Unethical Behaviour: The Conflict of Interest

Yesterday we started talking a bit about bias and today I want to touch just briefly one one of the four main types of bias – the conflict of interest. You may be wondering how conflict of interest can be categorized as a bias and I’m going to explain just that.

Simply put, if you are favoring people who you believe will be able to provide you some sort of perk or benefit later on down the line you have a conflict of interest. You are biased towards those people because of what you hope to get from them and instead pass over people who may be better qualified to do the work but less able to throw a perk your way.

How unfair is that?

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re the office manager in a physician’s office. A pharmaceutical representative comes into your office to try to give you information and samples about a new cholesterol medicine. When he visits he brings you free samples, a huge tray of bagels and fruit for the entire office to share, and a really nice padfolio to thank you for your time. He also tells you that for every new rX for this medication you write your office will receive a bonus or referral fee.

A pharmaceutical representative from another company comes in with a different cholesterol medicine. She brings you some free samples but doesn’t shower you with gifts. Instead she gives you a lot of great information about the drug and the research and studies behind it. The cost for consumers is a bit less than the other drug, too. The pharmaceutical company doesn’t have a referral program so you won’t get any kickbacks for selling what looks like a decent drug.

Which will you choose?

You might, right now, say that you’d pick the second but the truth is that if you were in that situation you might unconsciously choose the first. Why pass up the opportunity for a referral fee, even if the drug isn’t as great as the second, right?

Wrong. That’s comletely unethical.

But do you even realize you’re making decisions like these?

Probably not.

I urge you to take a close look at the decisions you’re making this year. Are they best for your team or are you looking for what’s best for you personally?

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director


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