Consultant rather than to anyone else. I told the Consultant that I was not comfortable with a blanket promise up front without understanding more about what they were proposing. The consultant promised to get back to me with more detail. Needless to say the consultant has not contacted me with any detail, and they have proposed other persons for the CIO role. Additionally as the client had asked specifically about the possibility of me filling the CIO role the consultant has also talked down my capabilities to several managers at the client resulting in a more hostile environment to work in. Effectively when the current peice of work finishes I will be without further income from that source. So I suppose the lesson is that even though I can sleep at night it is questionable as to whether I have actually gotten the best commercial outcome. In hindsight it would have been better to say yes to the consultant and then done it in my own way anyway.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... but I encourage my clients to be forthcoming. BV should have said to TD, "Look, because your database is so big we ARE going to have to take some manual steps to upgrade. The next version will fix all that." Being honest pays big dividends in the long run.

jsbell
jsbell

and the truth is, it's somewhat like any other risk you've never experienced before. You make up your mind to jump and then you jump. Yes, it is scarey, but much of the scariness comes from false imaginations of the supposedly "terrible" consequences. In reality, good things ultimately follow those who do good. It's worth the risk. Jump.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yes, it's easy to say you'd be honest. It's not always easy to be honest, especially if your client wants you to be dishonest. In the long run, though, honesty works out best for all parties. You need to encourage your client to be honest with their client, never agree to be dishonest for them, and if necessary lose that client.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

You just don't let yourself get put into situations like the one described in this post. If your employer/client asks you to hide information in a way that you think is dishonest, then you don't agree to hide it. Let them find someone else to lie. That's my story and I'm sticking to it ;)

michelle
michelle

There's not an explanation of why TD had this stipulation on the upgrade, which sounds kinda dumb to me in the first place (and I'm not a DBA but I work daily with other people's data and you can't always get everything to work exactly the way you want and usually the client doesn't give a hoot how you "do" anything, as long as it works.) This whole story sounds fishy. If I'm in a position of this nature, it is just as much a part of my job to educate the end-user as it is to oversee the project. If the end-user makes ridiculous demands, it's up to me to explain why they are ridiculous, not judge my Vendor because they don't want to mangle someone's data...

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

I'm honest and I will not soil myself. And yes, it has cost me, and no I don't care.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

The consultant is going to: A) Piss off the customer B) Produce shoddy work C) Need your help any way What it really boils down to is being honest, forward, and competent. I've found as long as you can produce what you say you can, and do so in a timely manner (even if the project runs long/over budget), the customer is usually satisfied. Why? Because they knew you weren't jerking them around. You made the best choice and you'll be better off in the long run for doing so.

binarypc
binarypc

To me, the real test is... This industry is smaller than a lot of people think. And the internet is making it smaller every day. So, Ms D's top software consultant quits, goes to work for the end customer as an assistant to the CIO and spills the story. The database corrupts with the V4 upgrade and guess what companies end up in court, simply because the end customer no longer trusts their vendor and thinks they lied to them a second time. Lieing to your customer can have long term negative impacts on your business. I would rather be flat out honest with them, give them an alternative working solution (i.e. backed up, restorable dbase, charge after successful upgrade, etc) and offer to prove its worth, then do the work with the customers consent. If you don't. Long term results could end up as your companies credibility lost with all your customers, past, present and future. To me, it's not worth it.

eric
eric

There seem to be at least three different ways of dealing with this kind of problem without violating your own principles, cutting your throat, or abusing your client or boss. All require that you step outside the box. If you're wise enough to spot the problem before it bites you, great. Try to deal with it up front. If not, you'll have to adopt something like the diplomacy suggested by "I can't address this directly, but you should talk to . . ." This is not easy to do gracefully, and it may not work, but it may also build you a rep for being more than just another hired coder. Another way out is through an agency or procedure outside of your work -- the legal ethics route of determining precisely who owes what to whom, and follow it, explaining the guidelines that you believe apply and what the result is. This works best with other nitpickers and legal-minded folk, but even then it requires absolute clarity, and perhaps documentation and a powerpoint session to be clear. Simply sticking to your principles come hell or high water certainly "works," but not always happily. So you'd better have established up front that that's your style. Honesty is indeed the best policy. But honesty without tact, diplomacy, and sympathy for everyone else's position is a pain in the butt.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

