Would You Take a Job that Goes Against Your Ethics?

 Would You Take a Job that Goes Against Your Ethics?

ethic

By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer


Your employer is featured in the news: exposed for violating child labour laws in Asia, or caught bilking investors of billions.
 
The next day your friends tease you that you’re working for the devil. You can’t help but think about the ethical implications.
 
Should you be working in a job that goes against your moral principles? If an employer in a disreputable industry offered you a position, would you take it?
 
“Disreputable” may be in the eye of the beholder
One person’s unsavoury job may be another’s perfect position. For instance, the tobacco industry in Canada is almost 150 years old. It employs many thousands of people, from farmers to factory workers to marketing and sales executives. Our country’s liquor industry has similar statistics.
 
Some people would balk at working in these sectors (even though they may personally smoke or drink). Yet other people eagerly flock to these employers.
 
In the same way, people who gamble on lotteries, view pornography, spin the truth, or engage in other such activities, may choose to avoid employers that promote such behaviours. Or not. It depends on job availability, financial circumstances, and ethical boundaries.
 
The perks of ethically challenging jobs
What makes controversial jobs so appealing? In part, it’s because they’re plentiful – there’ll always be demand for positions that skirt the edges of morality.
 
And precisely because some people will refuse to work in those jobs, competition is automatically reduced. To entice the best talent, companies in these fields may pay better.
 
Which helps raise the popularity of these positions. As a result, many have a huge overflow of applicants.
 
Downsides of being morally questionable
A recent poll conducted by Monster.ca showed that only 10% of Canadians would take a job overlooking ethics; and almost 44% would never work for an unethical firm.
 
There are two basic challenges with ethically questionable jobs: your own moral compass, and the opinions of people you care about.
 
Regarding your own sense of values, just how far would you go to earn more money or get a fancier title?
 
At some point you may start feeling like you’re selling your soul. If you have a solidly developed conscience, this will eventually impact your job performance (and be a source of hard-to-shake embarrassment).
 
It gets worse when your family and friends voice opinions on your work choices. Inevitably there will be criticisms. Your integrity will be questioned. There will be times you find yourself defending your employment. What happens when you can no longer find the words to do so?
 
A quick case study
A client I worked with about a year ago – let’s call him Frank Fitzpatrick – found himself in an ethically troubling situation.
 
Background
Says Frank: “I was working in Quality Assurance for a well-known manufacturer. The company had huge profit margins. But we were outsourcing to some other countries where safety and pollution standards were almost non-existent.”
 
Frank had a junior position and wasn’t earning a lot of money yet. Still, he earned more than his counterparts at firms in other industries.
 
Repercussions
Several events led Frank to reexamine his values. First, there was a series of reported accidents at manufacturing facilities his company used. They made the news internationally. Workers had lost their lives.
 
Then Frank was at a friend’s party when approached by some guests. “They’d heard I worked for that company,” he says. “They put me on the spot: I felt really bad realizing I had to apologize for where I worked.”
 
Seeking Better
It was tough going for Frank. He had just bought a car. His small apartment cost a lot more than he’d budgeted for. So it’s not as if he had the resources to simply up and quit.
 
“I started doing a stealth job search till I could find an employer to be proud of. It made me feel a bit guilty, sneaking around like that. But about three months later I found what I was looking for.” Today he no longer experiences shame about where he’s employed.
 
Explaining the transition
When interviewers asked Frank why he was seeking to leave his current employer, he had to be cautious. “I couldn’t blurt out something negative, which the interviewer might see as me being a bad apple.”
 
Instead Frank offered a reasonable explanation. He expressed a desire to work where manufacturing was done either in house or close by, where safety could be monitored. “The focus was all positive, which was local employment for labourers, and of course increased product quality.”
 
Is it worth it?
Not everyone is bothered by pangs of guilt or embarrassment about working in a questionable job. Of course, what you or I might view as objectionable may be perfectly fine in the eyes of others.
 
But if you are haunted by the thought of work that violates your ethics, you’ll need to deal with it. Only you can determine the point at which your morals outweigh the perks of dubious employment. Is it time to blow the whistle on your own work choices?