April 11, 2013 by Liberty
I was talking to a friend of mine during the holiday season. We were discussing politics and he was very much in agreement with libertarian philosophy. He was going to school for criminal justice and he was planning on moving into law. I asked him about his career prospects. He planned on becoming a prosecutor…
Now anyone that knows me, pretty much understands how much I have to bite my tongue in situations like that. I imagine that my head started tweaking out as I tried to bite my lips hard enough to say something before I spit out the dirtiest words that have ever come from my mouth….
“Well… we all gotta work…”
These are some of the most disgusting words that you can speak. They’re pretty much saying, “Forget about ethics on the job. Ethics don’t count from 9-5.” Many people wildly disagree with my opinion on this.
I even have my own doubts but they’re usually when I’m just looking for the easy way out.
It’s Easy To Do As Told
Ethics on the job are usually treated as a separate entity to ethics off the job. People tend to get this weird belief that it’s ethical to steal, murder, and cheat, if you’re doing it to pay the bills. No one likes to argue with this philosophy because it’s one of the most common excuses bad people can make to do bad things.
That’s not to say that only bad people use the excuse but exposing ethics on the job (or lack of ethics) is painful. No one likes to have to point at someone for being unethical. No one wants to have to point at someone and say their inconsistent with their values. Heck, you might notice that I don’t really go into any specific examples in this article. I don’t even like pointing these things out.
It’s easier to let people be unethical.
On top of that, if we accept them as ethical, then we can consider ourselves ethical doing worse and worse things.
Ethics do not go away on the job.
Workplace Ethics is Life Ethics
Today the distinction between work and life has been made very clear. Back when people were farming to make a living, the difference was not so clear.
Today we go to work. We have offices. We have paychecks. Paychecks are generally not related to productivity. All these things allow people to split the money they make from the work they do. A farmer couldn’t do that as effectively. Let’s say a farmer steals some of his neighbors crops. That night at dinner, the farmer is going to have to watch as his family eats his neighbors crops. That’s a significantly more guilt ridden moment than working and two weeks later seeing a higher number on your check.
Ultimately though, while we might distinguish work from life, work is nothing but life. The work you do is the labor you feed your family with. You invest your time in your work. That makes it easy to get the wrong idea about ethics.
Fitting Your Ethics To Your Job
That vast majority of people do not set their ethical principles before selecting their profession. Most people find a career and then make up their ethical standards afterwards.
A cop might think. “Catching the criminal is essential. I must stop the criminal (even if I need to bend the rules a bit.)”
Naturally, bend the rules is just a softener for doing unethical things.
A criminal might think. “Cops are bad. They’ll do anything to lock me up. I just need to eat like they do. That means I need to steal.”
This is also a little bit of an ethical bend.
Everyone thinks they’re being ethical (at least reasonably ethical) while they’re doing something. Years from now, the criminal could get a job as a cop and change his perspective.
Which is easier, changing your job or changing your beliefs?
Unfortunately for most people, it’s their beliefs.
The Problem with Chameleon Ethics on the Job
While it might be nice to think that it’s ethical to do whatever you’re doing, it just doesn’t work. If you know better then you will have the live with the ethical decisions that you make. Every time you sacrifice your ethics, you’re going to have to dig yourself a little bit deeper in the lies that you’re good.
Maybe it’s just a small sacrifice now but it just leaves you weaker at the end of the day. Giving up on your ethics is hard the first time but it gets easier every time after.
That leads to the spiraling ridiculous ethics that you’re probably familiar with in at least one person you’ve met in life. (You know, the kind of person that can justify everything.)
The Secret To Being Ethical On The Job
I can simplify maintaining ethics on the job in one question:
Is it ethical to do it for pleasure?
I can’t tell you what to do but it’s you that needs to sleep with yourself at night. Do what you can to make it a restful and guilt free sleep.