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Ever find yourself in a sticky ethical situation? Mr. Ethics has your back! Mr. Ethics is here to take your questions and give you his input on how to best deal with your situation. Have a question for Mr. Ethics? Send it to info@professionalconstructor.org and he may respond to you here on the Mr. Ethics Blog.

 

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Mr. Ethics - June 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

I am going to leave my current employer for a cross town rival.  Before I give my two (2) week notice I want to take my paid two (2) week vacation.  I am pretty sure my company will let me go once I give my notice because of the competition between the two (2) companies.  I have about four (4) weeks before I need to start my new job.  I told my new employer my plan and he is fine with it.  He would like me to look over a couple of jobs when on vacation so I can hit the floor running.  Not surprisingly they are projects my current firm plans on bidding.  Should I look over those jobs while on my two (2) paid vacation?  My current employer has been very good to me.

 

Regards, Beach Bound

 

Dear Beach,

 

The question you should really be asking is whether it is ethical for you not to tell your current employer immediately that you have a new job.  I am sure that your bosses do not want you around projects that they will be bidding.  I may be nice to use your vacation time but those are some of the things you may need to sacrifice when you change jobs.  If you do not tell your boss immediately that you are leaving you might end up burning a bridge that may be worth in the future more than a two (2) week paid vacation.  By the way, my opinion on this does not change if you said the reason you’re leaving is because your current company has never treated you right.

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics

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Mr. Ethics - April 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

Our company owner instituted a program when the market tanked a few years ago.  The program called for each project manager to meet with our regular developers and potential clients at least once a month.  These meetings could include luncheons as well as meeting for cocktails.  The program was a success in getting us opportunities and actual projects.  Our owner wants us to continue this program.  I am happy meeting with my developers and clients but I am not sure about buying the lunches and the cocktails.  It feels as though I am buying projects instead of earning them.  Is my concern valid?

 

Regards, Concerned.

 

 

Dear Concerned,

 

Reputation and marketing are a company’s life blood.  There is nothing wrong with entertaining clients so long as it does not cross the line in buying an individual’s personal influence.  If the entertainment is specifically undertaken to influence someone to direct a contract your way then your actions are unethical.  If it is undertaken simply to recognize a client then there is no problem.  With public clients the line is much brighter and more punitive if violated.  With public clients most local and state laws do not attempt to distinguish between innocent entertainment and influence buying.  In some jurisdictions any entertain is perceived as being unethical and potentially illegal.

 

Very truly yours,

 

Mr. Ethics.  

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Mr. Ethics - March 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

One of our competitors recently let go its regional president of the West Coast construction office. The reason for the change is reported to be because the president and the company board of directors did not see eye to eye on future development.  My boss thinks this is a good opportunity for us to tell potential clients that the president was let go because the company is in financial trouble and its long term viability of the company is not good.  My boss thinks that is the real reason for the president’s firing. I am not comfortable doing this because I do not think it’s true.  What should I do?

 

Very truly yours,

 

Uncomfortable

 


Dear Uncomfortable,

 

I believe that you are awarded project contracts based upon your bid and reputation.  I think it is important to let a potential client know why you are better than your competitors.  I have never thought that spreading innuendo or exaggerating a competitor’s situation shows why you are better than them.  More importantly it is not ethical.  Making exaggerated or misleading statements about someone else will always bite you in the end.  This begs the question if passing along bad but true information about a competitor is ethical.  I do not think it is.  In my opinion it is the client’s obligation to find out about its potential contractor.  That is the reason interviews are conducted.  Be assured that a major change in a company’s leadership will be known by potential clients.

 

Regards,

 

Mr. Ethics

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Mr. Ethics - January 2016

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

Our heavy highway construction department has been underperforming for years. The managing board has decided to remove the management team of that department.  What we can’t decide upon is whether to provide those individuals with severance packages or not.  Some believe providing a severance package to an underperforming team is unethical.  Some believe not providing a severance package is unethical.  I’m on the fence.  Can you give us some guidance?

 

Regards,

 

On the Fence

   


Dear Fence,

 

This is a question has been asked for years.  Many companies have settled the issue by developing a written procedure to follow when these situations arise.  I think a good code of conduct should include such a practice. Since it does not appear you have pre-set procedure in place my sense is that you need to evaluate if your situation involves a sudden malfeasance issues or a long term problem.  From the information provided it seems this has been a long term problem that you and the team have tried to turn around.  If that is the case my ethical inclination would be to provide a severance package.

 

Regards,

 

Mr. Ethics. 

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Mr. Ethics - November 2015

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Monday, November 30, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,

 

We are the architect of record for a hospital, new construction project.  Our contract calls for us to be the initial decision maker for any contractor disputes that arise on the project including any claims that allege errors and omissions against us.   The general contractor wants that provision stricken from the project agreements because they believe that we should not be ruling on our own potential errors or omissions.  They argue its patently unethical.  I think their request is insulting.  We can render unbiased decisions.  What do you think about the request?

 

Very truly yours,

 

Insulted in Utah

  

 

 

Dear Insulted,

 

I am sure that you can ethically carry out your obligations under this provision but this may be one request you should support.   Perceptions can be stronger than reality when it comes to acting ethically.  Even if a ruling is unbiased a perception is still going to be that you were covering an exposure of liability that you committed.  Moreover, if you determine that an error or omission did occur you could be considered to have admitted liability for any costs incurred as a result of same.  Admissions of liability, if made without the consent of your professional liability carrier may result in your coverage being voided.  Although you are committed acting in an ethical manner, and perceptions of impropriety may be unethical in themselves, you may want to consider the general contractor’s request.  Sometimes it may be better to decline a responsibility so long as it is not unethical to do same.  This may be one of those times.  

 

Regards, Mr. Ethics.

Tags:  Contracts  Disputes  Errors and Omissions  Mr. Ethics 

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