Author Topic: Morality vs your job  (Read 7696 times)

cliffhanger

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Morality vs your job
« on: October 06, 2015, 11:20:31 AM »
The US military recently conducted an airstrike on a hospital operated by Doctors Without Boarders in Afghanistan. 22 civilians died. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/world/asia/afghanistan-bombing-hospital-doctors-without-borders-kunduz.html

The strike was carried out using an AC-130 gunship, the aircraft I primarily work with as an engineer. No matter how insignificant my contributions to the program have been, I have gone back and forth on the morality of supporting military aircraft that are used to harm others, whether accidentally or not. Have any of you faced a dilemma of working at a job that you don't agree with? What have your experiences been like?

AZDude

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2015, 11:44:29 AM »
Definitely nothing like that, but I have worked for a financial institution that was doing some sketchy stuff. It was well outside my specific job area, but still didn't make me feel great about my job.

In regards to your situation, I can see both sides. Worse, any american on here is partly to blame for what happened based on this being a representative democracy.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2015, 12:05:08 PM »
I used to work at an institution that tested on animals, which I am against for moral and scientific reasons. Thankfully I didn't work on any of these projects, but I still struggled with the idea that my daily labor was benefiting an organization that actively supported, funded, and encouraged invasive, painful research on vulnerable creatures.

As shameful as it is to admit, I buried my head in the sand. I told myself that no organization was perfect and since I wasn’t directly contributing to these activities, it was okay. I know if they had ever asked me to work on one of these projects, I would have firmly declined but thankfully it never came to that. I'm still not proud of myself though...I just didn't see how I could change it. All I could have done was quit, but they would have just found someone else and at the time I needed my job.

I have since left this institution for other reasons. Thanks to our mustachian habits, when I do return to work, I hope to have the luxury of being more critical about potential workplaces to avoid a scenario where we have a serious moral mismatch.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2015, 12:20:41 PM »
Foreseeable consequences are not unintended. I'm not sure why this incident in particular would make you question it - there is always collateral damage in war, and sometimes it's especially awful.

cliffhanger

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2015, 02:03:54 PM »
Foreseeable consequences are not unintended. I'm not sure why this incident in particular would make you question it - there is always collateral damage in war, and sometimes it's especially awful.

Well, it has occasionally been on my mind since I began 1.5 years ago. It was the first job offer I got after graduating. To my knowledge, this recent instance has the highest profile and caused the most casualties in years. It's natural that the question would be brought up again.

This aircraft has a history of striking weddings and funerals, yet we still have not come up with a better vetting process to prevent further tragedies? I find it harder to continue supporting programs like this through my job. Just as a disclaimer, I'm not in the military. I don't know what it's like to be in a combat zone, and I understand how easy it is to judge specific events after-the-fact.

Sailor Sam

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2015, 02:18:21 PM »
This aircraft has a history of striking weddings and funerals, yet we still have not come up with a better vetting process to prevent further tragedies?

I'm sorry you're feeling bad, cliffhanger. I'd point out that there are many, many levels of decision between you, and a gunship targeting something on the ground. The aircraft itself isn't making any decisions. I don't see any direct connection between you and the bombing. But I'd understand if you saw that as unhelpful rationalization.

I find it galling to pluck refugees out of the water, then send them onto detention centers and repatriation. Who am I to deny the dream of America to anyone, especially someone who's willing to trust their lives to overcrowded deathboats over staying in their home country?

puglogic

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2015, 05:59:11 PM »
Cliffhanger, one of my first "real jobs" was working on a portion of the then-government's military equipment. I was 25, I buried my head in the sand.

Through my 30's I worked in the advertising industry - helping a bunch of rich guys get richer by manipulating the public's behavior with questionable marketing tactics.  I stayed for 10 years, then couldn't do it any more. In fact, I got desperately sick toward the end of that 10 years, and only when I was free of that job did my symptoms (ALL of them) go away.  Big fat clue.

