THE ETHICAL INTERCULTURALIST

by Dr. Michael Tucker
Tucker International

So, you say you are an interculturalist or that you represent an intercultural consulting firm. What does this mean?  How does a current or prospective client know that she or he will receive the highest levels of professional and ethical service?  How does a colleague know that you can be trusted to perform as a partner?  How does this colleague know that you will be an ethical competitor?  How does the intercultural community know that you are a reputable member that represents the community’s values and standards?

Unfortunately, at the present time there are no good answers to these questions.  Since the late 1970’s, when there were very few offering intercultural services and products, the field has enjoyed tremendous growth.  There are now interculturalists in every major world market and an impressive variety of assessment, training, coaching and consulting products.  Interculturalists come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, some with advanced degrees and members of associations that hold them to ethical standards in their own disciplines.  However, there is no such set of standards or professional organizations to manage this process among interculturalists as a whole. 

A good model that might be followed by we interculturalists and SIETAR is the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC).  It requires its members to adhere to a Code of Ethics as a condition of membership and for certification as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC).  This code helps members to maintain professionalism and ethical standards as they provide services to clients, and as they deal with their colleagues and the public.  The IMC has a simple, yet powerful ethical code contained in a set of fifteen commitments that fit on one page.  These commitments include practices such as the following:

            Commitment to Clients

“I will only accept assignments for which I possess the requisite experience and competence to perform and will only assign staff or engage colleagues with the knowledge and expertise needed to serve my clients effectively.”

Commitment to the Public and the Profession

“I will represent the profession with integrity and professionalism in my relations with my clients, colleagues, and the general public.”

            Commitment to Fiscal Integrity

“I will agree in advance with a client on the basis for fees and expenses and will charge fees that are reasonable and commensurate with the services delivered and the responsibility accepted.”

The requirements to become a CMC are vey thorough.  These include a number of years experience, level of education, client references, summaries of client assignments, and written as well as an oral examination.

There is also an on-going process for re-certification every three years.

The intercultural community and SIETAR are not prepared at this time to engage in a comprehensive process like this.  However, we may be willing to do the following:

Agree on a code of ethics or “aspirational principles” defined by a set of commitments like those of a CMC.

Sign a document, certified by SIETAR, committing ourselves to the principles.

“Brand” those of us who sign this as something like “CI” (Certified Interculturalist).

            Monitor ourselves and others to live up to the principles.

These actions can and should be done in order to elevate ourselves and our profession to the recognition and levels of respect enjoyed by members of other professions.




Michael F. Tucker, Ph.D., *CMC
 is President Tucker International located in Bolder Colorado.

Dr. Tucker is a leading international human resource management consultant, with over forty years experience in the field. He is known for his work in intercultural training design, approaches to human resource issues of business globalization, international executive coaching, and international assessment. He is the author of the Overseas Assignment Inventory (OAI), and Tucker Assessment Profile (TAP),

*CMC (Certified Management Consultant) is a certification mark awarded by the Institute of Management Consultants, USA, and represents evidence of the highest standards of consulting and adherence to the ethical canons of the profession.  Less than 1% of all consultants have achieved this level of performance.






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