Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ethics in Practice: Case Study no. 4 (intimacy with clients)

Mary was working for company X, which belonged to the government of the Country Y. So was Arthur (the names are not the actual names, but the events are actual).

They were both doing telephone interpreting.

The system was organized in such a way that the calls would be distributed by means of a computer.

Mary frequently had the secondary client (that who is not paying for the service) trying to converse with her about her personal life.

Questions of the type where are you from? or how long have you been doing this for? or where do you live here? would come to her ears all the time.

Mary believed a lot in ethical codes and protecting herself, so that she would not disclose much and would try to talk about something else whenever this sort of conversation was started by the client.

She then started being told that Arthur was much better than her because Arthur conversed with them (the secondary client) and they actually knew all about Arthur: where he lived, where he was from, his surname, and all else.

She also started getting fewer and fewer calls.

Some clients started asking for her when the operators answered and she got told by the operators, who also tried to converse with her, just like the secondary clients, that they could not do that, as if she had asked them to do it.

Mary had never done any of that, for she was really ethical  and never pushed any client to request her services or anything.

It was then that she learned that they actually  asked for Arthur, since he was personal friends with most of them to the point of visiting their houses (told by the secondary clients spontaneously, without her ever asking), and the operators never complained with him because the operators also preferred him, since he conversed with them about nonprofessional matters.

Mary did stop giving her name as a consequence of the operators telling her that the secondary clients could not ask for her, so that she would tell them that she was just interpreter.

As for the computer system, the operators would, for instance, pretend to have called her and let the phone ring only once, when they could then skip and go to the next interpreter in the cue. 


Professionalism obviously has to do with distance, so that intimacy, and that would obviously include home visits to clients that are being served by telephone, is not really allowed if we consider the Australian ethical code (item 4 of the Australian code, IMPARTIALITY).

AUSIT justifies the requirement by saying that one needs objectivity, therefore professional detachment, at all times.

If we consider the Brazilian ethical code, Arthur's actions are also not OK because he is breaching the third article of the second chapter (disloyalty in competition).

He could also be breaching the fourth article of the third chapter, which is about serving the employer with loyalty.

Arthur could also be told to be breaching or to be imposing a high risk to the company in terms of breaching the American ethical code because of its first item (impartiality).

Mary is in trouble because she obviously needs the money and, in being a professional and ethical person, she is losing badly for her competition.

She could obviously denounce Arthur to the ethical organs or to her boss in this situation.

Denouncing however could also be seen as disloyalty, since she could, for instance, simply do the same, if nothing else.

It is obviously a situation of the type dilemma.

It is not true that all professionals are equal in the same sense that it is not true that all humans are equal: Differences do exist, and they are abundant.

Some people may actually be after a service of the type Suicide Line, for instance, and call the interpreters instead.

That has to be true.

The reasons for a person not to know the language of the place where they live are at least debatable.

Where do we draw the line in such a situation?

We feel that a lot of things need to be revised and changed in human kind, including ethical codes and the way we see them, as we keep on saying in our courses.

The profession of interpreter is unique in all that it involves, and cannot ever be treated as if it were the same as the profession of translator.

Yet, all the three countries we have mentioned, and they are really important for us, professionals of Translation and Interpreting, have one ethical organ and one ethical code for both professions, that is, they do not make a distinction between being an interpreter and being a translator.


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