Mar 21, 2013

Five Questions to Ask When Work and Morals Collide

“People are bored and aimless, just waiting to be distracted, and by capturing their attention with games, you can effectively market products to them…

An enthusiastic marketing professional wrote that in an article I’d been reading as part of my research for a client. The thought crossed my mind, “Do I really want to be a part of this?”

Thus began a moral crisis at work.

After running into these types of situations over the years, I catch myself asking some of the same questions over and over again. While each worker’s calling is unique, and I would never try to tell someone what to do, it helps to have a few tough questions ready when a moral crisis arises at work:

1. Can I become a redemptive presence at this job? 
My first response to a difficult or adverse situation in the past was often retreat. I’d forgotten that a Christian’s primary role at work is to model the life of Christ. If I’m ever in a work situation that makes me uncomfortable, my first move as a follower of Jesus isn’t always to escape. An ethical challenge at work may be the best place for a Christian.

2. Can I be redemptive without compromising love for God and love for my neighbor?
While I may face a moral dilemma with the best of intentions, sometimes the nature of a situation may put into jeopardy either my love of God or love of neighbor. In the case of the marketing article about gaming, I was able to reshape the article I wrote into a kind of expose, highlighting the “tricks” that marketers use.

3. Can I reshape my work to avoid a moral conflict?
Sometimes the ability to ask a colleague for help or to reshape my responsibilities has helped me avoid potential problems. For example, I’ve declined work with clients because I didn’t feel comfortable with their business models. When an existing client creates a moral crisis, I can usually find a way to reshape my work in order to avoid projects that lead to a conflict.

4. Have there been red flags about my work place?
Sometimes a single moral crisis can be dealt with, but a series of them is another matter. Every few months, one of my former employers held a private meeting to discuss implementing a plan that would have run afoul of our insurance company and several businesses. When this became a predictable pattern, I started scanning the classified section for a new job.

5. Can I find an exit plan? 
When red flags go up consistently, that’s usually a sign to step away from a job. Swimming against the tide at a company is an untenable long-term position. A friend of mine recently left a job that had consistently asked too much of him and repeatedly put him in difficult moral positions. He took a completely different job where he works on cars all day. The work is physical and demanding, but he is clearly at peace with his work. As it turns out, he likes his new job much better, and there’s an added bonus: he’s never put into a position that could violate his conscience.

Every job will bring up its own challenges and dilemmas. There’s no blueprint for moral decision-making. However, with a few questions like these in the back of my mind, I already know what my options are and don’t have to improvise on the spot. There is freedom in that kind of preparation.

Post by Ed Cyzewski, co-author of Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus and author of Coffeehouse Theology. 

Image by Vincepal. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.


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