We received a question from a listener following Consent-Building Clinic #81.
To paraphrase John’s question:
If rallying support in the public-sector is likely to backfire (and create more distrust) does the same go for the private-sector?”
(To hear John’s actual question and a summarized response, watch the video below.)
John is right, our answer and cautions ARE different for those working in the private-sector.
- The short answer is — “Yes… BUT”
Here’s the “Yes” part . . .
Yes they can. Private-sector entities have every right to lobby FOR their proposal and to hustle up other supporters.
After all, they ARE a stakeholder — i.e. a self-serving special interest.
While they CAN do that, don’t assume that the public is naive about this!
As we mentioned in Clinic #81, the public takes the self-serving nature of a stakeholder’s actions and arguments into account.
Here’s the “BUT” part . . .
Professional consultants — a role we’ve often filled, both for private clients (e.g. developers), as well as public-sector clients — however, need to careful just how far they go in advising a private client that she/he should drum up the support of OTHER stakeholders who — in their self-interest — may help give the impression there’s a lot of “public” support for the client’s proposal.
Keyword here is “professional” consultant.
Generally, a “profession” is a discipline — or an area of expertise — that PROFESSES to be motivated in the manner society has defined appropriate for that “profession.”
Think about how American society has defined…
- the medical profession as serving first, and foremost, the health and well-being of the patient. Period. (Hence why the medical profession has trouble dealing with the “right-to-die” issue.)
- the legal profession’s mission to advocate UTTERLY in the client’s interest. Period. Even if that client is a mass-murderer.
- the civil engineering profession’s mission to serve — ultimately — the safety of the public. Regardless of who the actual (paying) client is. Period!
Back to John’s question —
Unlike public-sector clients, private clients CAN do virtually anything (within limits of the law) — that serves their self-interest . . .
- The professional consultant’s advice to such a client MUST be tempered by the his/her code of ETHICS. Even if it is NOT in the client’s interest.
- Each profession defines what behavior would be considered “unethical” or “unprofessional”.
Whenever we, the Bleikers, agree to work for private clients, we generally warn them (in writing) that we DO subscribe to the Code of Ethics of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
For that reason, we can help private-sector clients only insofar as they don’t do anything, we’d feel, would harm the public’s interest.
To drill down more into John’s question —
What do you do when a private-sector client proposes to drum up supporters in order to. . .
- mislead policymakers into thinking there’s more support than there really is?
- bully decision-makers into an unwise decision?
- interfere in any other way with the elected officials making an informed decision?
If it was our client suggesting such reasons to rally support, we’d strongly advise against it.
If the client insisted, we would have to end our role as we couldn’t be party to such manipulation.
And so too, we advise you to stick to the moral high ground, and encourage your private-sector clients to do the same.
Taking the high road won’t backfire, whereas other tactics eventually will, even in the private-sector.