It is always better to be forthcoming with information. Doing so could prevent the following; "Ms. Dilemma?s firm ended up having to eat dozens of hours worth of work because it couldn?t disclose the fact that it had to deal with problems introduced by Big Vend?s database work" If the client knew how tough it would be to convert their database, the contract for the work (or at least the scope) could've been changed to reflect what was needed to accomplish the task. All I can say is that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword....

royhayward
royhayward

MD is not the honesty police. She can't take it on herself to tell TD information that have been forbidden by BV. Doing so open her up to massive liability if the contract goes south.

royhayward
royhayward

I am not advocating that dishonesty is ok, but if you take the job, and part of the job is NOT to tell the client about flaws, then if you choose to tell the client about the flaws anyway haven't you been dishonest to the hiring company? Plus there is a liability issue if you violate explicit instructions and make public information that causes loss of business for the company that hired you. I don't think this is a very complex issue. If you take the job that requires keeping information private, you can't blab about it and say that you are just being honest.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Honesty has no price -- or at least, it shouldn't. That doesn't mean that you should criticize your client in front of their client, but when they ask you a direct question you shouldn't hem and haw. The better companies will appreciate your honesty even if it irks them, and I wouldn't want to work for the others anyway.

chris
chris

Agree with Garvin re: honesty and competency. If you had sold your soul you would have been the SOB they would have abused when things didn't go right with the cowboys "you" recommended - those consultants would have hung you out to dry also. At the end of the day it comes down to integrity for me. I had a similar dilemma related to a delivery date for a s/w app which as PM I had created the schedule for so I quickly found out we had a snow balls chance in hell of achieving the date my bosses wanted. Although a contractor to the organisation in the end I wasn't prepared to lie to a client about something that I knew was fundamentally not achievable. Found myself out of contract soon after but upon making that call and leaving you can't imagine the relief. I slept better for making that call and the work still rolls in.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I know that times are getting tighter, but it's better in the long run to pick the companies you work with so you don't go insane.

royhayward
royhayward

suggestion to be immoral. And I don't think that shooting oneself resolves the delima. It will however remove one from the debate about it. ;)

eric
eric

"Ethics is about not doing harm." "You dance with the one that brought you." "You have to live with yourself." "You have an obligation to your own employees." "You're an employee -- what's the problem?" . . . Obviously, the solution here is to go shoot yourself. The hardest decision here is to be honest with yourself. It's an imperfect and often unjust world -- nobody gets out of it unscathed. First, you don't take a job that requires you to behave outside of your personal/ethical/moral comfort zone. Then you live with your decision (and try not to be a self-righteous prude). How much does loyalty mean to you, and to whom do you owe it? How about honesty? The problem rests with the conflicting values of two very different systems of ethical behavior. Jane Jacobs, one of North America's greatest thinkers, distinguishes them nicely and without preference, saying only that each system is consistent and ethical within itself. Problems occur when one tries to mix the systems -- as has happened here.

royhayward
royhayward

It gains you capital with someone when you make an agreement not to tell private information and then blab about it? Why would the person that you disclosed the private information to respect you more than the party that you ratted out? I guess I don't get it. If the Consultant can't keep the information private when working for the other guy, why would I think that he would do that for me? I have had to not answer questions in ways that protect me and the person that employs me before. Its not that uncommon. The fun part is giving the other person that isn't paying you, but that you need to keep a relationship with, the information that they need to make good decisions. Not too long ago, I took the opportunity to call a 'client' that I was third party to on a support issue that I didn't need to make the call on. I had been on a call where our Big Vend had expressed irritation with the Little Vend. Being the middle man, I need these guys to get along. But I couldn't really call the Little Vend up and say, "George at Big Vend said...." Me: "Hey I needed to call to talk to you about this issue." ---some small discussion of issue.--- LV: "Thanks for calling. How are things going with the project?" Me: "Things are good, but you might be getting a call from George." LV: Pauses to think about this information. "Are they pissed about X Y and Z" Me: "I really can't say, but I would have some ideas on that ready." LV: Another pause. "Ok, thanks for the call. I'll do that. We really should put X Y and Z to bed so it doesn't keep bugging people." Me: "Sounds good to me, let me know what you come up with." I don't blab the conversation or quote one vendor to the other, but I do try to keep everyone happy. Both parties are still happy with me and are happy with each other. I think I got more capital here than I would have it I had just called and said, "Look out!"

