How to identify a conflict of interest

Written by devra gartenstein
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How to identify a conflict of interest
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A conflict of interest is a situation in which you cannot fulfil your duties to one party because of your obligation to another party. A television station experiences a conflict of interest when reporting on scandalous activities on the part of one of their sponsors because it is in their duty to tell a truthful, unbiased story but it is against their best interest to make their sponsor look unfavourable. The best course of action when facing a conflict of interest is to be truthful to everyone involved and, if possible, excuse yourself from the situation.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Identify your interests in the particular situation. If you are a judge and your wife appears in front of you as a lawyer, you would have interests in administering justice as well as in pleasing your spouse.

  2. 2

    Evaluate whether your loyalties to the different parties creates a conflict which makes it difficult for you to fulfil your duties to either party. The judge whose wife appears in front of him as a lawyer compromises his commitment to justice because his interest in pleasing his spouse interferes with his ability to impartially administer justice.

  3. 3

    Evaluate whether your loyalty to one of the parties is so distant or so generic that it will not actually interfere with your ability to act impartially. For example, a reporter writing about the effects of global warming has an obligation to tell the truth as well as a personal interest in the story as a human being who could be affected by global warming. But his loyalty to his own interest as a human being is so generic that it does not constitute a real conflict of interest.

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