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Hospitality from a Vendor

Added06/15/1992

Updated02/04/2016

Author(s) Michael Pritchard
Authoring Institution Center for the Study of Ethics in Society at Western Michigan University
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Contributor(s) Michael Pritchard
Notes Case study originally published in “Teaching Engineering Ethics: A Case Study Approach” by Michael Pritchard. Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, Western Michigan University, 1992.
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Authoring Institution (obsolete) Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, Western Michigan University
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Year 1992
Publisher National Academy of Engineering, Online Ethics Center
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  • Posted 12 years and 9 months ago

    Organizational communication theory tells us that successful
    organizational employees participate in both the formal
    communication network within the organization (the chain of
    command) and informal communication networks outside the
    organization (such as formal clubs, sports activities or
    community groups). Although some extra-organizational networks
    are open to everyone, many business deals have been concluded
    in private clubs or on the golf course. As more and more women
    have entered the work force, private clubs and other
    male-dominated activities have been criticized for excluding
    women. There have been instances, for example, in which women
    business executives have been asked to eat lunch in the kitchen
    while their male colleagues were permitted to eat in the dining
    room of a private club. The government has responded to these
    problems by passing laws that make informal networks that
    restrict their membership based on gender, race, ethnicity, or
    religion illegal in most instances.



    This case presents an instance in which participation in an
    informal communication network (the Cherry Orchard Country
    Club) was not technically illegal, but caused problems for an
    organizational employee nevertheless. Paul Ledbetter accepts
    Duncan Mackey's invitation to the Cherry Orchard Country Club
    to play golf and subsequently become a member. Their
    relationship develops into what Paul believes is a friendship.
    Paul also wins a considerable sum of money betting on golf
    games with Duncan and others at the club. This situation is
    complicated by the fact that Duncan is a vendor who supplies
    services or parts to Paul's employer, Bluestone Ltd. Paul's
    relationship with Duncan goes smoothly until Paul informs him
    that Bluestone will probably drop him as a vendor. Duncan gets
    upset and indicates that he has been cheating at golf so that
    Paul will win, feel good about their relationship, and do more
    business with Duncan's company.



    Paul clearly has made some poor choices in this case. His
    initial choice to play golf with Duncan is problematic from an
    ethical standpoint. He knows Duncan's company wants to do
    business with his company, yet he accepts Duncan's offer to
    play at Cherry Orchard as if there were "no strings attached."
    He seems surprised when he discovers that Duncan has been
    letting him win at golf. (This assumes, of course, that Duncan
    has been cheating and does not just say this in anger when he
    learns that he is being dropped as a vendor for Paul's
    company).



    Paul's decision to tell Duncan that he will probably be
    dropped as a vendor is also a poor choice. At this point in
    time, this information is confidential company information, and
    it may not even be true. His group of three engineers has been
    discussing eliminating Duncan's company as a vendor, but an
    official decision has not been made. In fact, their
    recommendation has not even been presented to higher
    management. There are many factors that could intervene and
    reverse this decision. Leaking rumors to vendors is not a good
    business practice. Paul has a clear ethical responsibility to
    his employer to keep company information confidential.



    Although Paul clearly is not above criticism in this
    instance, the primary difficulty in this case is caused by
    Bluestone's vice-president of manufacturing. Paul made some
    poor decisions, but he did not receive appropriate guidance
    from specific company policies. It is the responsibility of the
    vice-president for manufacturing to set organizational policies
    that govern the relationships between the manufacturing
    engineers and the vendors. There should be clear organizational
    policies concerning the behavior of the manufacturing engineers
    with respect to the vendors. The organization should have a
    policy regarding voluntary outside activities, such as golfing,
    with vendors. If the organizational policy permits such
    activities, the vice-president can then make her decisions with
    the knowledge that her subordinates are engaging in these
    activities with vendors. In addition, she should have set
    specific guidelines on the nature of information that could be
    shared with vendors and the timing of the information
    transmission. It should have been clear to Paul that he was not
    to speak with any vendor until the cuts had been officially
    decided upon by management. The vice-president of manufacturing
    should have had a policy for distributing the news about the
    cuts. She asked for recommendations from the units, but she
    should have stated how the information would be used and how
    the decisions would be disseminated once she received the
    information.