dkoch
dkoch

Sounds to me like your reading the Richard Nixon playbook on Ethics and Policy. The end does not justify the means, plain, simple. When I was working as a consultant I simply told customers what they needed to hear, not what they (or another vendor) wanted to hear. Customers who found a different consultant - 2 or 3. Customers who got miffed but came around to respect the dialogue and recommend my employer's services - dozens. Moral: Long term, honesty IS the best policy (regardless of what our politicians might try to teach us). People respect people who make tough choices, even when the person making the choice has to pay for it. You gain capital; you may not be able to put it in the bank but in the end it has much greater value. At least that is what nearly 15 years in this business and almost 60 years of living have taught me.

royhayward
royhayward

In the Example, Ms Delima was not just her own person, but the head of a company of consultants. She also has an obligation to each of her employees to keep them working. I know. I know. You would still choose to die on this hill. Fine, go ahead. But as the leader of a company do you really have the right to do that? What about your shareholders, do they feel the same way? Your honesty, at this point harms the team of people that are looking for you to land the contract with the Big Vendor. Ethics is about not doing harm. So it is possible, in this example and others, to behave honestly, but not ethically. Just as it is possible to behave ethically and struggle with honesty.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

You want me, you get honesty. You don't want honesty, you don't get me

Arcturus909
Arcturus909

If the client had asked, "Are you converting our database despite our wishes to the contrary?" and Ms. Dilemma said, "I cannot answer that question", then she really has answered it.

royhayward
royhayward

You don't have to say the words, "Big Vend has enjoined me from disclosing what you are asking for." When you know that you have restrictions on the information that you can disclose, you should think about how to answer the question before you get on the call or join the conversation. That is part of being prepared. And your statement that, "We're not talking about a BigVend trade secret here," is beside the point. Its the old 'in for a penny in for a pound.' If BV can't trust you not to tell clients this, then what else can't they trust you on. The same going for the TD, if you will violate the trust of BV who is paying you, why would TD think you will keep their data and information safe? Telling TD that BV is doing something they said they would not do, is not the same thing as letting them know there is something to discover. Many times they won't really want to know. And so they won't follow up with BV to find out what it is. Keeping confidential information confidential is a good practice too. Especially when just sitting on the information helps both parties.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... than if you told them the bare-faced truth, because it says that BigVend wants to hide project status from the client. We're not talking about a BigVend trade secret here, we're talking about the project that BigVend is conducting for the client. They're entitled to that information as the client. The question of "whom do you serve" is not always so clear cut. Yes, BigVend signs your check, but the best way for you to serve BigVend is to serve their clients well. If they want to do that in a way that's dishonest, you have no obligation to go along for the ride.

seanferd
seanferd

You would not be giving direct information, but you would informing the client all the same. It would still probably p.o. BigVend.

royhayward
royhayward

If the Vendor's client asks for information that you as the consultant or employee are forbidden to share, you resign? That is a pretty hard path. How about just saying, "I can't tell you." Seems you still get to be honest, and you don't get sued. Not helping the Vendor's client learn information that the Vendor is keeping private is not misleading. Its "dancing with the one that brung you." I must wonder if they ever let you see any confidential information.

royhayward
royhayward

We can talk about honesty, but this is about ethics. If I ask you a direct question, say, "what is your ATM pin number?" You can honestly and ethically say, "I won't tell." You could even say something rude or obnoxious that carries the same meaning. What I am saying is that you don't have to be dishonest to not expose your employer even if they have chosen to be dishonest. And exposing the dishonesty of others is not always ethical. Choosing to pause for an excessive amount of time is not a very subtle way to handle the situation. Providing the closest answer that you can without breaking faith with your employer should let you sleep, and keep your customers.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I've gone into companies and explained their process just won't work in any rational way with our software...So either we need to clean up the process or fit the pieces of the process that we can into the product. The customer is pissed short term, but long term they are happy and have a better product because of it.