Battle of Ethics for Consultants

Every individual possesses a value system developed through their life experiences, background, and core beliefs that develop their ethical perspectives (McKnight, 2012). Consultants and their clients are no different, and there are times when these ethics are not in alignment with one another. Navigating these differences are potential landmines for consultants if not navigated well.

For consultants, maintaining a long career is closely tied to having integrity and a strong ethical system (Greiner & Poulfelt, 2010). This is not necessarily going to be the case with the clients that consultants serve, and there will times when the ethics held by clients are not only different from the consultant’s, but are also adverse to them. It is important when this occurs, the consultant take a posture to be honest and communicate with clarity the differences in ethics that exist (McKnight, 2012). This difference in perspective does not need to become a battle, or a comparison, which can be a temptation. The consultant must lead the way in leading the relationship with the client in a direction where equitable considerations are made and common ground is established that allows both client and consultant to maintain their dignity through the process (McKnight, 2012). This allows the client to feel valued, and build the bonds of trust with the consultant.

Once this common ground is established, the opportunity for the consultant to influence the ethics and culture of the client is now presented. Since personal credibility and objectivity has always been an necessity for consultant to be successful (McKnight, 2009), consultants can use this ethical foundation to influence and deepen the ethical framework of the client. Since good ethics are not only considered right by many, but are seen as good business practices, the consultant with strong ethics has a platform to influence client ethics in a positive way.


Greiner, L. E., & Poulfelt, F. (Eds.). (2010). Management consulting today and tomorrow: perspectives and advice from 27 leading world experts. New York: Routledge.

McKnight, L. L. (2012). Global Consulting: The Use of Self to Transfer OD Values into National Cultures. Organization Development Journal, 30(2), 67–77.

McKnight, W. (2009). 90 days to success in consulting. Australia ; Boston, MA: Course Technology Cengage Learning.

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