The Issue of Ethics
By Elijah Shaw
Recently on the North American Bodyguard Association’s discussion board (found at either www.AmericanBodyguards.org) I brought up the subject of moral dilemmas and how they affect the security professional, particularly those involved heavily with close protection. Because we wanted honest answers to the “What would you do if…” question, we even allowed participants to post their answers anonymously. While the discussion was lively and a lot of good points were made, I had the sneaky suspicion in the back of my brain that while most answered overwhelmingly on the side of “I won’t cross the line for a client that breaks anything other than a minor law or two” I wondered if those that felt otherwise just choose to keep it to themselves? Anonymous feature or not.
There is an unavoidable reality to the situation that clients are hard to find and once you have them we traditionally do everything in our power to hold on to them and keep them happy. A bird in the hand so to speak. But when faced with a situation that might be at odds with our individual ethics, do we turn a blind eye to the activity, or do we hold our ground regardless of the employment consequences? Of course by and large we all consider ourselves honorable people but the reality of life is that each of us has our own internal compass. Additionally there’s an age old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.” Does that mean that allowing a client to “get away” with something is ok as long as there is very minimal chance that it would come back to bite you?
Notice that I have not given any examples of the moral dilemmas that are the topic of this column. That is intentional because up into this point, I wanted you, the reader, to come up with your own set of circumstances in your minds eye. What may be a black and white to one protection agent may be a shade of grey to another. However, for the purposes of this discussion, allow me to pose a few questions. Answer truthfully, and since this article is not required reading for an Executive Protection oral exam (yet) the only person you have to be honest with is yourself.
Your client is a wealthy businessman who has always treated you fairly. At a country club dinner you sit the next table over and hear the client and his associate engage in conversation that includes a lengthy discussion filled with degrading hate speech about a particular minority group. Once back in the car he asks how you feel about that particular group. What do you say?
Expanding on that: Would your response change if hypothetically your son were now married to a woman in that particular racial group?
You receive instructions from your Principal that you’re to accompany him on a two day out of town business trip. Once there you quickly notice that your married client is actually engaged in an affair and that this trip is just a cover story. Weeks later the Principal’s wife pulls you to the side, and with tears in her eyes tells you what she suspects and begs to know the truth. What do you do?
Would you answer change if she confided that he has physically abused her and that your affirmation of the affair would be grounds for divorce so that she could finally leave him?
Your client is a celebrated actress and philanthropist who just donated a large sum of money to a reputable charity in a much publicized manner. You later discover documents showing that someone in the charity has funneled the money back to the client, effectively making it a PR stunt. Do you do anything with this information?
Make the charity into one working on an autism cure. Now imagine you had a younger sibling with severe autism. Change anything?
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