When providing an expert opinion, one ought to be constantly mindful of the importance of the need to remain steadfast in the provision of objective; independent; impartial and unbiased opinions, as based on one’s professional knowledge; experience and expertise.
Although one may be tempted to ‘relax a little’ when working in a senior role under the umbrella of employment, the demands are as onerous on those who work in senior and specialist roles within organisations, as they are for the individuals who actively pursue the role of independent experts. There is no difference.
Whilst it may be obvious what the requirements of the role of specialists and experts are, it is not uncommon for various pressures and pitfalls to create the potential for vulnerability to providing a less than robust opinion.
Such pressures come in various shapes and sizes. To name a few: the desire to ‘please’ the client or the briefing party, perhaps in the hope of securing future work; poor communication at the time of referral with regard to the context of the assessment; working with limited material background information; rushing the evaluation, related decision or report due to time constraints; poor choice of language in formulating and presenting the opinion; scant, limited or poor further investigation, as a particular case may require; believing the case will ‘never see the inside of a court room’ – and more.
Maybe less obvious are the requirements for good record keeping; proper file management; appropriate note taking of professional communication between parties; and constant vigilance in maintaining one’s reputation. The latter is a reality that not all involved may have fully considered when posting pictures of that ‘hilarious night out on the town’ on Facebook. Whether one is an in-house or independent expert, the same rules apply.
Being a specialist or expert in any field is a tremendously interesting and privileged position that demands a great deal of responsibility, inclusive of the willingness and ability to withstand the inevitable challenges that come with the job. One must be able to say what needs to be said, even when it is evident that the latter may run the risk of being ‘unpopular’ on occasion.
A constant risk to those with long-standing careers in these domains of work is that of succumbing to the illusion that they have the ‘protection’ of being senior; can no longer make mistakes; have gained all the experience and expertise needed; there is little new to be learned or they know more than the opposing party.
It is my belief that being aware of the seduction of becoming ‘too comfortable’ in one’s role due to years of experience is paramount. The day one feels immune to error is the day one ought to consider taking a long overdue holiday, or perhaps cashing in that awaiting retirement annuity.