    In this case, Paul's naivete about the business world made a
    bad situation even worse. He believed that he could take
    something from a vendor without being expected to return the
    favor in some way. He forgot that Duncan was not just a friend
    but was also a business associate. Paul confused his
    responsibility to share information with a friend with the fact
    that Duncan was also a vendor who might expect a return on his
    investment. The lesson to be learned from this case is that the
    information that is appropriate to share with social friends is
    not necessarily the same information that would be appropriate
    to share with business associates. Organizations need clear
    policies to make sure their employees are able to handle the
    ethical challenges of dealing with people outside the
    organization who are trying to influence their decisions.

  • Posted 12 years and 9 months ago

    The main ethical question in this case is whether Paul
    should compromise his best professional judgment out of
    friendship for Duncan. The unpleasant situation in which Paul
    finds himself at the end of the case is the result of a series
    of decisions along the way which, when viewed in isolation, may
    seem harmless enough. Virtually no one who reads this case will
    think that Paul ought to rescue Duncan from the cut list, yet
    many readers will hold out hope for a solution that will
    preserve the friendship, put Paul's mind at ease, and calm
    Duncan's feelings of outrage. Unfortunately, given the
    scenario, there probably is no such utopian solution. Paul is
    in a type of conflict of interest situation, one which he could
    have avoided but did not. Indeed, he contributed in significant
    ways to its developing.



    We can imagine alternative scenarios in which friendship
    might serve to compromise the carrying out of professional
    obligations. For instance, suppose Paul and Duncan are
    neighbors, that their wives meet frequently and their children
    play together. Suppose further that Duncan Mackey often loaned
    Paul Ledbetter tools and helped him with some of the tasks
    around the house, and that Duncan's wife often took Paul's
    children to school meetings or to the swimming pool because
    Paul's wife works part time. Suppose Duncan watches Paul's pets
    while Paul is on vacation, and suppose, what is even a more
    extreme case, that while Paul was on a vacation, a fire started
    in Paul's garage that Duncan quickly put out, saving much of
    Paul's property. Given events similar to the "Golfing"
    scenario, you could imagine the scenario ending with the
    friendship in total ruins, with the wives refusing to speak to
    each other, with the children forbidden to play with each
    other, with a high fence going up between their properties, and
    with guard dogs stationed on both sides.



    But let us return to the original scenario in "Golfing."
    First, consider Duncan Mackey. Like any other vendor to
    Bluestone Ltd., Duncan would understandably be happy to develop
    and maintain close relationships with the people in Bluestone
    Ltd. We know very little about Duncan's motives, but we do have
    some clues. We do know that betting on golf matches was not
    Paul's idea but clearly seems to be favored by Duncan. There is
    nothing in the scenario that suggests that Duncan is upset by
    his overall losses to Paul or that he regrets this
    relationship. (I have a friend who, when we were younger,
    bought me a Coke from a machine and refused to take my money in
    reimbursement. He said to me, "No, I want you to be in debt to
    me for life!" I later succeeded in paying him back; however, I
    will always be in his debt for this story.) Duncan seems to be
    aware that by losing he is putting Paul in his debt. In fact,
    Duncan's explosive words at the end suggest that he has made
    efforts, through getting him into Cherry Orchard Country Club
    and through losing money in golf, to create obligations on the
    part of Paul. We all know stories about playing golf with the
    boss and making sure we do not win. Given the details of our
    story then, it seems as if Duncan was cultivating Paul for
    selfish business purposes.



    Should we therefore regard Paul Ledbetter as a poor victim
    who had little control over his fate? Hardly! First of all,
    Paul should have made an effort to establish a reputation among
    all the vendors for being a fair, impartial judge who was
    conscientious about his professional responsibilities and was
    in no way open to corruption. Duncan still might have
    volunteered to arrange a guest visit for Paul to the country
    club, but Paul should have made it clear that he is opposed to
    accepting much in the way of gifts from vendors. He does not
    want anyone inside or outside the company to have the opinion
    that he is open to the highest bidder. While it would have been
    very difficult for Paul, since he was an invited guest, to
    refuse to participate in the money pool for the golf matches,
    he could have avoided a reappearance. He might have replied to
    Duncan's remark that it is only fair that Bob and he get a
    rematch by saying, in a half-joking way, "Duncan, it might be
    even fairer for you and Bob if you'd line up a real duffer to
    play with Harvey next time. I appreciate the hospitality all of
    you have shown, but I really don't think I should impose upon
    you again." Further on down the line, if Paul is interested in
    joining Cherry Orchard Country Club and needs a member to
    support his application, it probably would not be wise for him
    to request support from Duncan. He has met Harvey and Bob, and
    there are possibly other persons in the country club who could
    support his nomination. As time goes on, he could have avoided
    playing golf for money against Duncan. He could have played
    with other members of the club as well.



