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What the Dina Pule saga can teach you about managing your employees' conflict of interest

by , 08 August 2013
Former Communications Minister Dina Pule has been fined a full month's salary and suspended for 15 days. This after the court found Pule guilty of breaching the code of conduct for Members of Parliament (MPs), EyeWitnessNews reports. The lengthy probe against Pule centred on her failure to disclose her romantic relationship with Phosane Mngqibisa who allegedly benefited from the ICT Indaba held by her department last year. The investigating panel found he benefitted substantially through his association with her. The drawn out saga has raised serious questions about conflict in the workplace. Here's how you can avoid conflict of interest in your workplace.

The key to rooting out conflict of interest in your business starts with knowing what causes it. This will allow you to take steps to prevent it. Remember, your employees won't know what unethical behavior is if you don't spell it out.

Here's how to manage conflict of interest in your business

According to the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management, conflict of interest occurs in two ways:

Conflict situation #1: Nepotism

Nepotism is widespread in many companies. It causes conflicts of interest when family members in senior positions put their family's interests ahead of your business. For instance, your production manager hires his less qualified nephew as a machine operator instead of a candidate with better credentials. As a result, you're your business suffers from low productivity.

Solution: When you're recruiting, make sure you know if the candidate is related to anyone in your company. Do so by asking this question directly in the employment application form. This way, you'll act on any dishonesty by following the disciplinary process.

In addition, never have a staff member reporting directly to a relative.

Conflict situation #2: Relationships at work

It's not uncommon for employees to develop romantic relationships at work. After all, it's a comfortable environment to get to know like-minded people.

But what happens to the interests of your company when your employees form intimate relationships?

It can cause three possible conflicts of interest:

#1: Confidentiality breach

If one of the partners in the couple is a senior in your company, he'll know employee salaries, future promotion plans and strategic information. He might disclose this information indiscreetly to his partner, who could be a junior staff member.

#2: Unfair advantage

The temptation to give an advantage to the partner in the relationship could arise. These could include higher salary increases, promotions and invitations on business trips they normally wouldn't go on. This was the case with minister Pule.

#3: Break-ups

What happens if the relationship ends? How will this affect your company and what will the consequences be?

Break ups could result in tension in the office and this could affect productivity in your business.

Luckily, there's a way you can avoid this.

Solution: Make sure your staff is aware that forming relationships in the workplace can have consequences and encourage them to reveal such relationships if there's potential for a conflict of interest. Develop comprehensive policies dealing with these issues. Include in your letter of appointment that employees are required to reveal conflicts of interest.

Knowing the various situations that could lead to conflict of interests with staff will help you put measures in place to deal with the conflict before it affects your business.

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