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Ethically challenged, part 3


We hired another consultant to replace the ethically-challenged consultant we terminated last month. I recommended that he be hired, because his resume looked good and he presented himself well. I chose to overlook the fact that he belonged to a cultural group that is typically associated with violent crime, larceny and drug use, a cultural group that usually does not work in my industry. I believe in the capability of an individual to overcome the problems inherent in the individual’s culture. Perhaps I am naive. But he was the first representative of that group I have ever seen who was qualified to do what we do. I could not refuse him simply because of his association with that group. Absent any data that proved he could not do the work, I believed that I ought to give him a chance.

I took him and another new consultant with me to a client, to show them the ropes at no charge to the client. The second consultant performed well. The first consultant failed to show up until noon on the second day, claiming that he’d overslept due to allergy medicine. Then he spent the rest of the time surfing on his computer in the back of the room. The client saw this, and was unimpressed. I was too. I reprimanded him. He apologized. But those two incidents were a large warning flag to me. I prepared to recommend that he be terminated, but I held off, hoping he would work out.

In the subsequent weeks, what I saw of his work seemed to be good, although he seldom answered his phone, which is always an indicator that an individual is loafing. Then, just as he was about to go out to his first client, he turned in his resignation, giving two days’ notice instead of the customary two weeks’ notice. He said that he didn’t want to do the kind of work I was assigning him, and did not want to go where I needed him to go.

Fine. I would much rather have someone quit, and quit sooner than later, instead of loafing and causing problems with a client. At least he was not already AT the client when he quit. His exit will cause minimal disruption, for which I am grateful.

Still, I find his ethics consistently lacking. Pay attention, smile, do the work you are asked to do, ask questions if you need help, make the customer happy. Is that so hard?

Apparently it is.

I believe culture is a good predictor of an individual’s ethical rule set, and a good predictor of an individual’s behavior, but that people can behave differently if they choose. Based on his association with a particular culture, I feared that this consultant’s behavior would be substandard, but I hoped that I would be wrong. Unfortunately I wasn’t wrong.

I still believe that an individual can overcome their culture, but that particular individual couldn’t. I have one data point on my personal chart now. If I get two more data points that agree, I will have to change my belief in the individual’s power to overcome their culture. Based on past experience, though, it will take another four decades to accrue those next two data points, because people from that cultural group generally do not work in my industry. So the question may be moot.

Onward and upward.

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