    Another part of the scenario deals with the meeting between
    Paul and the other two engineers to decide on the 20 percent
    cutback in vendors. Here a number of procedures might be
    followed. For instance, the engineers might decide to each rate
    all of the vendors, and those with the lowest combined rating
    would be eliminated. Or the engineers might decide to allow a
    person to abstain from rating a close friend. While this latter
    approach has some merit, it should not be used as a device for
    Paul to shift the "blame" to his co-workers when explaining the
    situation to Duncan. In fact, there is no reason why any
    confidences between the engineers concerning the selection
    should be broken. All Duncan is entitled to know is that the
    decision was made in a responsible manner by a group of
    engineers on the basis of a company policy. Duncan is not
    entitled to know the individual vote of each of the engineers,
    and to reveal it would be a disservice to Paul's
    colleagues.



    Paul should remind himself that this is not the first time
    that company decisions have adversely affected friends. There
    may be cases in the past in which some friends have been laid
    off. There may be situations in which a friend has been passed
    over for a promotion. If Paul examines himself to determine why
    he feels such pangs of conscience concerning the rejection of
    Duncan, he may come to see that Duncan has been cultivating his
    feelings of obligation. If their friendship were purer, we
    might expect that Duncan, rather than retaliating with a
    display of outrage and claiming betrayal, would understand the
    unfortunate situation of choice the company placed Paul in,
    express his confidence that Paul had done the best he could in
    that situation, and reaffirmed his respect for him personally.
    Unfortunately it sometimes takes a case like this for one to
    find out who one's real friends are.

  • Posted 12 years and 9 months ago

    I



    May Paul accept Duncan's invitation to play golf at Duncan's
    club? Duncan is a vendor from whom Paul makes purchases. So
    there is a potential for corruption in an friendship
    relationship. All things considered, however, I don't see why
    not. Duncan is a potential good contact for Paul. There are all
    sorts of opportunities at the golf club. And Paul has a right
    to his private life and his golf games. However Paul should be
    aware of the potential conflict of interest. There's no reason
    to worry about anything yet, but he ought to be alert to
    dangers.



    II



    Play for money? Why not? No reason to suspect a plot! Is he
    getting drawn into something? Maybe, but he's a grown-up and
    can take care of himself, one hopes, which means he isn't yet
    at the point where he wonders if he's being compromised in some
    way by betting with his suppliers. Presumably playing for money
    is illegal. But this does not seem to prevent everybody from
    doing it, and why should Paul set himself up as holier than
    thou, unless he has real scruples about gambling? If he does,
    then of course he shouldn't accept. What he has to be wary
    about is getting too deeply into debt, either financially or
    through friendship, with Duncan. At this point, he might
    protect himself by making it his business to remind Duncan from
    time to time that their relationship is purely golfing, which
    won't affect Paul's business decisions.



    III



    Things seem to be going along very nicely. Paul's golf game
    is flourishing and so is his sporting life. Several hundred
    dollars won over "years" is not really a lot of money. Paul has
    no reason to fear he's putting himself in a compromising
    situation with regard to the money. However his evidently close
    friendship with Duncan might compromise his judgment with
    regard to contract awards, so he'd better look carefully at his
    business dealing with Duncan. Perhaps he might have another
    person in his office look over some of his contract decisions,
    just to make sure he's not letting something slip by because of
    his friendship. And perhaps he ought to inform his superiors of
    his golfing relationship, so that there's no appearance of
    deception. And perhaps Bluestone Ltd. routinely reviews its
    contract procedures, in which case Paul can safely assume that
    such reviews would identify any problems. In any case, if Paul
    is prudent he's made it clear to Duncan that their relationship
    is purely golf and nothing in the way of business can come of
    it.