I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.  Now that I know better, I do better.  I know it's not important to everyone, but it's important to ME that my work not be directly associated with something that I feel hurts people. To each his/her own.  Since I started acting from that center, I feel about 1000% better about my life, and what I contribute to the greater good.  And my income and prosperity have only improved.

Good luck.

Emilyngh

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2015, 06:12:16 PM »
Cliffhanger, one of my first "real jobs" was working on a portion of the then-government's military equipment. I was 25, I buried my head in the sand.

Through my 30's I worked in the advertising industry - helping a bunch of rich guys get richer by manipulating the public's behavior with questionable marketing tactics.  I stayed for 10 years, then couldn't do it any more. In fact, I got desperately sick toward the end of that 10 years, and only when I was free of that job did my symptoms (ALL of them) go away.  Big fat clue.

I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.  Now that I know better, I do better.  I know it's not important to everyone, but it's important to ME that my work not be directly associated with something that I feel hurts people. To each his/her own.  Since I started acting from that center, I feel about 1000% better about my life, and what I contribute to the greater good.  And my income and prosperity have only improved.

Good luck.

This.   I think that when someone's bothered by what they may be contributing to that they keep it in mind when making decisions so that they can slowly move away from it.   However, unless they are more directly involved in more serious things, I think that this can be a slow process.

For example, I'm a researcher.   In grad school my advisor got money from the Defense Department and I felt bad that work I was doing might somehow contribute to something I didn't agree with.   However, I didn't quit my dissertation research; I finished it.  But, as I moved forward, I focused on subfields where I wouldn't need defense-related support.   And I stayed away from opportunities that were related to it.   But, I stayed in research and really began to hate the research "game" the more I saw behind the curtain (eg., money, name, the ability to walk grey ethical lines or over-sell seemed to contribute more to "success" than actual results).   So, I left it too for teaching (with minor research expectations).  I now am in a position that I am secure at my current job to the degree that I shouldn't need to work on any project that I'm not 100% comfortable with.   But getting here took time.   

I know others may have to make a more abrupt decision in that they'll eventually have to quit their job or not, but considering that there are often other reasons to switch jobs and/or roles, I think that one should not avoid feeling bad about things related to her job if she finds them morally questionable.   Instead, one should ponder what's behind the feelings, where the lines are, what else is liked or not liked about the job, and keep all of that in the front of one's mind as they move forward.

Jakejake

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2015, 06:18:29 PM »
Been there, done that. I'm a former army sgt, former army civilian in an R&D center spanning from Reagan through to Desert Storm.  I ditched the job, took one without moral problems for me, for much much less pay (less than 50%). I also joined Veterans for Peace and was active with them for a while, til that part of my life started to really feel like the past.

One of my dilemmas was whether it was better to stay in the higher paid defense job, since I knew someone was going to do that work whether it was me or not - and calculate the difference between that pay and what the career shift would cost, and donate that difference to a group I trusted to make a difference. I'm still not sure if that would have been the better option ethically - but I have no real regrets in the career change and salary loss.

Mesmoiselle

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2015, 08:56:23 PM »
I'm an imaging technician at a hospital. People around me have heard my dissatisfaction regarding the work we do and don't understand it. "Don't you feel good helping to find things that make people ill?"

However, a good portion of my exams feel like Doctors are making stabs in the dark rather than true diagnosis. Another portion of my exams seem to be just for the patient's mental benefit "that something is being done." I mean, when over half the exams are negative for anything remotely going on, how are you supposed to feel? I feel like an highly trained assembly line. I have literally been asked a ton of times, "So, why are we doing this?" And sometimes I can't honestly answer and simply remind them they have every right to refuse the exam and leave, they don't have to do something just because a Doctor ordered it. "Cover your ass" seems to be the subscript of every reason for exam.

Since Obamacare started, more and more patients are coming in and this feeling isn't getting any better. I may be helping a few, but the rest are just a waste of resources for all parties.

