Grey matters ethical dilemma: Nothing to be proud of

Amidst worries that he may not be accepted in his new workplace because of his sexuality, Will has to make a decision regarding what to do about suspicions that his CEO has discriminated against clients in a same sex relationship

grey matters

Will is a recent graduate who has just started work at a small wealth management firm. Will is gay and lives with his boyfriend. They are both out to their family and friends. When Will started at the firm, however, he was intimidated about starting a new job and meeting new people, so hasn’t officially come out at work yet – preferring to talk about his ‘partner’ rather than his boyfriend, and not correcting people when they assume his partner is female.

The CEO, Seth, is the biggest culprit of making this assumption. Will has overheard Seth make comments about LGBTQ+ people which he appeared to think were funny, but in fact bordered on derogatory and rude, if not actually offensive. As a result, Will feels even more intimidated about coming out at work. This is very stressful for him as he has no desire to go ‘back in the closet’; he simply wants to feel comfortable around his new colleagues before divulging personal information. Now, however, he worries that he may never be able to be his true self at work, which he finds upsetting and demotivating.

The CEO writes to the couple explaining that he will not be able to take them on as clients

Will is shadowing Seth on some of his client meetings. One day, they have a scheduled appointment with some new clients – a couple – Dr Chris Glad and Mrs Heather Glad. Will notices that Seth is taken aback when the clients arrive and are both women, although they seem to take it in their stride, explaining that some people often expect Christine to be male due to the fact she prefers to go by Chris. The rest of the meeting is pleasant, although Will feels that Seth is a little tense and stand-offish, and the Glads seem happy with the recommendations given to them and the overview of service available. Their overall assets are on the lower side compared to the kind of clients the firm usually accepts, but Dr Glad’s potential future earnings are significant, which would normally mean that the couple is a good candidate for becoming a long-standing client.

After the meeting, Seth uses a homophobic term to describe the couple, going on to say “What a waste of time! I’ll have to think hard before deciding whether to take them on as clients, especially since their assets are far below what we would normally expect of our clients.” Will, stunned at Seth’s attitude and his use of a homophobic term, mumbles something incoherent and explains he needs to go and start writing up the notes of the meeting.

A couple of weeks pass, and Will notices that Seth has sent a letter to Dr and Mrs Glad explaining that, unfortunately, he will not be able to take them on as clients, as their assets do not meet the required threshold. It is a polite letter, which wishes them all the best for the future. However, Will is aware that a heterosexual client couple has recently been taken on who has assets lower than the Glads, and with lower future earning potential. Will wonders whether Seth has deliberately discriminated against Dr and Mrs Glad due to their sexuality. Even if this is not the case, he remains unhappy about the language Seth has used in relation to the LGBTQ+ community.
Readers were asked what, if anything, should Will do next (voting is now closed). The options were:
  1. Quit. It's clearly not the right kind of environment for Will to work in.
  2. Write privately to the Glads, informing them of his suspicion that Seth did not want them as clients because of their sexual orientation.
  3. Speak to the chair and raise his suspicions that Seth may have discriminated against the Glads because they are a same-sex couple.
  4. He has no evidence that the Glads' sexuality was the reason for Seth not taking them on as a couple, so can do nothing in this regards. However, it may be worth him speaking to HR about the culture in the firm – which he feels is not fully inclusive. 
This dilemma appears in the October 2021 edition of The Review magazine. The CISI's opinion and voting results will be published in the January 2022 edition
Published: 19 Oct 2021
  • Wealth Management
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • homophobia
  • grey matters ethical dilemma
  • Covid-19
  • Code of Conduct

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