    So Paul might be clear in his own mind that there is nothing
    amiss in his relationship with Duncan, but if there are
    competing vendors, they might raise the question of conflict of
    interest. Mere friendship without financial connection is
    however at best a flimsy ground for making conflict of interest
    accusations stick. Perhaps Paul should be sure that his
    superiors at Bluestone are aware of his golfing relationship,
    so they can assign Duncan's business to another contract
    officer, if they wish. If the superiors approve the golfing
    relationship, and Paul is happy with it in his own mind,
    there's no reason to suspect a problem before one arises.



    IV



    It is now necessary to cut back on vendors and the engineers
    must decide which ones will be dropped. At this point there is
    a potential problem since Paul might be expected to be biased
    in Duncan's favor. The other engineers should be told about
    Paul's golfing relationship with Duncan, if they haven't
    already. Were Paul not to reveal the relationship and then
    participate in the cut-back decision, he's be in the position
    of either having to vote against Duncan, or face the
    possibility that his favorable vote might some day be
    questioned.



    V



    Ideally Paul should not participate in the cut-back
    decision. However if the other two engineers are comfortable
    with it, accepting his word that he will appraise the situation
    without favoritism, it does not seem wrong for him to continue.
    On the contrary, the principle that no one should make
    decisions regarding friends might render all decisions
    impossible, since the other engineers might also have friends
    among the vendors. Making adverse decisions against those you
    are friends with is something that might have to happen, not
    only in business but any institution. If not a vendor, then a
    fellow employee, subordinate, or job candidate. The alternative
    to learning to live with this would be never to make friends
    with anyone within your business community.



    Paul reluctantly concludes that Duncan should be the vendor
    who is dropped. He doesn't want to propose this himself,
    however. He thinks he will keep his view to himself, so that
    either Duncan will be spared or it will be the others who will
    decide to cut him. This contemplated strategy is clever but not
    entirely fair to the others, since they too may have friends
    whom they might be loathe to vote against. Furthermore by not
    speaking his mind he is biasing the discussion in favor of
    Duncan, since potentially persuasive adverse comments could be
    made about the other vendors. Paul by considering this strategy
    is covering himself and avoiding the problem rather than facing
    it.



    At the same time, if Paul thinks he owes Duncan something,
    he's perfectly free to try to make the best case he can for
    Duncan in the committee. It's only fair that every vendor have
    someone on the committee who makes his case; perhaps Paul could
    convince the committee to set up such a procedure, or
    informally ask the other members to make the strongest case for
    each of the vendors in turn. Once this is done, however, Paul
    owes it to the other members and the other vendors that he
    state his mind frankly.



    VI



    The other two engineers recommend against Duncan. It's not
    clear why Paul doesn't oppose the other two engineers, unless
    he thinks the case against Duncan is so clear that
    counter-arguments would be not only useless but antagonistic.
    Since he feels he has a duty to protect Duncan, at least to a
    certain extent, he might at the least assure himself that every
    point in Duncan's favor has been made and considered by the
    committee. His failure to say anything therefore is
    puzzling.



    Paul decides to give Duncan the bad news himself, and Duncan
    wants to know what Paul said in the committee. Since Duncan has
    asked Paul what he said, Paul might consider confessing that he
    didn't say anything. But first he should reflect whether the
    deliberations with the other two engineers are supposed to be
    confidential, and whether he might compromise their positions
    if he tells Duncan that it was they and not him who voted
    against him. If so, then he has to decline D's request. If
    there's no question of confidentiality, then he has to tell
    Duncan that the best he could do for him was not vote, since if
    he had voted he'd have voted against. This may be difficult to
    say to Duncan, but presumably Paul is confident that the
    decision was correct.



    However his position with regard to Duncan is cloudy, since
    he knows he really did not do his best to put Duncan's case in
    the best possible light. He's probably going to want to evade
    any precise discussion with Duncan of what was said at the
    meeting. Vague reference to confidentially is not out of order
    at this point.



    VII



    Paul tells the truth to Duncan, whose reaction is not
    pleasant. Given that Paul apparently thinks he ought to have
    done more on Duncan's behalf, his admission that he said
    nothing is courageous. Duncan's outburst is childish and
    contemptible, and Paul should ignore it, though further
    friendship between them is going to be difficult unless Duncan
    apologizes. Duncan's admission that he has been craftily
    letting Paul beat him will probably poison any future
    relationship however, since Duncan reveals himself as
    untrustworthy and manipulative.



