Sunday, May 21, 2017
Do our values need to align with our employer's?
If our values don't align with those of our employer, should we leave?
On the surface, the answer seems simple. Of course, we don't want to work for a company whose practices or culture go against the values we hold most dearly.
But if one of the values we also hold is to provide for the well-being of our family members by helping to feed, clothe, educate, and care for them, then it's not always a simple solution for someone to leave a job if there are no other work opportunities in sight.
A reader, let's call her Zandy, although that's not her real name, writes that she started working for her current employer after having lost a couple of previous jobs because of funding cuts. Zandy has and still works for nonprofit organizations where consistent funding can be a challenge.
After losing her last job, Zandy looked around and found an opening that played to her professional strengths. Her only reservation was that the organization's views on same-sex marriage did not mirror her own. This concerned her, but she liked the people who interviewed her, she really liked the type of work she'd be doing on the job, and, given that she had no other offers on the table, she felt that she needed to accept a job offer that would enable her to meet her financial obligations and help keep a roof over her head and food on the table.
Zandy started the job, loved her work, and found her colleagues to be collegial and her supervisor to be supportive. About six months into the job, it became clear to her that because management at her nonprofit was publically vocal in its views on same-sex marriage, she was increasingly feeling that it was not an organization where she should be working. Her values, she writes, simply didn't "line up" with those of her employer.
"I feel like I should leave," Zandy writes. "If I do, I also feel like I should say something to them about why I'm leaving."
On a practical level, if Zandy's abrupt departure would result in placing herself or her family in financial peril, she needs to weigh whether leaving without having a new job lined up is the right thing to do. The same concerns she had about providing for herself and her family when she accepted the job have not gone away.
But if Zandy feels strongly enough that the values of her employer are so offensive to her that she can't do her job, the right thing is for her to leave. Given that she knew what those values were when she accepted the job, it's not clear that calling them out on it as a reason for her departure will do anything more than make her employers wonder why she accepted the job in the first place. As she points out, the company never did anything to hide its views.
Nevertheless, if Zandy believes strongly that what the company is doing is wrong, then to act with integrity the right thing would be to let her current employer know why she has decided to move on.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of www.jeffreyseglin.com, a blog focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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