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Business is never just business

It sometimes happens in the professional world that we find ourselves in moral or ethical conundrums. It won’t necessarily come out in the office or in the marketing or in the quality of the work that is done. Sometimes it happens in the coffee room, or when you’re out to lunch with a client.

What do you do when, say, a potential client is racist? In the name of what is right and good, do you challenge their bigotry, call them out on their meanness, and refuse to do business with them? Or in the name of enterprise, do you sweep it under the rug and let them hold their private beliefs.

It’s true: if every business transaction and partnership came with a list of provisos about what our personal beliefs can or should be, it would be very difficult to get much of anything done. In general, what a client or coworker believes is their own business, and doesn’t effect the quality of the work.

But sometimes a line must be drawn in the sand. If you cannot work with him/her because of, say, their blatant racism, and no manner of dialogue seems to amend the situation, it may be time to call it quits.

It takes careful discernment to know when someone’s prejudices and meanness are so offensive or contrary to what you believe that you simply cannot work with them. But you have options. You can keep the business relationship as formal as possible, for example. Or limit your contact with this person. Or perhaps not associate with them too closely, and avoid binding contracts you might later regret.

In the end, however, you have to follow your heart and do what you believe is right. And that’s because business is never “just” business.

Tyler Blanski & Sherri Rosen, Sherri Rosen Publicity, NYC

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011 at 8:23 am and is filed under Clients, Friends and Colleagues, Industry News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Business is never just business”

  1. Joelle in Montreal Says:

    These are the most prominent questions that come to mind after reading your article:

    1) Who determines what is right and wrong? You wrote that you need to follow your heart and do what is right- but we must ask ourselves is this truly the right thing? This can get us into a whole other debate that is much larger than the article at hand (it becomes a whole religious/moral debate).

    This leads me to the following question:

    2) Would you be so easy to turn down this client if your financial situation weren’t as stable? (Thank G-d it is! Which is why I guess we can say – you have the “luxury” to turn down this client)

    Obviously, what I’ve always appreciated about you Sherri is your straightforwardness, your honesty and your sincerity. It makes me so happy to know that someone in publicity (a field that is known for it’s dishonesty) has someone like you, someone who is able to represent clients that she believes in and has the integrity to turn down those whose work she doesn’t believe in.

  2. Joelle in Montreal Says:

    Joelle there have been times when I did not have the money in my business to say no, but I said no anyway. I could not work with a person if I don’t like what they stand for. This is just what I do, I am not saying that everyone needs to do it my way, but I feel so strongly about all of this I would always say no.

    I would like to have a dialogue with people who are racists, but not with the hope of changing them, because that would never work.

  3. Joelle in Montreal Says:

    Edie Weinstein says:

    I would choose not to work with someone as a colleague or in a promotional position who expresses racist, sexist, xenophobic, or homophobic beliefs. In my service as a therapist, I do see people who are in those categories, but we work with the ideas as part of their healing process. If there was someone in my personal or professional circles that I hear about or hear from, I would (and have) address those statements/values. As a person of conscience, I am unable to sweep it under the rug AND there are people who hold those beliefs and don’t (in the name of being PC) express them.

  4. Joelle in Montreal Says:

    Comment from Hal Peller, NYC
    I read somewhere that you should be picky about your clients and only work with folks who you really enjoy being with. That way you will automatically do your very best work with these folks. They called it the velvet rope syndrome and you filter the people you work for to just the very best. Imagine that after you weed out all the marginal people what it would look like when you had to go to work… pure joy!

    I had a client who had a vendor and I was on the phone with this vendor right before the Obama election. This insurance guy made the most amazing racist remarks about Obama and I quietly hung up the phone and told my client what he said and recommended that he stop working with this guy. My client couldn’t agree more and that ended that relationship with this one vendor.

    I recommend you tell this person that you don’t think it would be a good fit and maybe recommend someone else. I don’t think it wise to tell the person why, unless they press you for the core reason. That is just my two cents…

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