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Once an analyst, can you opt out of cases on ethical grounds?

Bain & Company BCG McKinsey prep
Recent activity on Sep 12, 2018
4 Answers
2.1 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Sep 12, 2018

E.g. not wishing to work for a pharmaceutical company linked to extortionate pricing/weed killer being linked to cancer (as has happened recently with Bayer).

Presuamably this doesn't happen very often but was curious to know.

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Anonymous replied on Sep 12, 2018

I agree with Vlad - this is absolutely fine and is actually a formalised process at Bain. This is not frowned upon in any way.

When I first joined, as part of "kick-off staffing chat" all new joiners were asked if there were any projects/industries they would like to opt out on ethical grounds - e.g. tobacco, alcohol.

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replied on Sep 12, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


At McKinsey you can easily opt out from the projecta based on the ethical grounds. There is a special rule for this. I believe it should be the same across all companies.


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Anonymous B replied on Sep 12, 2018

Depends on the market. In more established offices with developed clientele, the mentioned McKinsey/Bain rules may hold place. In offices where projects don't come in abundance, consultants might be less picky in project selection and if you've been not staffed for a few weeks/months, your ethical concerns can become problematic. Just because there is a rule, doesn't mean it's followed everywhere.

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Anonymous B updated the answer on Sep 12, 2018

This is an interesting one...

I don't think there are rules around this, but here is what you can do.

First, you need to have good relationship wth the "staffer" - person who staffs you on a project. Usually, this person represents your development and other interests while trying to balance them with client needs. Also you should be known as a person who accepts all kinds of projects thrown at him. If you were very selective with accepting project before (e.g., don't want to go to this city or work in this industry/client), and now you don't want to take yet another project, your "ethical grounds" might appear unsound and capricious.

Second, you might want to keep these concerns just to the staffer and yourself. You wouldn't want your colleagues working on this prjoject to feel like you were above this project/them. You might even keep the ethical reason just to yourself and explain your reasoning from the professional development standpoint, that you'd prefer to work on a non-pharma project because you have already worked on two other pharma projects.

Lastly, you might prefer to work on this project because you can develop business case and bring the team towards more societally benefitial recommendations, e.g., focus on bringing value thru investment in specific R&D projects rather than price increases.


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