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Friday, July 30, 2010

The common corporate parasite

Ethics in a company is like a parasite that passes on from one level to another. While it is true that being ethical is up to an individual, the implementation in professional life is strongly influenced by the characteristic of our immediate manager and not the company. Do you really believe that a company has a written rule saying: “lie to the customer” or “ Tamper your data as long as you get the money”?

So, how does the worm of unethical operations spread from a single person? What if a strongly righteous person is caught in the middle of it? I believe it can all be explained with a simple flow-chart:

Depending on how ethical a manager is, the thought processes of his sub-ordinates and future leaders spawned are determined (unless they leave the company). Either they successfully convert an analyst, or force them to leave the company.

This is precisely the reason why any consulting firm cannot be called unethical or bogus. Every company has hard-working analysts who struggle to provide more than the expectations of their customer. They are unfortunately overshadowed by the majority of consultants sweet-talking the clients into buying a summary of google findings.

I have had the fortune of working with people belonging in the former category, and hence have a very high opinion of consulting and market research.Generalising a consultant’s Modus Operandi based on a few disillusioned forced-to-be-unethical analysts seems very illogical to me. But I am curious to know if you have a different point of view on this!


Anupama said...

"summary of google findings" - haha!
Its interpretation. Being analysts, the google data is "analysed", nuked, synthesized and presented in eye-catching colors and figures.
Magicians ma dear and excellent showmen/women.

Did you do the chart?

antbrain said...

Excellent chart da! Can't agree more with you on this.. I'm actually waiting to hear from someone who holds a different opinion on this :-)

Kunal Chandra said...

Good one. Especially the text in the chart.
But just like yourself i have also had the fortune of working with some very honest, motivated and what I would call genuinely meritocratic people. They keep us going. And no I dont agree the only way out is to quit. I will try not to. I will urge others not to and then may be one day we won't have to.

Archana said...

Anu: There are some analysts in A&T frost who are so brilliant in their analysis that I can just gape and wonder why I didn't think of that... Viggy is a perfect example!
And yes, I did the flowchart!

Ashwin: Thanks da.. You know why I wrote it right - after hearing one different opinion!

Kunal: You may be right.. I am not sure. But from what I have seen, unethical operations in a long run force the self-righteous people in joining a different company. I haven't seen an ethical person staying when his/her boss has opinions to the contrary. I hope you prove me wrong!

Deepak said...

I think the main factor to consider is that mostly, no one is black-and-white ethical or unethical. A lot of these are shades of gray.

Some notorious stand out examples (Dell, Goldmann Sachs) come to mind, otherwise, in my experience, it needs to be handled on a case by case basis.

Archana said...

You know, now that you mention it, you are right! Blacks are not ALWAYS unethical, and whites are not always ethical. But in my company itself, there were people who would easily take the easier 'tweaking with numbers' and 'googled data' route to complete the report. Its easier to distinguish them.
By case by case, do you mean to say , it differs from person to person? Well, Kunal also mentioned that some ethical (who try hard to not be ethical - more white shade than black) people don't just quit and decide to stay. I wrote on what I saw in two years. You both may be right. But to call a company bogus/unethical is very unfair don't you think?

Deepak said...

By case-to-case, I mean red-flag an incident instead of red-flagging people - unless the person has a habit of tweaking the means to any extent for the ends.

I think calling a company unethical is fair if the CEO or other top leadership falls into that category. With all due respect to honest people within the company who are sad about the affairs - the top level people can take the company into disastrous directions very fast. We saw many such incidents recently (CIP)

Archana said...

@Deepak: Very interesting article. I think the main difference in our opinion is due to the background we have. Working for an "unethical" company and an "unethical" industry (consulting), I loathe the misuse of the term. It is for the same reason I prefer red-flagging people rather than incidents.

Akshay said...

i need to QUIT!! lol