Grey matters ethical dilemma: In his shoes – the verdict

Read the CISI's verdict and readers' comments on the ethical dilemma that appears in the Q1 2019 print edition of The Review

Read the Q1 2019 dilemma

This Grey Matter, published in the Q1 2019 print edition of The Review, presents a dilemma for a head of HR, who is faced with how to manage allegations of bullying behaviour against the CEO of a family-run asset management firm. 

Suggested solutions and results

  1. Conduct further investigation, including reviewing the references received from Mike’s previous employer and seeking witness statements from members of staff that might be willing to go on record about Mike’s behaviour. (46%)
  2. Report his concerns to the chairman (John Footes III, Mike’s father), which is consistent with the guidance set out in the firm’s whistleblowing policy. (48%)
  3. Do as Lisa asked and keep the information confidential. He cannot take further action until more information comes to light about Mike, and exposing Lisa would be a breach of the trust she has placed in him. (2%)
  4. Call Mike in to answer allegations of poor conduct that goes against the RICH values. (4%)

Responses received: 397

The CISI verdict

Unusually, this dilemma split opinion between two of the suggested solutions – conducting further investigation (option 1) and reporting to the chairman in line with the whistleblowing policy (option 2). Both options have pros and cons.

Further investigation may elicit information that Richard could present to the chairman – thereby protecting Lisa’s identity. However, Richard may still be asked about what prompted him to investigate now – years after Mike joined the firm – which may require him to reveal the tip-off. Furthermore, one respondent noted: “given Mike’s character and dominance at his previous firm, it is likely that potential whistleblowers will be afraid to speak up”.

A number of commenters stated if the firm has procedures in place for reporting, these should be followed (option 2). However, John’s ability to remain impartial was questioned by one respondent.

Our recommended option reflects a number of suggested solutions.  
Richard should review all the information available, including references supplied when Mike joined the firm and exit interviews given by staff who have left since Mike became CEO. However, it would be inappropriate to seek out new information at this stage. Instead, he should present the available information to John. Richard could suggest that John recuse himself from investigating his own son’s conduct, not only because if he were involved it may further damage their relationship, but because appointing someone else (ideally, someone outside of the Footes family) to oversee the process would ensure impartiality and fairness.

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Published: 20 Jun 2019
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • Chartered MCSI
  • CPD
  • continuing professional development
  • continuing professional dishonesty
  • Q2 2019
  • July 2019
  • grey matters ethical dilemma

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