    Answer: Paul's judgement may be influenced perhaps, but that
    doesn't mean that his judgement is determined or irrevocably
    altered by his friendship. As long as Paul can take steps to
    control or minimize the influence when necessary, there is no
    actual conflict of interests or roles. If Paul does take the
    right steps, there's no problem. If Paul doesn't take steps to
    control the influence, he is morally guilty of bad judgement,
    or giving in to temptation, etc. In other words, any moral
    problem is a problem about Paul's choices rather than about any
    conflict of roles. Hence there isn't any significant way in
    which Paul is morally compromised by the situation itself
    (i.e., by his playing several roles).



    This example can be generalized. Cases where it is claimed
    that persons are involved in conflicts of interest (when these
    are not based on contractual considerations) are really just
    cases of moral temptation, when one is tempted to do something
    that one knows one should not do. 'Two-hat' cases naturally
    give rise to temptations, since often factors belonging to one
    could (physically rather than morally) be used to apply
    additional leverage to another. However, if one does give in to
    such temptations, it simply is a case of immoral action in
    convenient circumstances. It doesn't show that there was a real
    conflict of interests, or that there was anything inherently
    morally compromising about the combination of roles.



    In order to be fair to the other side, let us consider a
    more extreme example in which Paul's business judgement is so
    influenced by his friendship with Duncan that psychologically
    he cannot be objective, no matter how hard he tries. (Note
    again that it is not the interests or roles which conflict, but
    rather that Paul is unable to think about the situation without
    mixing them up or confusing them.) First, if Duncan realizes he
    cannot be objective, he can take suitable action such as to
    inform his fellow committee members at Bluestone of this, and
    let them make the decision about Duncan's company.



    Second, even if Paul does not specifically realize he cannot
    be objective in this case, it is part of his general duty as a
    engineer or manager to learn about the kinds of situations in
    which his decisions might be judged by others to be biassed,
    and so to withdraw himself from making a decision in such
    cases. In other words, there are always things which Duncan
    could do to prevent any moral harm occurring because of his
    confusion and general inability to 'handle' such situations.
    Hence he is not morally compromised by his roles in such cases.
    If Paul does allow himself to be swayed by undue influence from
    a friend, the blame is his alone.



    It remains to relate my general view that 'roles don't
    really conflict' to my initial view that social rules or
    regulations prohibiting some specific conflicts can be
    legitimate. For example, it would be reasonable to prohibit a
    businessperson from submitting a bid on behalf of company B to
    a company C, while at the same time he himself is the
    individual at C who judges all bids submitted (this is a
    factually possible situation if he holds both jobs).



    The reason for having a regulation against such a 'conflict'
    is because of the very strong temptations to bias in such a
    case, through a mixing or conflation of the person's role as
    advocate for B with his role as impartial judge for C. That is,
    as before it is the strong temptations to moral backsliding or
    failure which are our legitimate concerns here, not any
    conflicts between the roles themselves.



    Such cases are closely analogous to other potential moral
    temptations or failings which regulations address, such as
    those preventing a manager from depositing corporate funds in
    his personal bank account with the intention of repaying it
    shortly. In such a case it is very clear that the rule seeks to
    remove the temptations, and no-one would say that the rule is
    really seeking to prevent a 'conflict of interest' between his
    roles as private depositor and as corporate depositor in his
    own bank account. In other words, talk about 'conflicts of
    interest' is at best a metaphor, and often a very unhelpful
    metaphor, for talking about moral temptations.

  • Posted 12 years and 9 months ago

    This case raises a number of interesting and controversial
    issues about potential conflicts of interest on the one hand,
    and the relationship between different social roles (e.g.,
    friend versus business associate) on the other. I shall briefly
    suggest a general theoretical framework for dealing with these
    kinds of problems, and show how it applies to the present
    case.



    To begin with, is there any initial problem in an employee
    of one company (Paul Ledbetter of Bluestone, Ltd., in the case)
    accepting hospitality or other benefits from an employee of
    another company (Duncan Mackey), when the companies involved
    have a business relationship (Duncan's company sells items to
    Bluestone)?