Pigeon

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2015, 06:30:51 AM »
Both dh and I have left jobs that made us feel guilty.  My first job out of college was as a contractor working for the Navy.  As it turned out, it involved teaching sailors stuff that was very questionable.  After about six months, I couldn't do it anymore and found something different.  Dh worked for a manufacturing company that was OK when he started, but then they started engraving guns.  He couldn't do that and ended up going back to school for his MAT.

Le Poisson

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2015, 06:56:48 AM »
I'm a traffic guy. So pretty harmless career. BUT...

Previously I was working for a private consulting firm that represented a number of large scale developers. A number of developments came across my desk that I was uncomfortable with, but I was supposed to find ways to tweak my analysis to mitigate the impacts on the developments on the urban plan, or the environment, or on traffic. Things like building a Walmart next to a monastery, or building condos on the last piece of protected shoreline in a community. When those files came across my desk, I would march my sorry butt into a partner's office and let them know that The best I could do was honesty, and from my cursory review, the results of my work would not be favourable to the client. The work was always reassigned to another staff that was more willing to give the answers the client wanted, and I could sleep at night.

Today I work for a Municipal government. The environment is very different. The public gets what the public wants - they just have to scream loud enough to get the ear of a politician. So I see silly things being done in the interest of public safety that are shortsighted and miss the mark and I can't refuse the files any more. This is how we end up diverting $10,000,000 from effective, lifesaving programs in order to build a single traffic light. Yes there were fatal collisions there, yes it is a safer intersection now. But the 2 lives lost in 10 years at that intersection pale in comparison to the 20 lives per year I am accountable for - and that cash could have fixed a lot more than just one trouble spot.

asauer

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2015, 07:02:24 AM »
Nothing that severe, but yes, several times.  I'm in HR and have been asked to do wildly unethical things like:
1. Report to the CEO everyone who has gotten flu shots so he can fire those that didn't
2. "Find a reason" to fire people b/c their boss wants to hire their friend or doesn't like the person
3. "lose" paperwork documenting unsafe working conditions
4. "lose" paperwork documenting harassment
5.  Not hire the most qualified person because: "they're Hispanic", "they're ugly", "they're too attractive", "they're women", "they're too old"- yes, these were actually the reasons given.

I have refused, point blank, to do any of these things.  Luckily, most of this happened at one company that later was audited by the OFCCP and the EEOC.  Got their asses handed to them- hooray!  Fortunately, most other companies I've worked for have been extremely ethical.

Posthumane

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2015, 07:24:03 AM »
My work is heavily involved with military equipment and procedures, and one of the questions we ask during interviews when hiring someone, including co-op students, is "How do you feel about the fact that something you design or build may be used to kill another person?" The intent of the question is to get them to think about the industry they are trying to get into and decide whether it is worth it for them.*

In spite of the fact that killing is basically what the military is meant to do, I don't feel guilty about my work because I'm comfortable in the fact that, although mistakes and accidents happen, generally my country's military does what it does for good reason and tries to hold the moral high ground. My work helps protect the lives of the soldiers who are sent worldwide to try to make a difference, as well as make them more efficient so that the kind of accident you mention doesn't happen as often.

Say, for example, you were working at a manufacturer of efficient buses. The buses you make help the environment by taking cars off the road, they provide cheap transportation to people who otherwise could not afford it, etc. However, once in a while the driver falls asleep and drives a bus full of orphans off a cliff. Is that a good reason to not work on buses, or would your time be better spent making the buses more crashworthy?


* We had one student whose eyes lit up when we asked the question and he said "It would be AWESOME! I've always wanted to build something diabolical..." He wasn't hired.

NorCal

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2015, 07:42:12 AM »
I spent a few years in the Army in the Infantry.  I am very glad that I never faced true moral dilemma's in the matter of war.  The people I shot at absolutely deserved it.

