What's your problem?

SIX YEARS AGO, I joined a start-up that was founded on strong ethical beliefs. Recently, we were bought by a much larger company - a decision that divided the directors. I had misgivings but realised that the extra capital could really take us to the next level of expansion.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We were promised that our integrity would be respected but already we've been told to switch from one of our sustainable suppliers to another favoured by the new owner. Although I've tacitly compromised my ethics by moving with the company, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Should I stay and exert what influence I have or leave before it gets worse?

A: SOMETIMES, THE RIGHT decision becomes clearer by simply identifying which moves are irrevocable and which aren't. In your case, leaving immediately, even if your instinct pulls you in that direction, would mean you'd surrendered all chance of exercising a benign and moderating influence on your new owner. And it's possible that your misgivings will turn out to be largely unfounded, anyway. So by deciding to stay, observing intently and keeping those commitments to integrity alive, you could achieve the best possible outcome: the preservation of your company as you've always wanted it to be, and now with useful extra capital.

If that doesn't work, you'll have to quit; but deciding when to do so will be difficult. Take it too soon and you may be precipitate; hang on too long and you may find yourself subtly compromised. It might be wise to set yourself a sort of audit date for taking stock, otherwise you could easily drift.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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