    Answer: if each is a private business, and not subject to
    direct government regulations because neither accepts any
    government contracts, then whether there is a problem entirely
    depends on the specific regulations that each company chooses
    to implement for itself. Broadly speaking, companies may choose
    any legal cozy or distant relations with their suppliers and
    customers as they please, with corporate self-interest being
    their main guide.



    Certainly there may be great social and political interest
    in how businesses actually carry out such private, internal
    regulations of their interactions. And this may lead to general
    governmental regulations applying to all businesses, or tax
    laws governing business lunches, gifts, etc. But my main point
    is that there is no general moral problem of 'conflicts of
    interest' in business (of course, this is not to deny that
    there may be other moral problems concerning such activities).
    Instead, any real problems that arise are the result of
    specific conflicts between specific regulations (whether
    private or governmental) applying to businesses or
    employees.



    From this point of view, the potential problem in Paul
    Ledbetter accepting hospitality (guest country-club membership,
    etc.) from Duncan Mackey is first of all, whether either
    company has a regulation forbidding such situations. If not,
    the potential problems shift directly to the self-interests of
    each company. For example, Bluestone Ltd. might be concerned
    that employee Paul could become biassed in favor of Duncan's
    company, and hence fail to be objective when Bluestone needs
    his best judgement in pruning the vendor list. On the other
    hand, Duncan's company may be more concerned with whether his
    entertaining expenses really will help to cement their
    relationship with Bluestone.



    Next we need to discuss the 'two hat' problem (as it might
    be called), that one individual may have more than one role or
    'wear two hats' in a situation (e.g., friend and business
    associate). This issue is closely related to the 'potential
    conflicts of interest' issues discussed above. There are those
    (unlike me) who think there exist moral problems of conflict of
    interest even when there are no applicable regulations.
    Presumably they would appeal to some kind of moral conflict of
    attitudes or personal roles in business and other situations
    (which roles or attitudes can exist independently of written
    regulations), in defending their view. My position on the other
    hand would be that there are no moral problems which result
    specifically from one person adopting or possessing more than
    one point of view or attitude toward a situation.



    Actually, I shall defend a view which is even stronger,
    namely that there are no fundamental conflicts of any kind
    (moral or non-moral) between attitudes or social roles, whether
    or not the roles apply to a single person. (I ignore cases of
    completely incompatible roles, because they could not generate
    problems of conflict since they never occur together.) This may
    seem an extreme and therefore hard-to-defend thesis, but it
    actually rests on the following partly normative thesis about
    social roles. It is that our concepts of individual social
    roles tend to be, and ought to be, defined (with suitable
    adjustments as necessary) so that they are as compatible with
    each other as possible, i.e., so that they cause as little
    'friction' as possible between people who adopt the roles
    (including, as a special case, the 'two-hat' case of a single
    person adopting two roles).



    The reasons as to why roles generally are, and should be,
    designed for maximum compatibility with each other are broadly
    consequentialness, such as that life would be much harder and
    more unpleasant if conflicts or frictions between roles were to
    occur. For example, if the roles of being a husband or a wife
    were incompatible with the role of being a paid employee,
    clearly either marriage or the industrial revolution would have
    to go. Even any significant friction between these roles would
    have widespread bad consequences.



    Such potential bad consequences are one reason why feminists
    have been so concerned to separate and distinguish the roles of
    wife and wage-earner, so that a woman's commitment to one role
    has no implications about any commitment to the other role.
    Making roles more compatible serves the cause of increasing
    human freedom.



    An example more relevant to the present case is that it is
    in the best interest of all of us that the roles of friend and
    business associate should be kept as compatible with each other
    as possible. Only thus (to give just one reason for this) can
    one maximize one's freedom both to choose one's friends, and to
    choose one's business associates. Such maximization of freedom
    also includes the case when a single person is both a friend
    and a business associate of another person (e.g., Duncan Mackey
    is both a friend and business associate of Paul Ledbetter).



    The above examples and discussion suggest the following
    criteria for roles or attitudes to be compatible. First, roles
    should in general be logically independent of each other
    (ignoring trivial 'inclusion' cases such as being a parent
    versus being a father). In other words, there shouldn't be any
    logical implications concerning other roles which follow simply
    from a person having a given role.



    Second, the characteristics of roles should in some sense be
    'logically segregated', so that significant or characteristic
    activities involved in describing or defining one role are not
    also involved in describing or defining any other role.
    ('Logical segregation' is related to but different from logical
    independence.) This criterion is concerned with what makes a
    role substantially distinct from others, and with its internal
    coherence.



