Module 11: young people and drugs - issues for workers: facilitator's guide

2.4 Dealing with conflicts of interest

Page last updated: 2004

Frontline workers face a wide variety of situations where conflicts of interest can occur. There are three main areas where this type of issue can arise (see overhead transparency below).

Conflicts of interest
Summary

Overhead transparency

  • Interpersonal conflicts occur between individual workers. For example, when two workers are trying to make a decision about the best course of action for their client, or when workers conflict about the purpose and direction of their work.

  • Intrapersonal conflicts occur when your personal values conflict with the guidelines of the agency, or when two of your personal values conflict with one another.

  • Rights conflicts occur when the rights of an individual conflict with the rights of people in the wider community. For example, when you know that one young person is putting the health or safety of other young people at risk.

Conflicts of interest

Question - Where do conflicts of interest arise in your workplace?

Purpose of the exercise

To explore the problematic nature of behaving professionally when faced with situations where there are conflicting interests.

Running the exercise

Workers face a wide variety of situations where conflicts of interest can occur. Facilitator could continue the discussion by giving the following hypothetical scenarios to promote discussion or build on the discussions of the previous exercise.

Example 1: A case meeting where two workers disagree about the best course of action for a client. What can they do?

Example 2: If you are case managing a client from a harm minimisation perspective and another worker is coming from an organisation with a policy of promoting abstinence

Example 3: Youth workers smoking outside at an accommodation service with young people who are underage smokers.
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Draw on the experiences of learners to promote discussion about conflicts of interest by asking them to brainstorm examples of conflicts of interest in the workplace. Write responses on whiteboard and discuss.

How can you work effectively together? Ask the learners to generate ideas about managing these situations.

Suggest that they might consider that each worker has their own personal agenda. It can be useful to focus on why they feel strongly about a particular course of action. Are the best interests of the client really being served?

It is also useful to consider the agendas of other people with whom they work. Good communication skills are required to resolve these conflicts. Workers may need to use their conflict resolution skills or find ways to develop these skills in their workplace.

Ask learners to share examples from their work and discuss strategies to resolve or manage their conflicts. Remind learners to maintain confidentiality when discussing their experiences.

Remember that workers have a responsibility to protect themselves emotionally and professionally, while also acting in the best interests of their clients.

Question - Where do conflicts of interest arise in your workplace?

Question - Can you suggest ways to resolve or manage these conflicts of interest?

Each worker has his or her own personal agenda. It can be useful to focus on why you feel strongly about a particular course of action. Are the best interests of the client really being served?

It is also useful to consider the agendas of other people with whom you work. Good communication skills are required to resolve these conflicts. You may need to use your conflict resolution skills or find ways to develop these skills in your workplace.

Keep in mind that you have a responsibility to protect yourself emotionally and professionally, whilst also acting in the best interests of your clients.

Other conflicts can develop when workers have different perspectives or policies on AOD use. If you are case managing a client from a harm minimisation perspective and another worker is coming from an organisation with a policy of promoting abstinence, can you work effectively together?

Task

If you are working with others, discuss conflicts that have occurred in your workplace and strategies to resolve or manage their conflicts. (Remember to maintain confidentiality when discussing your experiences.) Top of page

Summary

Overhead transparency

  • Workers often develop close relationships with young people. It is important that workers have a clear idea of 'professional behaviour' and do not abuse their positions of power.

  • Workers need to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries in their relationships with young people. Workers should not disclose unnecessary personal information and should minimise physical contact as this can be misinterpreted by young people. Contact of a sexual nature is never appropriate.

  • Conflicts of interest can occur when working with young people. The interests of young people sometimes need to be weighed against the interests of parents and the wider community.