Sunday, January 08, 2023

Looking back at another year of doing the right thing

A year ago, at the end of 2021, after looking at the analytics for the website where The Right Thing column gets posted after it has run in publications, it was clear readers were drawn most to columns that touched on job searches, neighbor relationships and learning to listen to others. Those results were decidedly different from 2020, when many columns were related to the pandemic and the most readers were drawn to columns focusing on kindness, remembering those we’ve lost and thankfulness.

Just as in 2021, none of the most-viewed columns in 2022 focused directly on pandemic-related issues. Instead, the top five focused on neighborly activity, appropriate levels of criticism and paying college students for the work they do. Readers again seemed interested in those issues that attracted them in pre-pandemic times.

The fifth-most-viewed column, “Should neighbor report landscaper’s suspicious activity?” ran in early June. It focused on a neighbor who noticed that a landscaper working on a house up the street was connecting a hose to a city fire hydrant to water a newly sodded lawn. Some readers pointed out that the landscaper may have had permission. I advised the reader to let the city know about her concerns.

The fourth-most-viewed column, “Casting unsupported aspersions may shut down conversations,” ran in early January. It referred to the backlash the singer Bette Midler received after Tweeting a disparaging comment about West Virginians in response to an action taken by Sen. Joe Manchin. I believed and still do that Midler deserved the criticism for her comments but suggested her action could serve as a reminder that each of us might do well to knock it off with the name-calling and instead focus on learning to argue strongly while still listening openly to those with whom we disagree.

My April 24 column, “Stop unpaid college internships now,” made the case for employers to pay college students for the work they do on internships. While it’s true the students gain experience, employers benefit from their work. If internships are unpaid, then lower-income students are too often excluded from the opportunity. If colleges offer credit for internships, they should work to make sure those internships are paid.

Jan. 23’s column, “Should I negatively review a typically reliable service company?” reassured a reader that she had no obligation to leave a negative review simply because of one bad experience. Instead, I advised, she might want to contact the service provider directly to let them know how out of character the service was in an effort to avoid it happening to her or others in the future.

Finally, by far the most viewed column of the year was April's “Seek the choice that gives you that peaceful easyfeeling.” It outpaced its nearest competitor by almost 1,900 views. In it I reminded readers that just because we disagree with someone doesn’t mean the other person has behaved unethically. Sometimes we simply disagree with someone else’s viewpoint. That disagreement doesn’t make them any less ethical than we are.

Thank you, as always, for continuing to email your questions, stories and reactions for The Right Thing column. May your year continue to be full of doing the right thing while surrounded by those in your life who choose to do the same.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of "The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice," is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin


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