    A practical illustration of why we (as a culture) do, and
    ought to, 'logically segregate' roles is based on the very
    basic need to be able to easily recognize roles and distinguish
    them from one another. For example, if someone calls on the
    phone, one needs to be able to easily tell if it is a business
    or a personal call (even if one does not know the caller, in
    the case when a personal call is from some friend of someone
    else in your family). If the roles of businessperson and friend
    had too many overlapping characteristics, or if they lacked any
    internal coherence, the making of such judgements about role
    would be much harder and much more time-consuming.



    A third criterion for roles to be compatible (or 'mutually
    frictionless') is that each should be complete and
    self-sufficient. Completeness here means that the role covers
    every thing, and only those things, which ideally that role
    should cover, and self-sufficiency means that there is enough
    structure in the role to handle any aspect of the total
    coverage of the role.



    For example, in primitive societies with barter economies
    the role of businessperson is incomplete (in that whole areas
    of monetary policy are not addressed by the role), and also the
    role will not be self-sufficient because there are questions
    about barter which can be raised (such as about equivalent
    monetary values) which cannot be answered within (that
    primitive form of) the role.



    The justification for the third criterion is indirect, but
    compelling nevertheless. If a role is incomplete and not
    self-sufficient, then we may assume that there are social needs
    which should be addressed by that role but (currently) are not.
    Hence those needs, if addressed at all, must be addressed
    through some other role (or roles). But then that other role is
    likely to have internal conflicts because it lacks internal
    coherence. Also, the original and second roles will not be
    adequately 'logically segregated' because there will be
    unwanted dependencies between them. Hence the two roles in
    question will not be fully compatible. Overall then, this shows
    that the third criterion is a necessary condition for role
    compatibility.



    The third criterion is also important in understanding the
    structure and integrity of moral reasoning involving different
    roles. Intuitively, roles can be kept psychologically
    compatible with each other, and one's thinking will not be
    morally compromised, as long as thought and reasoning about
    each role can be kept separate from thought about other roles.
    In other words, rational practical thinking requires that
    deliberations be conducted in 'watertight compartments', with
    each role being considered separately without any intermixing
    of arguments relevant to one in deliberation about another.
    This will only be possible if each role can indeed be 'complete
    in itself', i.e., complete and self-sufficient in the current
    sense.



    To summarize this section: we have strong consequentialist
    reasons for enforcing (as far as possible) a conceptual
    structure on roles, attitudes or interests such that they are
    interpreted as being (or made to be) compatible with each other
    in the above senses, and which structure is evaluative in the
    sense that reference is made to roles, etc., as they should be,
    not simply to facts about roles as they are.



    To round out the defence of my position, it is important
    that I be able to explain (or explain away) cases of real or
    apparent conflicts of social roles and interests. This will now
    be done in a few instances, using a variety of examples,
    including one based on the current case.



    First, an extreme example of conflict involving complete
    incompatibilities of role: the traditional role of a monarch (a
    queen or a king). This was conceived by all as fundamentally
    ruling out or completely conflicting with some other roles such
    as that of being a friend. In this extreme case, perhaps being
    a king completely excluded the possibility of one's also being
    a friend to someone. But then there could not be a moral
    problem of whether a king's friendship with someone was
    compromised by his being a king, because there could not be any
    such friendship at all. I do not deny that there are such
    complete incompatibilities between roles, but clearly they are
    of no moral interest.



    A more moderate case of conflict of interest is between
    being a parent and being a friend to one's children. Many will
    attest that sometimes as a matter of fact, the specific way in
    which they act as a parent does conflict with their being good
    friends with their children. That is, playing the parental role
    for them in fact does seem sometimes to diminish or even
    undermine such friendship.



    However, what should we conclude from this? It is
    inappropriate and premature to draw the general conclusion that
    therefore the role of parent is incompatible with that of
    friend to one's children, and that anyone adopting both roles
    must be morally compromised by the situation. Instead, parents
    in such situations are much more likely to say that they have
    failed as parents (or failed as friends), and that it is their
    failures, rather than the roles of parenting and friendship
    themselves, which explain why things went wrong.