It may or may not make you feel better, but I know of a number of good American's with real families that wouldn't be alive today without the support of C-130's and AC-130's.  While you'll only read about the tragedies in the news, do know that those aircraft have done tons of good throughout the world.

I am currently having major issues with the morality of my current company.  The company is going through some hard financial times and the owner is straight up lying to a lot of people.  He's making commitments that he knows he can't actually meet.  I know it because I manage the finances, but no one else does.  This is one (of many) reasons I gave my notice.

Strangely enough, the most ethical company I've ever worked for was in the litigation industry.

Apocalyptica602

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2015, 09:43:12 AM »
I'm an Engineer who works for a medical device manufacturing company where we make devices that quite literally save lives.

We carry a very good message, we are very philanthropic, employees can take service trips to developing countries to volunteer on work time and travel provided (with approval) etc.

... I'd also be just fine working for a cigarette company. (other than the obvious fact that the cigarette industry has a gigantic government-sponsored target on it's back).

I don't really derive value from my job based on the products we make, I derive value and satisfaction from doing a good job, solving technical challenges, hitting stretch goals etc.

I don't know. Maybe I'm nuts.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2015, 09:45:16 AM by Apocalyptica602 »

FLBiker

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2015, 09:53:33 AM »
I work at a university, so I haven't had to face much.  That said, I did debate staying w/ my department once we partnered w/ a private company and jacked our prices up.  I stayed, though.  Our student population changed (now they're mostly from rich families) but we're still given the freedom and resources we need to do a good job.

I briefly considered embassy / state department / foreign service work, but I remember something in the application about how you couldn't criticize the government, so that was out.

At the same time, I still think about it.  While I'm pretty good in terms of voting my values with the money I spend, I invest in index funds.  I tried a bit of socially responsible stuff, but couldn't find anything that really resonated with me.

Pinch of salt

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2015, 05:10:18 PM »
I think it boils down to you and you only. If you have a bad gut feeling, go with it.

And let's not forget that the jury's still out on if the air strike was an accident.

Nords

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2015, 03:40:20 AM »
Have any of you faced a dilemma of working at a job that you don't agree with? What have your experiences been like?
I spent 20 years in the submarine force training on breaking things and killing people.  I never saw combat but I was considered pretty good at my profession.

My first tour was on a 1980s ballistic missile submarine at the peak of the "Evil Empire".  It wasn't as paranoid as the 1950s-60s but we still felt that the Soviets and Chinese were economically desperate enough (or incompetent enough) to start a nuclear war. 

Today I struggle to explain to younger people (like my Navy daughter) how the Cold War felt and why we agreed to be a part of it.  For example, at many points during my tour we'd be awakened suddenly by an emergency announcement.   Literally 90 seconds later we'd find ourselves in Radio decrypting missile-launch orders under lots of time pressure.  They turned out to be exercises, but as we went through the process I realized that I was ready to launch nuclear warheads if it meant that I could just get a few hours' sleep before I had to go back on watch. 

That attitude sounds insane in the third millennium-- perhaps because it's insane in any millennium.  But at the time we were defending our families by "holding the enemy at risk".  We were willing to do that even when it involved killing tens of thousands of civilians, because we felt that we were protecting millions of other civilians.  We had decided that we were doing the right thing on the day we joined the submarine force, and every day afterward we were reaffirming that commitment. 

If you decide that a job presents a moral dilemma then you can choose to fix the problem from within.  You'd hope to change people's behavior at your level and eventually all the way up to the executive suite. 

However when the moral conflict can't be resolved internally, unless you already possess considerable influence, it's usually best to leave the job.  You have the option of getting away from the problem by working in another career field.  Or once you're no longer with that company then you could still try to change your old company's behavior by whistle-blowing, protesting, politics, or otherwise imposing external pressure.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2015, 03:44:19 AM by Nords »

Le Poisson

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2015, 06:09:02 AM »
Well written and well said Nords

FIREby35

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2015, 07:02:55 AM »
I'm a lawyer and this is something that is always on my mind and I have to make choices about it every day. I can't always be on the "right" side of a case, but as often as I can I try to choose people who I want to represent and help. "Right" can be a very gray concept in legal cases as well, but I digress.

