A conflict of interest is a situation that occurs when a member of an organization performs an action that jeopardizes both their reliability, and the company’s. For instance, if a manager authorizes the 3rd party services (such as printing or consulting) of his or her own uncle’s business, or if an employee accepts a gift of Superbowl tickets from a client, a conflict of interest has materialized. Conflicts of interest are particularly dangerous situations for companies, as they open the door for lawsuits, media attention, and angered stock holders. In order for any company to remain diligent, they must ensure that all levels of employees are behaving ethically, and consistently making decisions that keep the company’s best interests in mind.
Situations involving a conflict of interest are prominently seen in management and executive levels, where people in a position of power will use their decision-making abilities to manipulate transactions in their own favor — not the company’s. However, non-management positions may face these situations when dealing with clients, or simply through accessing sensitive company data and using it for their own personal profit.
The topic of a conflict of interest is a popular part of all ethics training procedures, as it is one of the main branches of business ethics. A popular way to conduct conflict of interest training is to cite examples (both hypothetical and real-world), so that they are better able to identify a potential conflict of interest and remedy the situation before it comes to fruition.