    Even if such failures are widespread in society, the search
    for an understanding of 'good parenting/friendship', which
    could avoid such conflicts, will continue. If necessary we will
    even adjust the definitions of the roles (for example, by
    diminishing emphasis on parental authority as essential to good
    parenting) in order to achieve role compatibility. This
    supports my claim that our role-concepts are partly evaluative,
    and that the achievement or preservation of role compatibility
    is a significant factor in this evaluative element.



    The third example is from the general situation in the
    current case. Duncan Mackey and Paul Ledbetter have become good
    friends through their years of playing golf together. Question:
    Isn't Paul's business judgement of Duncan's company bound to be
    influenced by his personal friendship with Duncan, hence
    causing a genuine conflict of interest?



    Answer: Paul's judgement may be influenced perhaps, but that
    doesn't mean that his judgement is determined or irrevocably
    altered by his friendship. As long as Paul can take steps to
    control or minimize the influence when necessary, there is no
    actual conflict of interests or roles. If Paul does take the
    right steps, there's no problem. If Paul doesn't take steps to
    control the influence, he is morally guilty of bad judgement,
    or giving in to temptation, etc. In other words, any moral
    problem is a problem about Paul's choices rather than about any
    conflict of roles. Hence there isn't any significant way in
    which Paul is morally compromised by the situation itself
    (i.e., by his playing several roles).



    This example can be generalized. Cases where it is claimed
    that persons are involved in conflicts of interest (when these
    are not based on contractual considerations) are really just
    cases of moral temptation, when one is tempted to do something
    that one knows one should not do. 'Two-hat' cases naturally
    give rise to temptations, since often factors belonging to one
    could (physically rather than morally) be used to apply
    additional leverage to another. However, if one does give in to
    such temptations, it simply is a case of immoral action in
    convenient circumstances. It doesn't show that there was a real
    conflict of interests, or that there was anything inherently
    morally compromising about the combination of roles.



    In order to be fair to the other side, let us consider a
    more extreme example in which Paul's business judgement is so
    influenced by his friendship with Duncan that psychologically
    he cannot be objective, no matter how hard he tries. (Note
    again that it is not the interests or roles which conflict, but
    rather that Paul is unable to think about the situation without
    mixing them up or confusing them.) First, if Duncan realizes he
    cannot be objective, he can take suitable action such as to
    inform his fellow committee members at Bluestone of this, and
    let them make the decision about Duncan's company.



    Second, even if Paul does not specifically realize he cannot
    be objective in this case, it is part of his general duty as a
    engineer or manager to learn about the kinds of situations in
    which his decisions might be judged by others to be biassed,
    and so to withdraw himself from making a decision in such
    cases. In other words, there are always things which Duncan
    could do to prevent any moral harm occurring because of his
    confusion and general inability to 'handle' such situations.
    Hence he is not morally compromised by his roles in such cases.
    If Paul does allow himself to be swayed by undue influence from
    a friend, the blame is his alone.



    It remains to relate my general view that 'roles don't
    really conflict' to my initial view that social rules or
    regulations prohibiting some specific conflicts can be
    legitimate. For example, it would be reasonable to prohibit a
    businessperson from submitting a bid on behalf of company B to
    a company C, while at the same time he himself is the
    individual at C who judges all bids submitted (this is a
    factually possible situation if he holds both jobs).



    The reason for having a regulation against such a 'conflict'
    is because of the very strong temptations to bias in such a
    case, through a mixing or conflation of the person's role as
    advocate for B with his role as impartial judge for C. That is,
    as before it is the strong temptations to moral backsliding or
    failure which are our legitimate concerns here, not any
    conflicts between the roles themselves.



    Such cases are closely analogous to other potential moral
    temptations or failings which regulations address, such as
    those preventing a manager from depositing corporate funds in
    his personal bank account with the intention of repaying it
    shortly. In such a case it is very clear that the rule seeks to
    remove the temptations, and no-one would say that the rule is
    really seeking to prevent a 'conflict of interest' between his
    roles as private depositor and as corporate depositor in his
    own bank account. In other words, talk about 'conflicts of
    interest' is at best a metaphor, and often a very unhelpful
    metaphor, for talking about moral temptations.

Cite this page: "Hospitality from a Vendor" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 6/15/1992 OEC Accessed: Friday, May 24, 2019 <www.onlineethics.org/Resources/csaindex/golfing.aspx>