However, being in a position to choose my clients was a conscious choice. Originally I worked at big "prestigious" law firms. One law firm had major corporate clients who were being sued repeatedly all over the country for knowingly exposing workers to cancer causing asbestos over a period of decades. Umm, no. I opened my own firm so I could be free to make these decisions instead of being told what to do.

I'll echo what was said above, I think working for causes and people that I believe in (as much as possible) has been the most important factor in my financial success, personal fulfillment and overall satisfaction. If you have skills, use them for something you believe in and it will ultimately come back to you in spades.

Check out the book - "Give and Take" by Adam Grant. It discusses how "givers" receive rewards for doing things that are generous or purpose driven. I'm not sure how you can apply all this to your particular profession, but I think it is good to be thinking about it.

Hey It's Me

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2015, 11:16:19 AM »
I work in advertising. My level of cognitive dissonance even impresses me at times...

MBot

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2015, 02:59:33 PM »
Things like building a Walmart next to a monastery,

I know of where you speak. What a shame that was. (Not on you, just how the entire thing went).

Le Poisson

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2015, 04:03:59 PM »
Things like building a Walmart next to a monastery,

I know of where you speak. What a shame that was. (Not on you, just how the entire thing went).

That's just one file I turned away. There were many others.

Mongoose

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2015, 01:32:26 PM »
DH and I have both have jobs end due to moral conflict. But both were much more "in your face" than the situation you describe.

DH was teaching at a nursing college and asked to sign off that the students had completed a chemistry lab course that wasn't even offered/taught. That was no contest. "No. And I quit!" That was an easy decision.

.
I work at a university, so I haven't had to face much.

I hope that continues for you. I worked at a big, high profile university with a completely corrupt administration. I eventually lost my job (as did a lot of others) but not before getting into a huge legal issue over administrators embezzling grant money, lying and failing to follow research protocols. It was hugely upsetting when I found out they were essentially using my name (along with other faculty) for various illegal activities. Fraud was apparently supposed to be part of my job description. Lawyers got involved. It was ugly. I'd probably be better off if I'd fought harder. I was so distressed by the situation that my heart and head were not in the fight or setting up alternative plans. Given the grant economy, the situation pretty much tanked my career and earnings.

I think in your situation I would be questioning too. If you do feel you can't morally continue, a transition is almost always possible. At the end of the day, I've always felt that my personal integrity was more important than money. I would do what I did (whistleblower) again but would try harder to have an alternative job/career/income in place. Just pulling the lever and not having an alternative income to turn to was not a great idea.

irishbear99

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #25 on: October 14, 2015, 01:54:49 PM »
I suppose there's a difference between whether you were asked to do something specific that is against your moral code, or if the entire organizational mission is against your moral code. If it's the former, you may be able to find a way to address the issue without violating your morality. If it's the latter, it may just be best to find other work that is more compatible.

I work for the DoD as well, though in a career field that trends more towards helping people than hurting (though hurting people/communities through incompetence is not unheard of, unfortunately). Since I am able to make a direct positive influence, I don't feel a moral dilemma simply because DoD pays my salary.

That being said, I have had a supervisor ask me to do some questionable things involving money in the past. (Essentially, providing benefits that cost money to employees who were not entitled to said benefits.) I handled that by putting the requested package together and giving it to the supervisor to approve, despite having authority to approve it myself. He told me there was nothing wrong with doing what he wanted to do and I needed to sign off. I told him if there was nothing wrong with it, then he'd have no problems signing himself. It didn't get signed, I didn't get reprimanded (because I did all the legwork in putting the package together), and life went on.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Morality vs your job
« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2015, 02:01:07 PM »
I have a friend that works at Coke. I bug her that it's the true weapon of mass destruction in our society.